Freedom Under Fire: Rajasthan Textbook Has Two Lines on Nehru; BJP Says JU Hub of ‘Anti-Nationals’

A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.

File photo of students at Jadavpur University protesting in solidarity with JNU students. Credit: PTI

File photo of students at Jadavpur University protesting in solidarity with JNU students. Credit: PTI

Rajasthan Minister says textbook has Jawaharlal Nehru; as ‘presenter’, ‘inaugurator’ 

With the new Class VIII Social Science textbook of the Rajasthan government creating a controversy for erasing all mention of Jawaharlal Nehru, Education Minister Vasudev Devnani said on May 8 that Nehru’s name had not been omitted but was “still there on page 91 and page 177”, The Indian Express reported. While page 91 has a one-line mention of Nehru presenting the objectives resolution in the chapter ‘Our Constitution’, on Page 177, the only reference is of him having “inaugurated” one of the steps on the course to Rajasthan’s unification.

About Nehru’s name missing from the chapter on freedom struggle and as India’s first prime minister, Devnani said it shouldn’t matter which chapters mentioned him as long as he was mentioned.

In the Constitution chapter, the mention of Nehru is drastically shorter compared to the older version of the book, which quoted both him and Babasaheb Ambedkar at length.

Jadavpur University hub of anti-nationals, says BJP

The BJP in West Bengal on May 7 termed Jadavpur University as a “hub of anti-national elements” and accused the opposition CPI-M and the varsity’s vice-chancellor of supporting them, after rival groups of students clashed on the campus over screening of a political film, CNN-News18 reported.

“Student unrest has become a common phenomenon in JU. The screening of a film, cleared by the Censor Board, was stopped illegally. The trend of CPI-M and Left-backed student unions of JU has been to stop anything that is against their ideology, which is totally against the country’s democratic set up. We condemn it,” state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.

“Jadavpur University is a hub of anti-nationals. Left-backed students unions are breeding ground for anti-nationals and that is why we have seen anti-India slogans being raised by a section of JU students,” he alleged.

Accusing the varsity’s VC of supporting anti-nationals elements on the campus, Ghosh demanded that his role be probed. “We will inform the Centre of the activities going on inside the JU campus,” he said.

13,500 villages in Rajasthan run out of drinking water as crisis deepens

With the water crisis worsening as temperatures increase, 13,500 villages in Rajasthan do not have access to safe drinking water, surviving solely at the mercy of water tankers sent by the government, an NDTV report says.

Every day, women in Ajmer’s Baalpur make multiple trips of three kilometres each to the only well which has safe drinking water. They manage to bring back two pots of water in each trip – about 5-7 litres – which is not enough for a family of five.

“I walk three kilometres to fetch water. Sometimes we do three trips in a day. How many pots can I carry in one trip? My children are almost always thirsty and in this situation when we don’t have enough for ourselves, can we give water to our animals?” said Shobha.

Dalit woman denied water access, husband digs own well in drought-hit Maharashtra village 

According to a report in The Indian Express, after being denied access to water by upper caste people, a Dalit labourer from a village in Washim district of Maharashtra’s drought-hit Vidarbha toiled for hours to dig his own well. The wife of Bapurao Tajne, a resident of Kolambeshwar village, was not allowed to fetch water from a well by villagers.

In an attempt to fight the discrimination faced by his community, Tajne took it upon himself to dig a well in his village and is quenching the thirst of the entire Dalit population of the area now. “I was ridiculed by my family among others, but I was determined,” Tajne said.

The news of the incident soon reached the authorities, following which the Washim district tehsildar Kranti Dombe to visit the village. Hailing Tajne’s act, the district administration felicitated him for being “a face of determination and strong will power”, the tehsildar said.

LGBT activists in solidarity with JNU

Sexual minorities and their allies have organised a programme in solidarity with the JNU students’ union’s indefinite hunger strike. Starting on the night of May 9, LGBT rights activists will hold a series of events and screenings followed by a day-long hunger strike. A similar programme has also been organised in Bangalore.

Youth alleges threat following Facebook post on Narada sting

According to a report in The Hindu, a youth in the Malbazar area of the Jalpaiguri district, West Bengal was allegedly threatened by a local Trinamool Congress leader for making a post on social media about the Narada sting operation. The post featured a collage of many Trinamool leaders who were seen taking bribes in the sting footage.

The youth, Rohit Passi, is a member of the civil society organisation Akranto Amra, whose founder member Ambikesh Mahapatra has contested the Assembly polls as a Left and Congress-supported independent candidate.

“Last Wednesday I made a post on Facebook about the Narada sting operation and a local TMC student leader threatened to assault me in his comments,” Passi said.

Passi has lodged an FIR with the Malbazar police station. The local Trinamool leadership, however, denied the allegations and has reportedly lodged an FIR against Passi for making threatening remarks.

In February, Passi was detained by the police for criticising a local Trinamool leader on social media.

Thanks to Sairat, youth in Mumbai take up fight for inter-caste marriages

Inspired by recently-released Marathi movie Sairat, a group of youngsters in Mumbai have joined hands to create a network to support inter-caste and inter-religious marriages, The Hindu reported. The group, apart from counselling, will find jobs for the couples and offer them protection in extreme situations.

Sairat Marriage Group was formed following heated discussions on social media over the movie. “When we posted in support of the film, critics taunted us to do something in real. We said yes,” said Harshal Lohkare, a volunteer, who is studying journalism.

“Six couples have already approached us and we are counselling them. We first understand their problems, which range from unemployment to caste and religion boundaries. Our job is to initiate dialogue and provide all possible help the couples need,” he added.

Do you know of any other incident we should highlight in this column? Write to me at [email protected].

If you want to receive regular email updates from this column, subscribe to the Freedom Under Fire newsletter.