From Chinky to Taliban: Enough is Enough!

A statement by North East Students’ Forum (NESF), JNU

On the 28th of August 2018, ABVP, JNU unit called for a Public Talk called ‘Ishan Uday: Bridging The Heart’ in Koyna Mess wherein they invited the sitting chief ministers of three states of North East India – Assam, Manipur and Arunachal. The Convener of NESF (North East Students’ Forum) was personally called by the ABVP, inviting her to join the talk, to which the convener politely declined. This was because NSEF does not align with my any political organization/parties.

Students of these three states who wanted to voice out their concerns gathered outside the Koyna Hostel, standing with their placards and posters. On arrival of the CMs, they silently stood with placards while the ABVP welcomed the guests with their chorus of slogans. The students from the three states had also prepared leaflets defining why they had come voluntarily. They only wished to voice their regional grievances to their respective chief ministers from the three states of Northeast India.

1) To the CM of Assam, the concerns raised by the students were:

  • Sonowal needs to clarify his position on the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016. Why is the CM of Assam supporting the bill through his ambiguous position?
  • What is he doing regarding the issue of devastating floods in Assam?  Declaring the devastating flood as a national disaster which hits Assam every year is a long-standing demand of the people of Assam
  • Why till date a full-fledged university status is not conferred upon Assam Women University at Jorhat, the only Women’s University in Assam?
  • What is the necessity of renaming the educational institutions of Assam as Deen Dayal University?

2) In relation to the CM of Manipur, Mr. Biren Singh, the students of Manipur had a series of questions which were:

  • Why was the Chief Minister at a ‘glorified election’ event held by the ABVP in JNU?
  • Where was this pro-activeness when Manipur University was shut down for more than 80 days?
  • Did the Chief Minister attend the event on his own volition or on the orders of his masters that are?
  • Is this mindless loyalty and sycophancy the reason behind the government dragging its feet on the Manipur University issue and the shielding of AP Pandey (the Vice-Chancellor of Manipur University)?

3) Looking forward to an interactive session with our Hon’ble CM of Arunachal Pradesh, the Arunachal Students Community from JNU had these concerns to be raised:

  • Increasing rape cases and women’s safety. (300+ rape cases were registered in 2016 alone and at the beginning of 2018 itself, we saw back to back rapes in just 10 days and all the victims were minor). Who will ensure women’s safety?
  • Incompetency of important institutions such as APPSCE. The youth are lost, with no jobs and other sources of employment. The Government has stolen our dreams from us by not conducting exams regularly and efficiently.
  • Prevalent corruption in the state is worrying all of us.
  • Growing crime rates and lawlessness has made our state a murderer’s paradise.
  • Where is women representation in Arunachal politics?

Once the guests entered and we (the students of the North East) wanted to enter the Koyna Mess, were blocked right at the gate by ABVP representatives working alongside the security guards. Moreover, when we were about to enter, most of us heard the term “Naxalites” being thrown at us.

The ABVP screamed at us, that we were “security threats”. The representatives also pushed and pulled the students at the forefront of the gathering. We were manhandled. They did not allow us to enter, calling us “Naxalites”. It was in this moment when the students immediately and collectively decided to sit down outside the event and continued with our silent protest.

After a while, a few representatives of ABVP came outside to tell us that they will ‘allow’ us inside but without our posters which were our signs of resistance. It was then that we collectively demanded an apology from the ABVP for calling us “Naxalites” and “security threats”, which they outrightly denied.

Later, in tweets, Rajat Sethi, advisor to N. Biren Singh said:

Three sitting Chief Ministers from Northeast are not allowed to speak their mind at JNU tonight. Leftist goons exposed their true Taliban colors. These terrorists living safely in refugee inside JNU campus should be identified and arrested! Don’t tolerate them, arrest them! [@RajatSethi86; 11:13 pm. 28 Aug 2018/www.twitter.com]

Following the predictable and precedent humiliation to the students and people from India’s Northeast, NESF called for a Silent Protest March, dated 29 August 2018 at 9 pm from Ganga Dhaba to Chandrabhaga Hostel inside JNU. After the protest, key concerns specific to the event were addressed:

  • Why were students from JNU not allowed while other handpicked Northeast students – with similar ideas/ideologies with the RSS/ABVP/BJP – were called from outside the university? Is representation merely on the basis of facial recognition?
  • Why was this event planned only prior to the JNU elections?
  • Why are the CMs so enthusiastic to come for a JNU public talk – inside a hostel mess – when to seek an appointment with them in their respective state remains an impossibility?
  • Why do people from Northeast India treated as mere vote banks?
  • Why are we, people from the Northeast, being targetted as “Talibani”? Is the epithet “chinky” not enough to belittle us on a whole anymore?

The peaceful protest was initially not against the ABVP. It was an event to show our concerns to our own elected representative i.e. CMs. of North-East India. We will not tolerate any tokenism and identity appropriation in the campus or in India. Left, Right or Centre, NESF a voice of its own and we will assert our rights on our own. Considering the turn of events and our immediate experiences of shame and humiliation – dated 28th August 2018 – we seriously question what gives the ABVP the authority to speak to and for us in such belittling manner. Why are we, time and time again, made secondary citizens?

We, the concerned students from Northeast in JNU, immediately demand a public and a written letter of apology from the ABVP. They should be accountable for the unconcluded chaos, terror, fear, and humiliation that they have been causing/caused to the Northeastern communities.

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