I am an ex-student of JNU. I am a single woman living alone in a Room-on-the-Roof in Munirka DDA. I am one of those ex-DSU members whose comrades are being telecasted with photographs since yesterday in ZeeNews as the most wanted criminals in primetime. We among many other individuals and organisations stand in solidarity with the right to self-determination of all oppressed nationalities of the world including Kashmir, which is occupied by the Indian state. I joined the programme on 9th February.
I have been living in this neighbourhood for over 6months and the local grocer, local broker, delivery guy, internet technician, electrician and hang-arounders know who I visit, who visit me, when I return home and who I meet for a cup of filter coffee in ‘Southy’. The little world of Munirka, frequented with visits from ‘deviant’ JNUites, at this time is rife with rumours and suspicion. Some say pamphlets are being issued by a vigilante group here, to catch the “likes of us” and lynch us. Some Munirka residents gave an open threat to JNU people inside JNU itself a few days back. Mrs. Bhalla who lives with her sister two floors below me always asked me “Aren’t you afraid of staying alone in the terrace?” to which I always giggled and said “No”. But last night they were here.
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Heavy intermittent steps climbing up and down the stairs. Dry leaves on the terrace crumbling under soft footsteps. My doormat heaving rhythmically with the breath of person/persons peeping underneath the door. No knock, eerie silence for 20 minutes, and then again the entire round.[/pullquote]
I returned home around midnight. My friends dropped me at my door in a rented car. I was alone as usual. It began exactly 15 minutes after I had entered. Heavy intermittent steps climbing up and down the stairs. Dry leaves on the terrace crumbling under soft footsteps. My doormat heaving rhythmically with the breath of person/persons peeping underneath the door. No knock, eerie silence for 20 minutes, and then again the entire round. You might say this could have happened on any night, but I would ask you why then was it this night? The same night photos are doing rounds thanks to a group of zealots in the media. Why this attempt to mark, to intimidate, repeatedly from 12:30 am until 2:30am? To speak the truth it was a blood-curdling night. Earlier that same night a friend claimed she was followed by bikers from Ber Sarai. Another said she had been asked to vacate her room.
Throughout the night my mind was full of morbid images. Mental images from tales of partition riots told by my grandmother, shots from the documentary Final Solution, the photograph of naked Manipuri women with the banner in their hands ‘Indian Army Rape Us’, the posters we held up on 9th February 2016 during the programme on Kashmir, images and ghosts. I kept feeling that he/they will push the door. Any moment now. Maybe now. The entire night was spent like this, sleepless.
Dawn brought a little courage to me. I went out to the terrace to find that my internet wire had been cut. I have just got it repaired. I went down to the floor just below me. I rang the bell and asked “Were you coming up the stairs last night?” They asked what time I was referring to. I told them. They denied having done so.
Marauders are out to claim the bitter crop they sowed. If they don’t find those on the hit-list, who easier to scare (supposedly) than an accomplice? A single woman, familiar-to-activism, middle-class accomplice. Bloody JNU sluts who smoke and live with boys without marriage, shout slogans like men! If Umar is the Muslim communist, easiest to profile and hound, there are those other targets. Rohiths (Ambedkarite dalit activist). Sagars (dalit radical Ambedkarite cultural activist). Rubinas (Muslim woman Communist). Jeetans (adivasi Communist cultural activist). Lalitas (dalit woman Communist). “Terrorist” (Kashmiri nationalist). Sunitas (woman safai karmachari in JNU demanding gloves and creche facilities). We are all profiled in neat shelves in the government offices. And yes, in the piercing eyes of the violent feudal society we are situated in. We all have designated punishments for being who we are. Therefore we must all fight together.
So to those who are saying today, it was not me who shouted the slogan for Kashmiri, it was another student organisation, or better still it was no student of JNU but some outsiders, catch them, try them, hang them, let us be… I will just say that they won’t spare you. This way or that. That is how fascism works. Did some of you think that this was only a tale of beautiful solidarities? I am afraid but it may as well turn out to be the beginning of the saddest treasons between human and human. I am afraid.
Who were they who were here last night? Was it the mob that that massacred Muslims in Godhra? Was it the army battalion that raped women in Kunan Poshpora? Was it the village that killed in Khairlanji? How am I to know or you; until we define who we are? And what we want. Hum kya chahte? Yes, we are intellectuals who don’t know how to use a sickle, a hammer, bows and arrows as tools, nor weapons. We have not seen that pain, nor resolve. Even then, we have enough to start.
We have something important to start. Because it is not just the open intimidation or violence we are fighting against. Kanhaiya’s arrest, FIRs against five other student activists, hounding of students who were organsiers of the programme of 9th February has another aspect too. It is also a war on the ideological front. The police is on campus not just to search hostels, but to bulldoze a policy of the state: privatisation of education by curbing dissent coming from the myriad oppressed communities. The media is profiling people as misusing tax-payers’ money to that same end. To endorse a rich man’s education, a rich man’s monopoly over knowledge production, a rich man’s employment and entrepreneurship. Mobs are being instigated in the name of nationalsim, where the state cannot assure and social or economic security and dignity to its people.
I am writing after a long time, apart from thesis or articles which come with tangible deadlines and rewards or sanctions. For me this is one way (though not the only legitimate one) to leave for our children, air filled with our sweat and tears and words and fists and blood and kisses. Something they can touch and talk to rather than an colourless-odourless-formless complicity.
To that end:
Hum parvarish-e-loh-kalam karte rahenge
Jo dil pe guzarti hai rakam karte rahenge