Student protests in India

Afia Ambreen

The protests at one of India’s most famous universities continue to widen and polarise public opinion across the country. Thousands of students have participated in a series of protests and Jawaharlal Nehru University has come to a standstill. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students have been in the news after holding an event on the campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru by calling it judicial killing. They also expressed solidarity with struggle of Kashmiri migrants and advocated for “Azad Kashmir”. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accused the president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) Kanhaiya Kumar of anti-India sentiment. Protests spread when Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested last week for sedition, after giving a speech questioning the hanging in 2013 of Mohammad Afzal Guru over his role in the 2001 attack on parliament. Activists have long questioned Guru’s conviction, and India’s Supreme Court has described the evidence against him as circumstantial. While there have always been episodic attacks on free speech in India, this time feels different. India’s free thinkers and best minds are being systematically eliminated one by one. What is even more disturbing is the state’s silence and failure to bring the culprits to book. The attacks in India should not be seen as a problem limited to secular writers or liberal thinkers. They should be recognized as an attack on the heart of what constitutes a democracy.

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