“Conspicuous By Omission” as Response to Apoorvanand and Deshpande’s “In an age of alternative facts…” published by Scroll


We are writing this in response to the article published by Scroll on 8th June 2020 by Prof. Apoorvanand and Prof. Satish Deshpande (both teachers at Delhi University), we respect both immensely as academics and are only writing this as Jamia Millia Islamia alumni as we have been witness to the anti CAA movement closely since the first week of December when agitations started in the campus. 

Their article largely talks about the resistance shown by students’ at the university campus’ and the anti-CAA movement mostly led by Muslim women at Shaheen Bagh as the lockdown of democracy by the Modi-Shah team has only intensified in the pandemic. 

To quote from the article: “(Shaheen Bagh) remained steadfastly non-violent despite repeated provocations. It was dignified and unapologetic in its Muslimness but insisted on speaking the language of secular citizenship, foregrounding the Constitution. It was an informal and inclusive campaign.. disrupted by Delhi riots in Feb 2020 and then the pandemic.”  

The women-led movement of Shaheen Bagh against CAA had emerged as a response to police brutality at Jamia Millia Islamia campus on the night of 15th Dec 2019. The neighbourhood women came out in support of Jamia University students who had been leading the protests against the CAA act since it was tabled in the Parliament on 09th Dec 2019.   

And as they rightly admit that the challenge posed by university campuses is older. As, “the ruling regime has been on a collision course with campuses across the country and the alphabet – in Aligarh, Allahabad, Banaras, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune, for example.”

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Now, here comes the part which we would like to call out for the conspicuous omission of names’ here.  

“Hence the recurrent witch hunts against student leaders with viable connections to larger movements, from Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar to Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal now. Faced with the mighty state machinery, backed by political impunity, a brazenly biased media, and a mostly malleable judiciary (with honourable exceptions), there is little that law-abiding activists can do to protect themselves. The constitutional right to legitimate political activity is no longer available to opponents of the regime, who are now being threatened with indefinite incarceration under draconian laws, with the collateral damage of the harassment of relatives, friends, and colleagues. The crowning irony here is that most of the student activists involved in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act movement were also at the forefront of rescue and relief work after the riots, and later they have been on the frontlines of the coronavirus lockdown relief work… We are being asked to believe that our best young people are terrorists. We will be judged tomorrow by what we choose to believe today.”

The senior Professors mention only four names (three are from JNU, Kanhaiyya Kumar, Natasha and Devangana from Pinjara Tod and late Rohith Vemula from Hyderabad University).This may have been completely non-deliberate on their part, but an article which is praising anti-CAA movement and completely omits names of Jamia Millia Islamia students’ who have been at the forefront of agitation since December 2019 is quite difficult to understand, at a time like this when we have been seeing trends on social media almost every other day in the name of Safoora Zargar, (the pregnant research scholar from Jamia Millia Islamia, denied bail thrice and in jail since nearly two months now) along with other Jamia students’ Meeran Haider, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Shifa Rehman (Jamia alumni president) who have been in jail for months now for raising slogans against the state-backed anti-minority law, is disappointing and blatantly glaring. 

The respected Professors do not need us to be reminded of Gramsci and the dominant discourse around the power of cultural hegemony and how the politics’ of representation works’ especially in the case of marginalized groups. The Left brigade has mostly been at the forefronts of anti-government agitations, and the solidarity of the Left groups with the cause cannot be denied. But at the same time, can we have space for other ‘organic’ movements which are not led by Left groups and ensure they do not get hijacked by the tried and tested names, and the usual Left backed narratives. 

The media coverage has been mostly biased with most taking pro-government stands, but the publications’ which are publishing independent stories or taking pro-protesters’ stand has their own ‘form’ of inclinations’. The problem is not just with one article but the kind of narratives’ that we see being floated every day where usual quotes’ from the same intellectuals’ are taken on a range of stories’. Even on stories being done on AMU and JMI, the quotes’ typically we see are from JNU/DU Professors and not from the said universities. And the response often that faculties at other universities’ are not forthcoming or not available cannot be true for all the stories. 

Since December we have had teaching faculty and students’ going to various media studios’ to represent Jamia Millia Islamia’s viewpoint even to Times’ Now where Dr. Arvind Kumar debated (successfully!) with hostile’ right-wing ideologues and partisan host Navika Kumar and gave a fitting reply to those questioning the nationalism of hundred year old university which was set up as part of nationalist struggle’.  

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As an institution, Jamia Millia Islamia celebrating its hundredth year of existence is being asked to prove its ‘nationalism’, and the students’ are fighting to create their own space, even after being beaten black and blue by Delhi police these students’ held on to the Constitution and their dreams’ of a secular, democratic, republic of India.  

The young students from JNU to AMU to JMI and at Universities everywhere need our support and solidarity against a fascist regime which has its boots ready to crush any form of resistance. The Black Lives Matter hashtags cannot just be used as a slogan for solidarity with the American racial minority until we create parallels within our polity and society as we look at inclusivity of our own excluded groups of Dalits, tribals, Muslims, women, migrant labourers, farmers, industrial workers, etc. 

We look forward to support from everyone for these young students’ at the threshold of their lives’ fighting for their fundamental democratic rights and wish that the names of students who are not from Left political background will be acknowledged as well.   

Note: Professor Apoorvanand and Satish Deshpande have republished a Hindi version of the article published by Scroll with rectification.

Here is the link


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