On Wednesday, three members of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad in Jawaharlal Nehru University resigned from their organisation, citing the "current JNU incident" as well as "long-standing differences of opinion on MANUSMRITI and Rohith Vemula incident". They refused to be the "mouthpiece" of a government that has "unleashed oppression on the student community" and enabled "rightwing fascist forces", including Bharatiya Janata Party legislator OP Sharma.
Saurabh Sharma, joint secretary of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union and a member of the ABVP, defended his organisation against such charges and spoke about the "national" and the "anti-national".
What do you have to say to the resignations of three members of the JNU ABVP, saying the events of the past few days were “hooliganism and not nationalism”?
We have not received any such letter of resignation yet. Two of the members who resigned were attached to JNU's School of Social Sciences. People raising their flag for “rashtriya vichar dharma” have been targeted there. They would have been pressured by professors at the School of Social Sciences and misled by other people. This is the last resort of the Left and an attempt to divert the issue into something else completely.
Right now, their mobiles are switched off. But we will sit down and talk to them. So far as we are concerned, they are still workers of the organisation.
What does nationalism mean to you?
In short, it means what you are doing to make our country better, what you are doing for society and for the making of the nation. It also means how much you love your rashtrapati.
Can there be more than one idea of nationalism?
It’s up to you what nationalism is. At the end of the day, it is about how much you contribute to society. Everyone has different ways in which they serve the nation. But you have to love your country. You can’t talk about breaking up the country.
What is anti-national, according to you?
If you talk about breaking up the country, it is anti-national.
What did you find seditious about Jawaharlal Nehru University Student’s Union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech on February 10?
Under the sedition law, Section 124 A, there are two or three parameters that have to be satisfied. I think shouting slogans like “bandook ke nok pe lenge azadi, Kashmir maange azadi” is seditious. He was chanting these anti-national slogans on the night of February 9, it may not be recorded but we were there and we heard him. He also addressed protesters at the meeting organised by former members of the DSU [Democratic Students' Union] and told them “We are with you”. As for his speech on February 10, I have not heard it so I cannot comment on it.
Do you think the students who held the meeting on Afzal Guru’s hanging were actually inciting violence?
They created an atmosphere in which violence could happen, even if there was no violence at the meeting.
Do you think this clash can be resolved through talking with each other, without bringing the courts and the police into it?
We did talk. We sent a letter to the vice chancellor, the proctor and the dean asking them to stop the meeting because it is anti-national. But this is what the JNU administration is like. If they had stopped the meeting, this would not have happened.
What about the question of Afzal Guru’s hanging? Couldn’t both points of view be discussed and debated?
The court has given a judgment, you cannot call it wrong. You can critique it. You can discuss and debate it in society. But the court has given a judgment, if you question that, it is wrong.
Have you, as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, as an elected member of the JNUSU, ever felt your voice stifled in the university?
I have been suppressed at many meetings. They shout and don’t allow me to speak. I have videos of many occasions where I have not been allowed to speak.
What do you think of the incidents at Patiala House court, where journalists and teachers were assaulted?
The violence that happened in court was wrong.
Do you think there is a casteist element in the way Kanhaiya Kumar, and, before him, Rohith Vemula, were dealt with?
There is no such thing. This is just an attempt to divert the issue.