In a letter to the editor, Amita Singh, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has taken exception to my article on a dossier compiled by 11 teachers about activities on campus (“Sex and sedition: What the JNU dossier tells us about the right-wing imagination”).
Amita Singh, chairperson of the Centre for Law and Governance in JNU, was one of the professors who released the dossier to journalists. But she claims my article is “completely false, malicious and unsubstantiated” and “a figment of hateful imagination”.
In particular, she claims that the infamous JNU dossier “is not even remotely connected" to her name. It’s strange how now that the dossier has proved deeply embarrassing to its patrons, those like Professor Amita Singh who publicised it in the first place are scrambling to distance themselves from it. It seems that the dossier is no longer something to be proud of, to offer as proof of JNU’s anti-national character. Instead, it has become proof of the sleazy manner in which some right-wing teachers of JNU fantasise about the sex lives of students.
Since Professor Singh has challenged the basis of my article, I would like to place on record the facts that tie her and other JNU teachers to this defamatory and embarrassing document.
A press conference
How did the “dossier” make it to the public domain? It was released to select journalists at a press conference at JNU on March 14 by several teachers, prominent among whom were Amita Singh and Hari Ram Mishra.
On the same day, JNU had sought a “clarification” from Amita Singh on her anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim remarks in an interview to UP Patrika.
Media reports of the press conference quote Amita Singh drawing support and legitimacy from the dossier for her interview’s claims on “anti-national” JNU teachers who are Dalit and Muslim. At the same conference, Amita Singh repeated her communal slurs against JNU student Umar Khalid and “people from Bijnore”.
Below are excerpts from a Press Trust of India report on this press conference:
"Maintaining that she has been quoted out of context in the interview, Singh came down heavily on a section of teachers alleging that they have been supporting the "anti-national" activities on campus. ...
Asked whether she stands by her comments in the interview, the professor said, ‘I mean it when I said those who are from Bijnore are like Umar Khalid….I have called 8-10 teachers of the university as anti-nationals...there is an year-old 400 pages report compiled by university teachers, which also has pictures of some professors with Hafiz Sayeed…Our job as teachers is to guide the students when they are on wrong track, here few teachers mislead them for their own political gains," she said at the Press Conference.”
This shows that Amita Singh was certainly among those who informed the media about the “dossier”, or the “report compiled by university teachers” which she claims has proof of anti-national activities by some teachers.
It is another matter that while the dossier contains photographs of JNU teachers with University of Jammu teachers, there are no images of them with Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed, as claimed by Amita Singh in her UP Patrika interview as well as in the press conference. This atrocious piece of defamation, backed by no facts whatsoever, is blithely repeated by her.
The authors of the dossier are not named. However, Professor Hari Ram Mishra of the Sanskrit Centre has boasted of his contributions on record – both to Press Trust of India at the same press conference he addressed alongside Professor Amita Singh, as well as to the reporter from The Wire. So at least one of the authors is known.
Amita Singh’s letter to Scroll indicates she is aware of at least one other person connected to the dossier, when she says that it “had become a reason for not reinstating a School of International Studies Dean despite his exoneration from a sexual harassment case through JNU’s Executive Council in 2014”.
The JNU administration ought, by rights, to investigate into who authored the defamatory and scurrilous JNU dossier and who released it to the media. Clearly, Professor Amita Singh has information to offer that can throw more light on the dossier’s provenance.
I leave it to readers to judge whether “figment of hateful imagination” can be best used to describe Professor Amita Singh’s views on Muslims, Dalits, Kashmiris reflected in her interview to UP Patrika, and the JNU dossier she cited to legitimise her interview.
I remind her that the “vast majority of JNU students” have refused to allow “the eight in the quagmire” to be profiled, isolated and victimised. Instead, they have all stood up in thousands in solidarity with the handful of students victimised by the government and the university administration.
I also remind her that it is these very same student activists who agitated against the “jobless growth” and “Manmohanomics” and anti-democratic and repressive policies of previous governments – and it is they who are exposing the even worse “jobless growth” of the present Modi regime, topped by the utter contempt for learning and higher education and democracy.
Is Professor Amita Singh aware that Narendra Modi promised two crore jobs for the unemployed youth of the country; yet according to the latest government data, India witnessed its lowest job growth since 2009 last year, and there has been a decline of 20,000 jobs across eight labour intensive sectors in the last quarter of 2015?
I also quite humbly suggest to her that accusing students of being anti-national because they hail from Bijnore or Kashmir, and profiling JNU students and mess workers, especially women students and workers as part of a “sex racket”, amounts to “playing havoc with the lives of students”, since this actually puts students at risk of bias and violence, and exposes JNU women in particular to sexual violence.
Those who sought to defame and tarnish JNU tend to live in an echo chamber, imagining that their audience will be as receptive as Zee News or UP Patrika or condom-counting legislator Gyan Dev Ahuja to their wild, bigoted, lurid fantasies of sex and sedition. It’s been a shock to them to find that in academic and non-academic circles alike, in India and the world, the “dirty dossier” has made them a laughing stock, as well as earned them all-round condemnation for their naked bigotry and utter academic incompetence.