The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration has issued notices to some students — who were part of a group that burnt certain pages of the Manusmriti on March 8 during a protest at the Sabarmati dhaba — asking them to explain their “position” on the incident.
The students had held the demonstration to protest against the “casteist” and “sexist” portions of the ancient text.
Organisers had sought permission for the event after another protest meeting — held on February 9 to mark the third anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged — triggered a massive controversy and led to the arrest of several students.
JNU authorities claimed that though they had denied permission for the ‘Manusmriti burning’ event, the students had gone ahead with it.
While the notice sent from the chief proctor’s office to the students does not specify which incident they have been asked to explain their positions on, students said no other event had place at Sabarmati dhaba at that time.
The notice stated, “A report dated March 9, received from the Chief Security Officer in connection with an incident that happened on March 8, 6.30 pm near Sabarmati dhaba, has been received at the Chief Proctor’s office”.
S Balaji from the All India Students’ Association and V Lenin Kumar from the Democratic Students’ Federation confirmed that they had received the notices.
One of the organisers of the event, former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) unit joint secretary in JNU, Pradeep Narwal, said he was not sure if he had received the notice, while ABVP unit vice-president Jatin Goraiya, another organiser, said he had not received it yet.
Balaji said only members of Left organisations had been issued notice by the administration. “Similar events have taken place many times earlier. We have never sought permission for them and there has never been any problem. What have they suddenly found so problematic? The notice, as far as I know, has only been sent to the Left activists who were present at the event that day, but not the organisers. They have targeted us,” he said.
The administration also asked students to bring any “evidence” that they might have in their defence. “You are directed to appear before the Proctor on March 21 to explain your position in this regard. You may also bring any evidence which you wish to submit in support of your defence,” stated the notice.
“Upon failing to present yourself on the date and time appointed for the hearing, it shall be presumed that you have nothing to say in this matter and that you agree with the complaint. In such circumstances, the matter will be decided in your absence,” it added.
Students said they were not sure what evidence they were expected to produce. “I don’t understand what crime we have committed that we need to defend ourselves,” said Lenin Kumar.