New Delhi: The student protests across the country are an extension of their anger against the Narendra Modi government over several issues, former Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung said. He said students in India have been upset since the suicide of Hyderabad University PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide in 2016.
Jung, who also served as the vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia from 2009 to 2013, had Sunday visited the university to extend support to students protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).
Students from Jamia and elsewhere have been on a continuous sit-in protest outside the university for over a month now, opposing the citizenship law, which they say is “against Muslims”.
Speaking to ThePrint, the former Delhi L-G said students have been upset with the Modi government over the lack of jobs and unemployment and everything that follows only adds to the anger.
“A lot of students are aggrieved… They are concerned by the employment matter. That’s one concern and this leads to others,” he said.
Jung added that students have been aggrieved since the death of Rohit Vemula in 2016.
“The fire came when Rohith Vemula committed suicide. The reason was very simple, he was being denied his scholarship,” Jung said. “Here is a Dalit child who has come from interior Andhra Pradesh and he is denied his scholarship. He writes an emotional letter and commits suicide. That, I think, totally upset a whole lot of students.”
Vemula, a PhD scholar at Hyderabad University, committed suicide after his fellowship of Rs 25,000 was suspended for raising “issues under the banner of Ambedkar Students’ Association” and allegedly attacking students. He, along with four others, was suspended on the basis of a complaint by members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the RSS student wing.
He wrote a strongly-worded suicide letter in which he called his “birth an accident”. The incident triggered massive reaction across the country, with students coming out on the streets to protest against the BJP government.
‘Slowing economy hurting students’
Jung said students are also restive because of the slowing economy and lack of employment, and government decisions such as the CAA and the NRC are only adding to their despair.
“In my time, we used to do an MA and look for a job but now people are doing PhDs because jobs are not available,” Jung said. “The reason for the PhD is not to get an education but to be gainfully employed but this opportunity is denied to them right now because of the slowing economy.”
“After a point, students’ concerns does not remain with just CAA and NRC,” he added. “It becomes more about where do they stand in the country… you are not giving me a job and you are trying to discipline me, is how they start thinking.”
Jung, who stood in solidarity with the protesting students at Jamia, also questioned the non-secular nature of the Citizenship Act. He said the law should either include all religions or exclude all.
“Protests against CAA have gone on for long now. The government should find some solution to it and listen to the people,” he said. “I suggested a simple solution… Either the Act should have all religions or none. Article 5 of the Constitution also says that you cannot discriminate against any religion.”
Jung said he is happy to see the protest is not just confined to Muslims. “…other communities are also participating in the CAA protests. It looks secular so far and it should remain so,” he said. “I said this at Jamia also, mullahs should be kept away from the protest.”