A ‘Possibly Anti-National’ Law Student Writes an Open Letter to Smriti Irani

Dear Smriti Irani,

At the very outset let me mention that I’m not affiliated to any political party. I’m neither a Bhakt, nor a Congi. Not even an AAPtard. I am however a student with fierce opinions on the current situation at JNU and I wish to receive some clarifications from you.

Ever since your appointment to the HRD Ministry, there had been a lot of scepticism.

Everyone was stunned when an actor from a less than progressive TV show (and I base this on hearsay; I’d shoot myself if I actually had to watch an episode) was handed over the country’s education. But your party backed you up. The Prime Minister himself backed you up.

And many dismissed the initial scepticism to your appointment as misguided enthusiasm. After all it was only fair that you should be judged on the merit of your work in office instead of your past credentials (Interestingly this argument was also used for Gajendra Chauhan’s forceful appointment to the FTII).

At the time of writing this letter however, Miss Irani, you’ve had 21 months in office, and I believe you owe the student community some serious answers.

1. Over the last few days, the JNU issue has escalated tremendously. Lives are at threat, constitutional rights are being violated, and there is an aura of danger on the campuses of one of the premier universities in this country.
It is also spreading fast to other universities and campuses.

One of the main parties to the conflict is the student body of the ruling party of which you happen to be a prominent part.

Why is it Ma’am that you have kept your distance on the issue, not visited the campus and tried to address the situation, or even try to diffuse it by asking the ABVP party cadres to end the hostility? Surely they would listen to you if you told them, and that would significantly lower the tensions on campus.

2. In the last few months, there have been more than 10 instances of police violence on university campuses. Why, Madam, are students being beaten up?

We are the ones who have travelled from different parts of the country, often under difficult circumstances, to further our intellectual pursuits and use it for the betterment of the nation.

At a time when violent crimes and crimes against women are on the rise, do you really think we, the student community, are a threat to the nation? JNU isn’t the first place this is happening at. And going by the current trend, it definitely won’t be the last.

And through all of this, you, the Minister in charge of our future, have silently sided with the oppressors, even as the student community has been hopeful that you’ll have a change of heart at some point of time or the other.

3. Yesterday, you have made a decision with all the Vice Chancellors to hoist 207 feet tall Indian flags in all central universities, beginning with JNU. When implemented, these flags will be twice the height of the tallest flag we have currently. Which is a great thing, Madam. T

he sight of my country’s flag flying high usually excites me and fills me with pride. Pride in my country’s achievements and its past as one of the most progressive nations in South East Asia.

But these flags will not do that. These flags will remind me of the time my government forcefully labelled me as a threat, oppressed me and snatched away my basic rights and stripped me of my dignity. They will remind me of Rohith Vemula’s death and Kanhaiya Kumar’s unconstitutional arrest.

By not addressing the core issues and by politicising the tricolour, you’ve effectively ensured that these flags will fly high over the carcass of the Indian education system.

There are other issues I have with your policies, but I shall keep them for some other day. At this point of time, as a student in the country, I feel threatened by the government. And that doesn’t seem very normal to me.

All that Mr. Modi had to offer at a recent all parties meet was that “I am the Prime Minister of India, not BJP.” Similarly, even the HRD Ministry is responsible for all the students in the country, not just those affiliated to the student groups of the political party in power.

Sedition charges are the remnants of a colonial era which have no place in modern society, and was used by the British to oppress Indians. It is a shame that now we Indians are using the same law against each other.

There are a lot of answers awaited from you, and we the students are waiting eagerly. I’d also urge you to personally take part in inclusive dialogue with the students and end the current hostilities at JNU, as well as release the democratically elected student leader of the university.

In case you are out of answers, maybe it is time to hand over the Ministry to someone else and move back to primetime television.

With little respect and much concern,

A possibly anti-national student.

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