Kanhaiya Kumar’s remarks on Tuesday on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots have elicited sharp reactions from a cross-section of people including JNUSU Vice-President Shehla Rashid and Sucheta De, an important leader of All India Students Association.
Kanhaiya had said that 1984 anti-Sikh riot was a "mob-led massacre" while 2002 Gujarat riots were a "state sponsored violence."
In response, Rashid said, “I would just say that both 1984 and 2002 were acts of state sponsored violence and we must not draw contrasts between two human tragedies. We have equally spoken up against state sponsored violence, be it by the Left front government in Bengal, the Congress government or the BJP governments. That is what makes us “Left”. The survivors of 1984 state sponsored communal pogrom deserve all our support and we must refrain from making any statement that undermines their struggle for justice.”
“In 1984 also, the JNU campus not only opposed the violence, but even sheltered some of the Sikhs who were running for cover. We have spoken out against Gujarat as vocally as against Hashimpura and Singur-Nandigram. We cannot prejudge the case and give a clean chit to the state, when there has been no credible investigation into the whole affair,” she added.
Sucheta De of AISA said, “Sorry Kanhaiya, can’t agree. Left and progressive student movements that have emerged today in India, will not give a clean chit to congress for the 1984 pogrom. Why should a left leader try to defend the congress government’s role in the anti-sikh riots, something that even Rahul Gandhi and his party can not defend?
To say that 1984 riots were mob frenzy and not state sponsored would only justify the ‘big tree falls’ theory regarding sikh massacre.”
Kanhaiya's comments did not go down well even with those who have been his zealous supporters ever since he was arrested in a sedition case over an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.
"Sorry Kanhaiya, you're badly wrong here. The 1984 Anti Sikh pogrom was just as much sponsored by state machinery," CPI(ML) Politburo member and former JNUSU President Kavita Krishnan wrote on Twitter.
Sharing a report by People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) on 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Krishnan further said, "I hope @kanhaiyajnusu and all others read Who Are The Guilty, the report that documents the meticulous planning".
Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadava, who is also an alumni also tweeted, "Sorry to disagree again @kanhaiyajnusu Both 2002,1984 were state sanctioned Emergency was closest we came to fascism".
Speaking at an event at JNU Kanhaiya had said on Monday that there is a difference between 2002 riots and 1984 Sikh massacre as the Gujarat violence was "carried out through state machinery while the other was caused due to mob frenzy."
He had also compared the alleged onslaught on varsities with Gujarat riots alleging both of them were carried out "with support" from state machinery even as he stressed that there is a fundamental difference between "emergency" and "fascism".
However, following the criticism, Kanhaiya said that he has been "misinterpreted".
"I have been misinterpreted and misrepresented yet again.
There isn’t an iota of doubt that Emergency represents one of the darkest periods of Indian democracy. My organization AISF strongly opposed and fought against the state repression during Emergency. Both 1984 and 2002 were indeed state led pogroms for which justice is still awaited," he said in a statement.
"The current central government is relentlessly carrying forward its fascist agenda using state power, as visible in the recent authoritarian actions against students and all voices of dissent across the country. What we now witness is unprecedented - a form of undeclared emergency," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)