JNU violence: ‘Our duty to speak… who can say it won’t happen at IISc next?’

Amrita Dutta
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Protest against the attack on JNU on IISc campus in Bengaluru. (Express)

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” A protest poster with the message cropped up on noticeboards at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) campus in Bengaluru on the morning of January 6, and travelled via WhatsApp and social media, urging students to join in a “protest against state-sponsored violence in JNU”. By evening, nearly 24 hours after the attack in JNU, a group of students and teachers gathered and wound its way through campus.

For the premier science institute known for its reticence on matters political, it was a rare event. “It was unprecedented. I have never seen students at IISC this agitated or vocal even about issues that they are directly affected by,” said Professor Suvrat Raju, a theoretical physicist with the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS), who addressed the students at the start of the march. “It is a measure of how shocking these attacks on students have been, from Jamia Millia Islamia to AMU and now JNU,” he said.

The march was not organised by a students’ body but a group of students, who took the initiative because they felt that “a line had been crossed”. “This was a blatant, fascist attack on a university which has provided education to the poorest sections, and it is our duty as citizens to speak out. Who can say it won’t happen at IISc next?” said an undergraduate biology student who took part in the protest.

Nearly 300-400 students turned up to protest, according to participants.

It is not that the institute has been cocooned from the events in the country entirely. In December, a silent protest was held by students against the police action in Jamia; as well as the detentions in the city of people who protested against the CAA and NRC. “For a while now, there has been an irritation in the scientific community at the promotion of pseudo-science; concerns about the implications of the CAA and NRC. But the JNU attack was too much...” said Tejal Kanitkar, associate professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies near the IISC campus.