Maha youth safe, says Uddhav as JNU brutality sparks outrage

BY QUAID NAJMI   |  Mumbai


For the second time in less than a month, thousands of students took to the streets on Monday in different parts of Maharashtra to protest against the stark hooliganism in the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on Sunday.

The protests were organised by various left and right wing students organisations, raising slogans against each other and also against the violence in JNU for which they blamed the other side, barely a month after similar rallies were taken out to condemn the violence in Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University campuses.

In Nashik, Nationalist Youth Congress Party activists clashed with the workers of the RSS youth wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and police intervened to forcibly separate them.

NYCP workers attempted to storm inside the Aurangabad BJP office, but were prevented by the police, while Nationalist Congress Party activists staged a noisy demonstration outside the state BJP offices here.

Sensing the mood, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray hurriedly convened the media to publicly reassure that "the youth and students are absolutely safe in Maharashtra, and any attempts to create disturbances in campuses would be dealt with a heavy hand".

Comparing the Sunday's JNU violence with the November 26, 2008 terror carnage, Thackeray demanded: "Why were the attackers' faces covered? Why were they hiding? They (the attackers) are cowards and the country will never support their acts. Those who indulged in the JNU violence need to be unmasked before the whole country."

The protests in Mumbai started in a small way around midnight (Sunday-Monday), with messages relayed on social media networks with candle-lit vigils and a procession to the iconic Gateway of India.

By afternoon of Monday, the trickle swelled into huge crowds at the Gateway of India, with many protesters apparently prepared for a long vigil, armed with snacks and water, mobile chargers and battery banks, basic medicines, snacks, blankets/shawls to beat the chill, even tampons and napkins.

The venue attracted several politicians and celebrities like Sushant Singh, Varun Grover, and Shrikant Matondkar, legislators Abu Asim Azmi, Rohit Pawar, Kapil Patil, farmers leader Ashok Dhawale, activists like Jatin Desai, Fahad Ahmad, NCP leader and Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, among many more.

At all venues, the participants including students from IIT-Bombay, the TISS, the University of Mumbai, several city colleges, youth and social organisations, activists and other trooped with hand-painted banners/posters with anti-BJP-ABVP slogans, the National Tricolour, pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and other leaders, and demanded action against the perpetrators of the JNU violence.

"The protest is peaceful and the participants sang patriotic songs, chanted slogans condemning the BJP-led government at the Centre, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and demanded immediate action against the goons who created the mayhem in JNU," Desai told IANS from the venue.

Similarly, right-wing groups also sported the Indian flag and protested outside the Pune University and in the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya (MGAHV) in Wardha this afternoon.

The left-wing groups also held similar protests in Mumbai, Pune, Wardha, Aurangabad, Nashik and other places, condemning what they termed as "right-wing terror tactics" against the JNU students and professors.

"We have a huge protest outside the Pune University campus in which students of the FTII are also participating. We strongly condemn the violence unleashed by the ABVP and BJP-supported goons against the JNU students-professors," Yuvak Kranti Dal Vice-President Kamlakar Shete told IANS from the Pune protest venue.

"Nearly a 100 students joined the peaceful protest this evening and unanimously expressed solidarity with the JNU students-professors," said activist Chandan Saroj from the MGAHV campus in Wardha.

Thackeray added that "the youth of the country are like a bomb and must not be tinkered with or their angst could explode" as he assured his full support to the youth.

"There are apprehensions in the minds of the country's youth, students. There is a need to take them into confidence, address their doubts and make them feel secure of their future," he urged, promising their safety in the state.

The JNU incidents echoed loudly in political circles and the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi.

Terming it as "a planned attack", NCP President Sharad Pawar said the students and professors were subjected to a cowardly attack. "I strongly condemn this undemocratic act of vandalism and violence. Use of violent means to suppress democratic values and thought will never succeed."

State Congress President and Revenue Minister President Balasaheb Thorat strongly flayed the "brutal violence unleashed by the goons of ABVP". "This is sheer hooliganism, they are ransacking property and harming people. I demand that the attackers should be brought to book immediately,"

Shiv Sena leader and Environment Minister Aditya Thackeray said that the violence and brutality faced by students while protesting is worrisome. "Be it Jamia, JNU, students mustn't face brutal force. Let them be! These goons must face action. They must be brought to time-bound and swift justice."

Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik strongly condemned the JNU violence and demanded strict action against the culprits. "Hostels are being attacked. Students and staff are being beaten up. Police is not acting upon to protect them. BJP's politics is playing with the future of the country."

At all protest spots in the city and state, the Maharashtra Police deployed tight security to prevent any untoward incidents.IANS