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‘India My Valentine’ Programme In JNU Was Sexist, Homophobic & Islamophobic

The sexist, racist, gender insensitive jokes were continuously flowing from the stage, JNU community was cheering like crazy, but we couldn’t bear it and had to leave from the program.

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students standing with placards during the programme| Photo: Abid Fahim

On 14th February, a program called India, My Valentine” was organised by the JNUSU in the SSS1 auditorium of JNU, where various activists/artists and standup comedians came. The prime motive behind the celebration of this idea – “India, My valentine” as per the organiser was to fight against hatred with love across the country. However, this concept was highly criticised the way this idea tried to romanticise the resistance of Shaheen Bagh women and commodify the love. Moreover, this idea was initiated by those who are always forefront at criticising capitalism. Through, this article, I will focus on what exactly happened during this program in JNU.

At the program site, a group of students was standing silently with placards in their hands to register their concerns about the unclear and Islamophobic stand of JNUSU on Sharjeel Imam – a Ph.D. student of JNU, the group wanted to ask JNUSU, Is Sharjeem Imam, too Muslim to support.” Before writing what exactly happened during the silent protest in that program, I feel important to tell the reader that Sharjeel Imam is charged under draconian law – Sedition, and UAPA for his speech where he just talked about Chakka Jaam (road-blockade), but his speech was taken out of context, fabricated and he was targeted for his Muslim identity, and is in police custody since 28th January 2020. In his speech which he delivered in AMU, nowhere he talked about separation of the northeast from India, rather he talked about “Chakka Jaam” as a mode of protest because the state is not listening. Sharjeel Imam being a JNU student, deserves the support of JNUSU and JNU community, but JNUSU, a representative body of students, till now has not spoken a word in support of him. Interestingly, on 12th February 2020 JNUSU give a parallel call of protest march from Ganga Dhaba to Chandrabhag and canceled it at the eleventh hour (just 30 minutes before the march supposed to start) citing unavoidable reasons and till now no explanation has been given about the unavoidable reason and why march was canceled at the last moment, which created a chaos and confusion among the students. However, the protest march happened which was given originally by the defence committee of Sharjeel and hundreds of students joined the march. With this concern, a group of students (I was one among them) decided to demonstrate a silent protest with placards at the program venue. But that horrible experience can never be forgotten which questioned the JNU culture of dissent and debate. The program started, where a standup comedian came and started with sexist, racist, gender insensitive, homophobic and Islamophobic jokes, he also used abusive language but the audience laughed and clapped. I was shocked, and for a moment I thought this is not JNU and this can’t be, but it was just my imagination, the reality was that I was standing in JNU campus and experiencing the most horrible experience of my life. I don’t know if such jokes are allowed in the name of humor, so I’m leaving it on readers to judge. Before, I console myself from this experience another disturbing moment come when some of the protesting students were discussing about the insensitive jokes of the comedian, at that moment the comedian commented that if we have done with our protest (hogya aaplog ka”), in response to that a student said, It’s not funny, one of our students is wrongly charged under sedition and UAPA, targeted for his Muslim identity, is in police custody since 28th January and you think it’s funny.” The comedian then went on justifying his stand, making fun of the protesters, but the JNU community cheered, laughed and clapped like crazy and I was speechless, questioning my presence in JNU – JNU a university which is known a highly sensitive campus. We, the protesting students were mocked up, called illogical and termed as “Hara” (green) of the campus. The sexist, racist, gender insensitive jokes were continuously flowing from the stage, JNU community was cheering like crazy, but we couldn’t bear it and had to leave from the program.

Without writing much, I will just conclude it saying that the current regime making the constitution a comedy, and these people are saving the constitution with their gender insensitive, homophobic, Islamophobic and abusive jokes/comedy.

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Abid Fahim
is currently pursuing his M.Phil in Center for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU. He was the General Secretary of TISS Students Union during 2016-17, while he was a student of Master of Social Work in Equity and Justice for Children and Families at TISS.

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