Emergency Files: Part 3 – JNU student Prabir Purkayastha kidnapped, Ashok Lata Jain expelled
As students all across India are fighting the central government's nefarious attempts to curtail their political freedom, Bodhi Commons is republishing the Emergency Files, a series of pamphlets brought out by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in Jawaharlal Nehru University, during the period of the Emergency (1975-77). This is the third part of the series. The first two parts can be read here (part 1) and here (part 2)
As mentioned in Emergency Files: Part 2, Ashok Lata Jain, the Student Councillor of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU), was suspended for signing the pamphlet of the Union opposing the arbitrary and illegal action of the Vice-Chancellor who struck off from the admission list the names of students whose political opinions were unpalatable to the ruling dispensation. Ashoka, who had signed the pamphlet in the capacity of the Chairman of the JNUSU Council meeting held on 19 August 1975, was subsequently expelled by the University authorities. This authoritarian act caused widespread anger among the student community, and ‘The Resistance’ called for a three-day class boycott in solidarity with Ashoka. On the second day of this historic strike (which was probably the first comprehensive student strike anywhere in India against the Emergency), a notorious act was perpetrated by the police – Prabir Purkayastha, an SFI activist and a first-year student of the University, was kidnapped!
Once again, the resemblances to what is happening today are uncanny. Take, for instance, this analysis in the pamphlet by ‘The Resistance’: "Our students have been taught another object lesson about the real face of the Emergency: expulsion of left and democratic student leaders, denial of admission to them and terror on the campus." Likewise, now we know the real motive behind the actions of the current regime in India - the crushing of the left and democratic students' movement and the left movement as a whole, as well as the suppression of all spaces of critical thinking.
Here we reproduce two pamphlets issued by ‘The Resistance’ – one, calling for the boycott and the second, reporting the police terror.
Ashok Lata Jain, student councillor of the JNU Students Union and Ph.D. student in the Centre for Regional Development has been expelled by the ‘Court of Honour’, set up by the Vice-Chancellor on trumped-up charges. This black deed is the worst act perpetrated on the student community since the foundation of the University. The authorities are continuing their offensive against the democratically elected students union. Coming on top of the order prohibiting Union elections, the expulsion of Ashok Lata Jain is an attack which the students will resist. Ashoka has been victimized for doing her elementary duty as an elected student representative and for upholding the democratic rights of students.
TO EXPRESS OUR TOTAL SOLIDARITY WITH HER ALL THE STUDENTS WILL GO ON STRIKE BY REFUSING TO ATTEND CLASSES, THE LIBRARY, AND OTHER ACADEMIC WORK FOR THREE DAYS BEGINNING FROM 24 SEPT.
Our students have been taught another object lesson about the real face of the Emergency: expulsion of left and democratic student leaders, denial of admission to them and terror on the campus. The Vice-Chancellor having instigated this action has left for the United States to continue his intrigues with US imperialism on behalf of the Indira Govt. on the Indo-US Joint commission.
Let us make every effort to boldly convert the three day boycott into a historic protest. We solicit the active sympathy and support of the teachers and employees in this just struggle of ours.
Outrageous events took place amidst the student strike, which were faithfully reported by ‘The Resistance’ in their pamphlet.
Angry over the very successful beginning of the three day boycott call on 24th by the students protesting against the expulsion of Ashok Lata Jain, the police in collusion with the University authorities have perpetrated a cowardly provocation against the students.
After the ninety percent boycott of classes on the 24th, on the 25th morning the boycott threatened to be total. An instance is the School of Languages where with over 600 students, only 3 entered the building in the morning. Since the 24th three police trucks were parked around the campus to intimidate the students. At 10:30 a.m. the police went into action. A black ambassador car with 4 plain-clothes men was parked inside the campus. The men approached Prabir Purkayastha who was standing near the School of Languages and dragged him away to the car, and despite the resistance of some students they whisked him away. This fascist style attack has been launched on a totally innocent person. Purkayastha joined the University only two months ago and is senior fellowship holder in the School of Computer Sciences. This was a deliberate provocation as Prabir had been asked by the policemen if he was Tripathi [the JNUSU President] and he had replied in the negative.
The VC (now safely ensconced in the USA) had informed the last Academic Council meeting that after the 8 July raid the authorities had assured him that the University would be informed within 8 hours of the names of the students arrested and the charges on which they are held. We demand that the Rector and the Registrar get this information and get Prabir released immediately.
The students, teachers and employees have responded to this blatant provocative act with outrage and are determined to unitedly face such onslaughts.
The man who kidnapped Prabir Purkayastha was P.S.Bhinder, who later became the Commissioner of Police. Prabir was to spend one year in jail under the infamous Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA), but that, of course, was unknown to the students then.
(To be continued)