New Delhi: The student organiser of the Mahishasura event in JNU, Anil Kumar on Friday accused Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani of “lying” and “denied” that the statement she quoted from in Parliament was not “released” by him or his colleagues.
“The pamphlet that Smriti Irani was reading in Parliament on Wednesday was not written by me or any of my mates. The pamphlet she is seen holding in the speech is a colourful one which is never used in any JNU protest due to high printing costs. It is a fake document and the minister is lying,” said Anil Kumar, who was a PhD student at the varsity when the event took place in 2014. Meanwhile, BJP MP Udit Raj was caught in the wrong foot when images of him addressing the same event in 2013 surfaced.
Confirming his participation in the meeting, the BJP MP said he wasn’t a member of the party then and wondered how BJP was accountable in that case. “I participated in mahishasura program in JNU in 2013 & joined BJP in 2014 & there spoke about social discriminations. How BJP is accountable? Not noticed there was blasphemous comment about Goddess Durga,” he said in a series of tweets.
Irani while giving clarification about her Ministry’s stringent action on ‘Anti-National’ forces, had read out a pamphlet in Parliament earlier this week, which said, ” Posted on October 4, 2014. A statement by the SC, ST and minority students of JNU. And what do they condemn? May my God forgive me for reading this”. “We organised the event for three consecutive years and the idea was not to celebrate his martyrdom actually but because Mahishasura is worshipped as their ancestors by a certain tribe. Why the government wants to dictate us whether we should worship Durga or Mahishasura,” said Anil, a member of the All India Backward Students Forum (AIBSF), which organises the event.
The festival has been observed on the campus every October since 2011 to debate caste issues as a tribute to the “demon” king Mahishasura, who was slain by Goddess Durga. Many backward communities worship Mahishasura and believe that the Gods plotted to kill him because, as a backward caste ruler, he had threatened Brahmanical dominance.
JNU witnessed clashes in 2011 over the hosting of the Mahishasura festival by the AIBSF. However, the event continued to take place till 2014. HB Bohidar, a member of the university panel probing the current controversy, was then chief proctor. He had sent a show-cause notice to the organisers, who were injured in an alleged assault by the ABVP.
Explaining the significance of the annual event, JNU Professor Harish Wankhede said the students were essentially making an argument for cultural plurality and questioning the Brahmanical hegemony over cultural symbols and proposed symbols related to Dalit societies.
“There are different cultural orientations and multiple narratives of mythology. Singular sense of history cannot be imposed. In the nationalist Hindu narrative, Asura worship has not been welcomed. However, an alternative narrative that includes ‘Asura’ worship is also part of the Indian culture,” he told PTI.
“This very possibility that other cultures can exist is being demeaned by the state by terming it as anti-national. One single culture cannot become the symbol of the nation,” he added.