An Open Letter to Narendra Modi From an ‘Academically Suspended’ Student

Dear Modi ji,

Hon’ble Prime Minister, I hope this letter finds you in good spirits. I am writing this letter in pain, anguish and disappointment. Pain because the manner in which your new government has welcomed students, anguish due to the complete disregard for laws, institutions and the Constitution, and disappointment at the hypocrisy that you have been preaching.

I, along with three office bearers – Geeta Kumari, former Jawaharlal University Student Union (JNUSU), president Shubhanshu, along with 15-20 other student activists have been “academically suspended” by the JNU vice-chancellor (VC), Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar and his administration.

The VC, under whose orders the chief proctor has academically suspended us, was appointed by your previous government in 2016. In that regard, neither are we punished, nor any show cause notice has been served to us.

Somehow, from the time he became our VC, he has been trying to emulate you to near perfection. At times we wonder if he is just a mirror image of yours. I believe the VC has taken inspiration from your then HRD minister Smriti Irani who sent five letters to the Hyderabad Central University asking the administration to take action against Vemula and his friends

They were made outsiders in their own space. They were banned from entering academic spaces, their hostel facilities were revoked and Vemula was forced to stay out on the streets. The act had both symbolic and ideological essence.

Modi ji, the organisation you take pride in being part of – Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – has time and again celebrated the ethos and spirit of Manusmriti.

In 1949, RSS, in its mouthpiece – Organiser – manifested its love for Manusmriti and its hate for the Indian Constitution where it called its principles not part of Indian culture. The antagonism towards our Constitution from the RSS and your party (BJP) has been evident by statements of your MPs, ministers, party members – not to mention RSS stalwarts.

It’s not ironical that the first notice I got in March 2016 was for burning those texts in the Manusmriti on International Women’s day which were completely anti-women and anti Dalit.

It is in this context that Vemula’s suspension and later his institutional murder have to be remembered. It was a message to students and people in general who resist the RSS’s idea of Hindu rashtra which turns all the state propaganda against those who resist.

Your 2019 campaign started with a similar but even more powerful message to all those fighting the hate-filled, xenophobic, racist and communal Hindutva ideology – an ideology that you want to impose on India.

You showed it by making an ardent follower of Nathuram Godse – an RSS ideologue who assassinated Gandhi – Pragya Singh Thakur, a terror accused, a member of Parliament. You also made Pratap Chandra Sarangi a minister in your cabinet. Sarangi headed the Bajrang Dal when its cadres burnt alive Graham Staines and his two children.

It is at this time that your government – through vice-chancellors – are targeting universities through repression, fund cuts, seat cuts and decimation of social justice by scuttling reservations, implementation of the New Education policy, saffronisation, privatisation and corporatisation of education. Students have been turned into commodities and anyone resisting and fighting back is being victimised. Those who resist and continue to find the strength to fight back are hounded, trolled, punished and then ostracised.

At a time when people from the Dalit community were dying in gutters in your ‘new’ India, JNU’s contractual workers along with sanitation workers were demanding the administration to implement the labour commissioner’s order for equal pay for equal work. My participation along with other student activists was a crime in the dictionary of your puppet vice-chancellor.

Similarly, at a time when you were giving speech after speech on how India will become vishwa guru 9world leader), JNU’s VC – pretty much like other VCs at different universities –  was slashing funds for libraries. In JNU there was an 80% fund cut for the college’s library. Yes Modi ji, an 80% fund cut. And you know we are being served notices for resisting his onslaught.

You have always boasted about how generous and tolerant you are, and how concerned you are about preserving and enriching the freedom of expression.

I have been served proctorial notices for raising slogans like “RSS murdabad” and “ABVP murdabad.” My original, well-researched MPhil thesis, for which I worked hard, was blocked by the VC and his administration because I raised these slogans. This is your ‘new India’ where resisting and speaking against the RSS – an organisation that never supported or participated in the Indian freedom struggle – is a crime.

You might have forgotten this history, or maybe it was not taught in your the course of your political science degree. But it is the truth. RSS has overtly and covertly supported the British empire in its repression of the Indian people who were fighting for freedom. Moreover, RSS icons begged for mercy from the British Queen.

The Digital India programme that you promoted with much fanfare, and which people like my VC strive to implement, has turned into ‘scam India’.

Questions papers and answer papers get leaked. More so, the leaked question papers are filled with questions copy-pasted from various question banks and other sources. A similar scam was instituted by my VC through JNU’s online entrance examination, which was riddled with incompetence, leakages and copy-pasting of questions.

Questioning this system and exposing this scam has brought upon me not one, but multiple enquiries.

You call your government scam and corruption free, why not institute a judicial enquiry into this massive scam? Are you afraid that like how in the Rafale scam, your so-called incorruptible image which you have been selling by travelling in Adani flights in your designer clothes and advertising through PayTM will get exposed? Was this the reason why we were academically suspended?

My fellow comrades and I are facing proctorial inquiries where we have all been academically suspended without any legal precedent or rule. This means we are no longer JNU students; our hostels will be snatched and we will be pushed out of the university – made outsiders while every space in the university becomes purged of democracy and discussion.

This is your ‘new India’ where the Constitution, rule of law and justice are words only meant to be written in books and preserved in archives. The new norm is not a violation of the rule of law but the decimation of any that is left. This academic suspension is of a kind, where the initiation of inquiry itself is construed as a crime, wherein we are presumed guilty from the very beginning.

Be it mob lynchings, ‘godi media’, social media propaganda or institutionalised lies propagated through WhatsApp, your speeches and others, the axiom “innocent until proven guilty” is replaced with “guilty from the time of resistance till death, irrespective of being proven innocent.”

Modi ji, I was wondering: are there any other kinds of suspensions? Like being politically suspended, socially suspended, or even culturally suspended? It’s my humble request that you please make it clear because I didn’t study the “entire political science” or do any course on Manusmriti.

I have a lot to write, but it would be foolish of me to expect you to have time to read this. You must be busy electioneering by touring the country, giving speeches or hoping countries to fix deals for your near and dear corporate friends.

But it was important for me to let my prime minister know that he has competitors in the form of numerous vice-chancellors and administrators who, in order to prove their loyalty, are setting new benchmarks in tyranny and cruelty. I believe you already know this and have been devising ways to defeat them and stand tall as the only leader (scratch that, despot) who believes in nothing other than complete tyranny.

Anyway, the lessons you learnt from your guru M.S. Golwalkar who imbibed every word of “Veer” Sarvarkar – someone who plagiarised Hitler’s nazism and Mussolini’s fascism in both letter and spirit – are being indoctrinated into every Indian.

Gandhi spoke and fought against this hate. Ambedkar foresaw this rise of fascism and drafted the Constitution. Bhagat Singh saw the truth of your RSS’s communalism and vehemently spoke and wrote against it. He went to the gallows without seeking mercy, unlike Sarvarkar who begged the queen and the British to spare him. He promised his loyalty to the British for his freedom – a promise he kept and taught the RSS to keep during the entire freedom movement.

Today you want students like us to go down the Sarvarkar path of seeking mercy from you and your VC.

However, the path we will take is of Bhagat Singh, who fought against communal and fascist forces. Yes, this is another freedom movement, one that we have started to make India free of the RSS, which promises poison, practices mob lynching, institutionalises divide and rule and wants to implement the Manusmriti.

We know you want to idolise Godse, that’s why you fear universities; you fear students who think and fight back. We know you will bring the might of the state to silence us, but what you don’t know is we are Periyar, Phule, Savitribai, Gandhi, Ambedkar, Abul Kalam Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, and others. We will fight like them – for truth, justice and freedom from Hindutva and corporate loot.

Till then, with love,


Academically Suspended.

Inquilab Zindabad!

N. Sai Balaji is president of Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union

Featured image credit: Akhil Kumar/ The Wire