NEWS
19/09/2018 2:02 PM IST | Updated 19/09/2018 2:03 PM IST

Why Is Nirmala Sitharaman So Angry With JNU?

The defence minister has taken time out of her busy schedule to attack the ‘enemies’ within her alma mater.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Indian Women's Press Corps in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Indian Women's Press Corps in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Nirmala Sitharaman is having a busy September. From refusing to answer the opposition's questions on the Rafale deal to criticising Navjot Singh Sidhu for hugging Pakistan's army chief, the defence minister has been all over the news.

Yet she found time on Tuesday to comment on a university election, two days after Jawaharlal Nehru University elected a new students' union.

"There are forces which are waging a war against India and it is they who are also seen with elected representatives of the students' union. That makes me feel uneasy," she said.

The JNUSU has condemned her statement.

The recently concluded elections in the university were marred by allegations of violence from both the ABVP and Left parties. Counting, in fact, had to be suspended for more than 14 hours after ABVP members allegedly entered the counting centre and tried to snatch ballot papers.

ABVP members also held a press conferenceon Tuesday to show reporters the injuries they claimed had been inflicted by members of Left-affiliated groups. One differently-abled student was brought from AIIMS on a stretcher to attend the interaction.

Left parties have also claimed that that they were attacked and intimidated. Newly elected JNUSU president N Sai Balaji told HuffPost India that he had to be escorted back to the campus from the police station, where he had gone to file a complaint against ABVP.

And now former JNU student and Union minister Sitharaman has added to the murk by calling the new union and the people associated with it "anti-India".

Sitharaman herself, as The Telegraph reminded us today, is no stranger to campus protests. In 1983, as a member of the now-defunct Free Thinkers, she had led a protest against the then vice-chancellor PN Srivastava to protest disciplinary action against a student.

In 2016, after the university and its students had been dubbed "anti-national" by other ministers and TV channels, and three students had been arrested on sedition charges, Sitharaman, then commerce minister, had seemed a little more circumspect and thoughtful while speaking to The Hindu about the issue.

Now, the defence minister seems to believe that calling peaceful, unarmed students "anti-nationals" is a good use of her time, which would be better spent securing the borders.