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‘Slogans Don’t Hurt States, Oppression Does’

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Academic and activist Dr Ammar Ali Jan, while responding to the criticism against the Students Solidarity March, has said that slogans and speeches did not hurt states but oppression did.

The academic gave these comments in an exclusive interview with Naya Daur, in which he talked about the struggle of students in Pakistan and the criticisms raised against the Students Solidarity March.

Following the Students Solidarity March, authorities in Lahore registered a case against organisers and supporters of the march under charges of sedition. Among those nominated in the FIR was Dr Ammar Ali Jan.

Moreover, the march also received criticism for the speech a Pashtun student activist made during the march, in which he was critical of the state’s conduct in former FATA. There were also criticisms raised against the political and ideological sloganeering during the march, particularly slogans pertaining to left-wing politics.

On charges of sedition

Regarding the charges of sedition levied against the Students Solidarity March’s organisers and supporters, Dr Ammar Ali Jan said that the rally was supported by students, teachers, opposition party leaders and incumbent ministers. He said that even Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted in support of student unions.

He added that despite this positive reaction, they came to know that their activities were being seen as seditious, that Alamgir Wazir had been picked up, and cases pertaining to sedition had been registered against them.

He further said that the law of sedition was the same one which the British used against those who opposed the Raj. He said that such monarchic and authoritarian traditions and attitudes had not changed.

Moreover, he viewed that the fact that the government was supporting them while cases continued to be registered was reflective of the fact that someone else was running the affairs.

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Regarding the march being termed a conspiracy of foreign powers, he asked why a rally for education would benefit India or Israel and why would our enemies want quality education, student representation, an end to sexual harassment, and the demilitarisation of campuses in our country.

On Alamgir Wazir’s speech

Dr Ammar Ali Jan was of the view that what Alamgir said could be conveyed in a different way, but one had to consider the fact that a youngster whose father had been killed by the Taliban, who had lost 15 family members, would express their grievances in the manner they did.

He added that 99 percent of what was said during the march was unlike Alamgir Wazir’s speech, and as a state, one can act maturely to ignore the one percent and focus on where the resentment is coming from in order to rectify issues.

He stated that it was unfair to focus on one speech and ignore the rest of the demands.

He added, “States don’t break up due to slogans and speeches, they break up because of oppression.”

On ideological and political sloganeering during the march

Dr Jan was of the view that students should not be viewed as a political force or as political opponents.

He added that it is natural to get a glimpse of the ideology of those who put in the effort in organising protest activities. “In this case, progressive and leftist organisers put in the effort and hence you saw a glimpse of their ideology in the slogans and speeches,” he added.

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He was further of the view that the marchers were not only students, but were also citizens with political rights, hence they had a right to give their views based on their political ideologies.

On the Slogan ‘Laal Laal Lehrai Ga’

Dr Jan viewed that red was the colour of revolution and resistance historically, and when students raised red flags, they were trying to attach themselves to the history of resistance and struggle. He added that when students raised such slogans, they were negating the system of today which oppressed them and were looking towards a better future.

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