NEW DELHI: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has triggered a fresh controversy by alleging that some forces in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) were openly waging a war against the country and called them "anti-India".
"I feel sad for so many things happening there. During the election time, arguments, and disputes are normal but the kind of things which have happened in the last few years are not encouraging at all,'' the Defence Minister said.
"It's very different to have a party, whose ideology you may not agree with, but they have probably gone to be led by forces which are anti-India," Sitharaman said.
The Defence Minister made these remarks during an interactive session with female journalists here on Tuesday.
Sitharaman's remarks came two days after the United Left student group alliance swept the JNU Students' Union polls.
"They are waging a war against India in their pamphlets. Their brochures say that. When such people are leading the JNUSU and members are openly participating with such forces, you don't need to hesitate to call them anti-India," she said.
They are waging a war against India. Their brochures say that. Such people leading the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) or JNUSU members openly participating with such forces, you do not need to hesitate to say anti-India, therefor: Nirmala Sitharaman (18.918) pic.twitter.com/gPjjC1rJ72
— ANI (@ANI) September 18, 2018
"Forces are waging the war against India and it is they who are also seen with the students` union`s elected representatives...that makes me feel uneasy," she said.
However, Sitharaman's remarks evoked a sharp reaction from the JNU students' union president N Sai Balaji who hit out at the Defence Minister and said that ''she herself has not answered questions on Rafale deal.''
Attacking the Centre, the JNUSU president said, ''The government wants the country to talk about the national versus anti-national debate. They want to divert attention from the real issues - the Rafale deal, the Jio university, unemployment."
''Sitharaman, who herself, is a product of the JNU, has not answered questions why Ambani was helped in the Rafale deal," the JNUSU president asked.
"They want to end public-funded education and encourage corporatisation while the common man talks about nationalism and anti-national elements," he added.
On February 9, 2016, an event against Afzal Guru's hanging was held on the JNU campus during which "slogans against the country" were allegedly raised, propelling the varsity to the centre of a countrywide debate on nationalism.
A JNU panel had in 2016 recommended rustication of Umar Khalid and two other students and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on Kanhaiya Kumar, the then students' union president, in connection with the campus event.
Kumar, Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested in February 2016 on charges of sedition in connection with the controversial event and are out on bail.
Their arrest had triggered widespread protests.
(With Agency inputs)