To label or classify things is one of the basic human desires. And media, whose role is not only to understand complex issues but simplify them for the masses to understand, this desire becomes almost a necessity. Therefore, media’s search for binaries like ABVP v/s AISA, Right v/s Left, Nationalists v/s Anti-nationalists etc. is understandable. It simplifies things for them and their readers.
But essentially, what happened in Ramjas College and on the streets of Delhi University on 21-22 Feb in the pretext of saving ‘Bharat-Mata’ was an assault by a politically affiliated Students’ Union on the very students it claims to represent!
For the sake of binaries, it was Students Union v/s Students; it’s Vidyarthi Parishad v/s Vidyarthi.
Three out of the top four posts in the Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) are occupied by the members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP): the student wing of the Hindutva mongering Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliate, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These three students’ Union leaders, along with other ABVP activists, were leading the brutal assault on the students.
That’s one of the malaise of democracy; if we accidentally elect a person who doesn’t understand the basic principles of democracy, he can use this ‘accident’ as a ‘Trump-card’ for legitimizing all his actions. It’s a unique phenomenon of using one technical aspect of democracy – Election – as a weapon to stifle all the other fundamental aspects of democracy – Freedom of speech, diversity, tolerance, equality and rule of law.
But more than contempt, ABVP evokes a sense of pity. After all, it is basically a puppet carrying out the will of their political masters. Yesterday, four days after this unprecedented violence, Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister in the BJP lead Central Government, said, “free speech does not permit you to assault the sovereignty of the country.”
Such a blanket statement coming from a legislator and a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India doesn’t reflect well on his understanding of the law. Sovereignty of the country is not a ‘Touch-me-not’ plant which will droop by a mere touch; the manner and severity of such an assault becomes as crucial a factor as the assault itself.
While he cried wolf about how some universities were now home to an “alliance of subversion” between those on the ultra-left, and those with a separatist agenda, he didn’t express his concerns over the ‘alliance of oppression’ between the ultra-right and pseudo-nationalists.
ABVP has done extremely well in spearheading this ‘alliance of oppression’ and the 2014 Loksabha victory of BJP has added nitro-boosters to their bulldozer with which they have tried to crush dissent in Hyderabad Central University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Jai Narain Vyas University and now Delhi University. Their singular agenda appears to be to muzzle any voice which doesn’t concur with their ideology.
Firsthand accounts of some Ramjas students who were ambushed and thrashed without provocation by the hooligans near the college canteen despite police presence, witnessed by the author, tell a lot about what’s underlying this fury of ABVP.
“They were getting triggered even when we were singing songs like ‘Hum Honge kamyab ek din’,” told a student on the condition of anonymity. They were unleashing violence – on boys and girls with equal barbarity – not because the students dared to raise anti-national slogans, but because they dared to, as much as, speak. Period.
On 28th, tomorrow, when students come together once again to reclaim their campus from the clutches of fear and intolerance, they would be doing this not because they are leftists or separatists but because they are simply students who like to think critically and voice their opinion.
And they are not doing this just for themselves. They are doing this for you as well and for your children who either presently or will soon grow up to study in these Universities. They are fighting against the forces who want to convert these spaces for critical thinking, debate and discussion into propaganda factories. How can one possibly call these students “anti-nationalists” who virtually live and breathe the ethos of our constitution?
If you lift the popular veil of ‘Nationalist v/s Anti-nationalist’ shrouded around this struggle, you will see that it essentially is ‘Goons v/s Citizens’. Which side are you?
Gaurav Jain, freelance Journalist, Student, LLB, Faculty of law, DU