JNU: This Time The RSS/BJP Has Bitten Off More Than it Can Chew
NEW DELHI: Delhi police stood by and watched as a handful of BJP lawyers attacked all those who had gathered at the Patiala courts for the hearing of the case slapped against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. The lawyers---not more than 10 or 12---took the law into their own hands, assaulted the JNU faculty and students and then set about beating the reporters, snatching away their mobile phones (cameras are not allowed inside) to prevent them from filming the attack, tore their shirts and shouted at all to get out, “go to Pakistan.”
Journalists said this was completely unprecedented, the ferocity of the attack left them completely shaken, while the large contingent of police stood by as silent bystanders making no effort to intervene. A young TV journalist said that when she tried to ask the cops to intervene they asked her to leave the court, as they could do nothing to control the situation. All others confirmed this, with the initial un-doctored reports from the ground establishing the presence of the BJP supporting lawyers, the assault with the violence continuing for a while with a “anti nationals go to Pakistan” slogans and warnings, while the police watched. The lawyers took control of the courtroom, and the premises.
The day started with what many construed as a green signal from BJP president Amit Shah who clubbed the JNU faculty and students under the “anti national” brand in a fiery blog targeting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. Shah made it clear through the blog that the party was pushing the nationalist versus anti-national agenda, with JNU being used deliberately as the fulcrum to accelerate the BJP/RSS campaign and raise the decibels to strident levels.
The five questions from the blog reported by NDTV and others as well centre around :
1.Has Rahul Gandhi lent his voice to separatists in the country? Does he want another Partition?"
2. "The kind of statements that Rahul Gandhi and his party colleagues have delivered at the campus proves that there is no place for national interest in their thinking."
3. "Rahul Gandhi hobnobbing with anti-national elements at JNU. Is this his definition of nationalism?"
4. "I ask Rahul Gandhi, was 1975 (Emergency) a demonstration of Congress commitment to democracy? Was Mrs.(Indira) Gandhi not Hitler-like?"
And then he goes on to state that "In the frustration of defeat, Rahul Gandhi is unable to tell the difference between anti-national and national interest."
The BJP/RSS kidgloves are off with the nationalism debate being made to hit Delhi through the premier education institute in a bid to draw the lines, and polarise opinion. The rush reflects increasing desperation on part of the government, as the protests sharpen in the University and across the country with the Parliament session beginning next week set to be now submerged under Opposition anger.
The questions, given the severity of the anti-reaction from students particularly, thus arise:
1.Why has this government unleashed what is going to become a huge war pitting the students of this country against the Hindutva brigade?
2. Why has this government---through a series of actions in campuses---turned the students against it, more so when the youth were its biggest supporters at one time. IIT-Madras, FTII, Hyderabad Central University, and now Jawaharlal Nehru University have been rocked by direct, undemocratic intervention by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in action that has virtually united the students against the government, and of course the BJP and RSS it represents.
This constituency, in immediate terms, now includes even those sections of the corporate media that had been supporting the government position on JNU but whose journalists at Patiala House have taken a beating. And the first reports from the ground by the young reporters speak of unprovoked brutality by the BJP lawyers, collusion by the police, and the severity of an attack on all those who were not wearing the black and white lawyers dress.
The attack on the earlier universities ---IIT-M, FTII, HCU---was spearheaded, at least for the public, by the Ministry of Human Resource Development and Minister Smriti Irani. In that all intervention was orchestrated by HRD, with the University authorities being pressured directly to act against what was seen as dissent by groups in these educational institutions. In the Hyderabad Central University little would have been noticed had Rohith Vemula not committed suicide. And the persecution of five Dalit scholars leading the Ambedkar students Association---the one point of dissent and debate in HCU---would have gone unreported.
For JNU, HRD was reinforced by the Union Home MInistry as clearly there has been a conscious decision to up the scale. The very fact that the Home Minister was managing the ‘operation’ is an indication of the importance attached to it. When the protests grew, a shaky Rajnath Singh came on to insist that the students had links with terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed. He subsequently had to suffer the ignominy of a denial by the Lashkar e Tayaba mentor who said that he had not issued any such statement and that a fake account was being used to put words in his mouth. Interestingly the Indian Express, quoting intelligence sources, carried a detailed report of the fake account actually being fake.
Along with this there has been a concerted effort to create and push the stereotype of the “JNU student”. A musical troupe was detained by the police while on way to attend a Urdu festival currently on in the capital, and released later after being told by the cops that they appeared to be “JNU types.” And judging from their appearance, clearly the ‘type’ dresses in kurtas and jeans, sports beards, and thereby becomes the ‘dissenter’ that now constitutes the new Wanted list of the Delhi Police!
There is a visible strategy by the Hindutva brigade to crush dissent in educational institutions. The opposition to this has been factored in, at least to some extent, by the Nagpur strategists to achieve the goal of ensuring that the new generation of students enter campuses with possible reprisal for dissent in mind. And are thus more pliable and thereby more controllable. The effort is also to win over---through the threat of violence if not debate---the fence sitters by ensuring that they do not cross over to the dissent and debate side, but are “convinced” with the display of power and the brand of nationalism JNU has always been a pet peeve of the Hindutva brigade, following its inability to penetrate the University despite all out effort. This has clearly been a sore point that BJP leaders have never really bothered to disguise.
After HCU and the protests across the student community, the BJP/RSS was expected to change course. At least momentarily. That this has not happened, but that the government has moved from Hyderabad to hit a major central university like JNU is a clear signal of a decision to clear campuses of ‘dissenters’ and kill debate and freedom of expression, so close to the campuses of Universities known for academic excellence.
Will this intimidation work? Momentarily, but not for long as swathes of Indians are being alienated. Students, teachers, Dalits, Women, Scientists, Writers ---certainly not from just the Left or the Congress but largely independent----have come together to form a major resistance to the efforts to bludgeon the democratic rights made available to the people through the Constitution of India.
The reasons why JNU could prove to be the Sangh’s Waterloo:
1. It is recognised the world over as an educational institute of excellence and has a faculty and students used to high standards of freedom; its students are teaching in Universities across the world and the adverse response to the current developments are very visible already on the social media and in international media reports.
2. The blowback will be felt in the very states that the BJP is keen to control---Uttar Pradesh and Bihar---from where most of the students of JNU are drawn. A majority are from the backward and scheduled castes, again the constituency that the BJP had earlier claimed to be wooing but seems to be giving up on now.
3. The violent response by the state to a meeting inside JNU has stunned even those who had been critical of its politics. This is visible again from columns, articles and responses with the government fast acquiring the reputation of being anti-student. The unrest created by the government in the above named campuses is fast coalescing and it is highly unlikely that the strong arm tactics will subdue the youth of this country to a point where opposition is stifled into asset.
4. The government has run into trouble---because of a series of omissions and commissions ---with ex-servicemen, kisans, women, Dalits, minorities as clear disaffected constituencies. This constitutes a large section of the Indian population of which sections had supported the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections.
5. JNU will reverberate in the budget session of Parliament. The government will have no alternative to climb down from the violence it has escalated. Unless it moves to impose Emergency and crush all dissent within---that too temporarily as in 2016 the world is far more connected than it was in 1975.
Interestingly, the lawyers at Patiala court have managed to alienate the one constituency that had been supporting the BJP and the government on the JNU issue till early this morning: the media. Journalists representing television channels and the print media were threatened, assaulted and in some cases severely beaten. Their mobile phones were snatched and as one of them said, “we were given a taste of brutal medicine.” TV journalists were interviewed by their own channels with a particularly shaken NDTV reporter in trembling voice narrating the sequence of events that together spelt a concerted effort to terrorise all inside the courtroom. At least one news channel that uses the word anti-national as freely at times as the BJP brigade, was also on the receiving end with its reporter at the spot intimidated by the BJP lawyers, as well as by the police that was present in large numbers but refusing to take protect those who were being openly assaulted.