WHY DID BJP DO A JNU?
NEW DELHI: The furore after Rohith Vemula’s suicide in academia and concerned circles should have been sufficient to deter any ruling party to change tactics, and pull on kid gloves, to handle the seething campuses. For a while at least until the anger subsided and calm returned.
So why did the BJP rush from Hyderabad to New Delhi, and decide to take on a University known to be tough and wilful? Was it sheer stupidity, or was there a plan? Some scholars insist it was the first, but most politicians and journalists who follow the BJP closely are clear that it was part of a larger plan.
And what then was the plan when the BJP directed its Delhi police to storm the Jawaharlal Nehru University, arrest the students union president, and create terror both within and outside the campus with abuse, hate speech, threats and of course the open violence at the Patiala courts? What did it hope to gain? And has it achieved what it had wanted to?
The University was under scrutiny, as was IIT-M, HCU and others in the list, with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad serving as the eyes and ears of the ruling party along with the intelligence agencies whose foot soldiers have become very visible at meetings being organized in and outside campuses. What students have been saying for a while now, has been confirmed through the series of incidents in Universities where the ABVP has targeted those with differing views, and in the case of IIT-Madras, Hyderabad Central University, and of course JNU their initial complaints have been acted upon almost immediately by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
This plan became visible in HCU only with Rohith Vemula’s suicide. Otherwise it would have remained under the covers with the BJP content in freeing the campus of dissent, with the strong action against the five Dalit students intended to send out the message that freedom was now limited.
JNU was intended as the next stop. Why? For three major reasons. One, the BJP has always entertained a visceral hatred for this University that has been perceived as a Left bastion, and has established a tradition where the students are given enviable space to debate and discuss and formulate opinion, anathema to the BJP/RSS that have always looked on debate and dissent as an ‘enemy.’
Two, the expectation that a successful ‘operation’ would cripple the University that has a reputation for taking up lost causes of other institutions, and was at the time preparing for a big rally in Delhi in protest against Vemula’s suicide. And thereby have a “sobering” effect on other campuses, and make it much easier for the ruling party to bring the students in all other Universities under its influence and control.
The young generation has always fascinated the RSS, although it is afraid of the youth until and unless it is indoctrinated.
And three, to use the incident to stoke the nationalism versus anti nationalism fires before the forthcoming Assembly elections.
So the operation was launched on February 9 where some students had organised a meeting on Afzal Guru’s death anniversary. The rapidity of police action, the arrests, the sedition charges all followed a clear cut plan. The emergence of the morphed videos with the audio and the visual being tampered with to build a case against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and others; the high voltage rhetoric that accompanied it on some key television channels; the government defence of the police and its action; the violence in the Patiala courts hitting journalists and even Kanhaiya Kumar when he was brought to the courts for his bail hearing; all followed a pattern set into motion on February 9.
The discourse was immediately presented as ‘nationalism’ as represented by the ABVP, the violent lawyers at Patiala courts, and the loud rhetoric from the BJP leaders that they would not tolerate any “insult “ to the country. And that the anti nationals in JNU needed to be taught a lesson.
The expectation was that the ferocity of the multi pronged attack would crumble the resistance within JNU with the majority of students and faculty drifting out of ‘harms’ way, and that in the process the BJP would give substance to, and sharpen its “nationalism versus anti-nationalism” slogan. The social media was flooded with abuse and threats against “anti nationals’ that basically consisted of all who were seen by the armies of trolls, unleashed every now and again on Twitter and Facebook, as questionin the government.
The first indication that all had not succeeded came from the strong protests from the opposition leaders, with the Left parties being joined by the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party almost immediately. Rahul Gandhi joined Sitaram Yechury to address the students and faculty in JNU, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal instituted a probe into the entire incident. And even earlier from the thousands of citizens who marched together with the JNU students, holding placards, shouting slogans, and making it clear to the government that dissent could not be muzzled, and freedoms would be protected.
The strong fight back botched the BJP plan with the entire Opposition united in Parliament to oppose the government’s crackdown. The BJP was virtually isolated. And was visibly defensive despite the brave face it tried to put up for its disappointed cadres. JNU had not disintegrated under the force of the attack, instead all within had rallied around with even ABVP students resigning from the parent body, and the universities within and outside the country had also rallied in support of JNU and against the government’s position. So the first part of the plan to cripple the University failed, instead it had the reverse impact, with JNU never as united as today.
The BJP continued to focus on the nationalism debate, more so as its development mantra of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls seemed to have run out of steam. And here the rhetoric was strong, more so as initial reports from the ground made it seem that it had worked. At least in the hinterland with the BJP maintaining that questions were being raised against the “JNU kind of nationalism where even support for terrorists was acceptable.” And in the ruling party’s assessment, or so some of its members told journalists, people agreed that the JNU students, Maoists and jihadists did merge somewhere into one anti national whole.
This propaganda was being countered not just by academic and intellectuals but by the political parties whose leaders made forceful presentations on nationalism in Parliament. But the BJP propaganda that had relied heavily on Kanhaiya Kumar as a living example of ‘anti-nationalism’ was punctured by Kumar himself when he was released on bail amid conditions, when he made a speech that was brilliant oratory, that was idealist, that spoke for the poor and the marginalised, that made common cause with the kisan, the soldier and the cop, that spoke of the Indian Constitution and the rule of the law and that put the BJP completely on the defensive so much so that when a BJP youth leader offered five lakhs for Kanhaiya’s Kumar tongue, the party instead of greeting the hate speech with its usual silence, had to move immediately to suspend him.