From JNU to DU: Why are the Rightists against the freedom to think?
By Rama Naga
What is happening at Delhi University by students and teachers is historic. For the first time in the history of Delhi University, students and teachers marched in a massive number on 28th Feb. The demand was very basic and democratic – to ensure everyone’s right to express opinions. The Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) did not even expect that this kind of unity of university community will be forged against its established money-muscle power politics on the campus. It thought that it can easily cancel the program like it has been doing in the university by using physical-political power. It succeeded in stopping the speakers to speak in the program by attacking on the first day of the program, where three speakers – Umar Khalid, a doctorate scholar of JNU, Bimol Akoijam, professor in JNU and Sanjay Kak, filmmaker – were supposed to speak. However, in the aftermath of this attack, the scenario was not as per the expectations of the ABVP. The ABVP goons expected that everyone will go back to their hostels, homes, and campuses after the attack and, on the next day, there will be no one to break the established order at the faculty of Arts. This anticipation proved to be wrong. Even after getting beaten up on the earlier day, on the second day of the seminar, where Shehla Rashid, former JNUSU leader, and other speakers were supposed to speak, students and teachers took out a march from Ramjas to Maurice Nagar Police Station to file an F.I.R. This was the first step to challenge the expected order. How come the ABVP let it go easily? It thought of teaching a lesson for daring to take out a march to challenge its hegemony. It not only attacked students and teachers but also media persons, who were present there to take footage. For many students who were in the march for the first time, the attack by the ABVP was not shocking. What was shocking for them was that all these things were happening right in front of the Delhi Police with complete impunity to the ABVP goons.
After this attack, the ABVP once again went into a joyful state thinking they can do anything in the university and the police will not even file a F.I.R. against it. But the trend was broken the next day, when a protest demo call was given by students of DU at the Police Head Quarter against the ABVP-Police nexus and the brutal attack. This was the second historic move. Hundreds of students gathered in a short notice to protest at the ITO and the protest started with the slogan: “Aar Ho Ya Paar Ho…Aaj F.I.R. Ho!!!” The Special Police Commissioner was forced to come out and agreed to register an F.I.R against the attackers.
But after this, the ABVP and some news channels tried to portray the movement as a minor clash between Left organizations and the ABVP. However, it was not a “clash” between the Left organizations and the ABVP but a one-sided brutal attack by the ABVP on students and teachers. Not only did they deliberately skip to show the attack on students, teachers and their own colleagues from other media channels during the march to the police station, they did not even report the attack by the ABVP member, Satender Awana, on an AISA activist, Pritish Menon Azad, who had gone to participate in the news debate. Pritish was attacked twice by Awana and other goons inside the news studio soon after the debate got over and outside the studio again. This is extremely shameful when a news channel does not dare to stand by the participant, who has come to participate in the news debate by accepting its invitation. If a news channel cannot condemn and report a violence which happened right inside its studio, then how can one expect it to practice brave journalism by covering the violence outside news studio?
The modes of campaign for the movement, which were started by the students of Delhi University, were really appealing. It carried a unique message in the history of the campus politics. A Facebook post by Kargil martyr’s daughter, Gurmehar Kaur, to change profile pictures against the attack by the ABVP got solidarity from various sections of the country. Thousands of students from different campuses of the country changed their Facebook profile pictures and stood up with Gurmehar and against the hooliganism of the ABVP. A well-known BJP Minister, former cricketer, actor, and social media trolls tried to attack Gurmehar by accusing her of getting her mind “polluted” by the Leftists. If “polluted minds” can speak up the truth, stand up for others’ rights to speak up freely, and do not remain silent against rape threats, then it’s better than the “unpolluted minds”, who think that women are their properties so they can be raped any time. If “polluted minds” can pose serious questions against patriarchy, casteism and saffronization, then it’s better than remaining “unpolluted”. The bravery which Gurmehar has shown during the entire campaign has given enormous strength to the #FightBackDU movement.
When thousands of students and teachers marched in the middle of the Delhi University on 28th Feb and raised slogans demanding AZADI from hooliganism, vandalism, rape threats and freedom to have agreement and disagreement, it was reflected in the two lines slogan: “Latthi Pathar Khun Nahi….Vaad Vivaad Ki Azadi…!!” It drew a new line in the politics of Delhi University. The movement, which the ABVP attempted to reduce to a discourse of saffron nationalism, has created the opposite discourse, which was started at JNU, around this time last year. Now, it’s time to further expand the movement and reach out not only to rest of the campus communities but also to common masses. Delhi University can do it if it continues the way it has resisted every single conspiracy to dilute the movement in the past one week. Therefore, it’s time to put more effort to make it a movement not only at a university in Delhi but also in all the universities of India. We have to break every conspiracy, which narrows down the scope of the movement by terming it as “Left verses Right”.
This fight is not about “Left versus Right” but it is a fight for rest versus right.
Rama Naga is a PhD Scholar at Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was the former General Secretary, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU).
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One Response to “From JNU to DU: Why are the Rightists against the freedom to think?”
I’m former student of Jadavpur University. In my tenure as student I experienced multiple instances of campus violence involving communist SFI and Ultra left DSF. So this is not new. CPM government of WB actually sent in police to beat up agitating students inside JU campus in 2006. I was one of the physically assaulted students in that fateful night. Add to that, crackdown on people with the opposing ideology was so severe in communist ruled West Bengal, that ABVP used to hold meeting behind closed doors. Nothing is new other than, oppressors are tasting bitter taste of their own medicine in the hands of the oppressed. I’m also contributor to this magazine.