The attack on Umar Khalid is a consequence of the relentless campaign of fake news, hate speech and incitement to murderous violence, directed by the Modi Government and the Godi Media against students, academics, activists, dissenters and journalists.
Umar Khalid, who has just submitted his PhD in JNU, is an activist who along with other JNU students was cast in the role of the ‘anti-national’ by Godi Media channels after 9 February 2016. Zee News ran videos which have subsequently been proven as fake, claiming he and other JNU students raised ‘anti-India’ slogans. While other students too faced such targeting, Umar was especially viciously singled out for Islamophobic slander by the hate-mongers as a Muslim. News X ran a story claiming Umar was a “Jaish-e-Mohammed sympathizer” – videos with anchors of this channel spreading this poisonous slander can still be found online. None less than the Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, declared on the strength of a parody account that JNU students like Umar were backed by the Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. A prominent anchor of the India Today channel also cited the same parody account as proof of LeT “backing” for JNU students.
In the two years since February 2016, channels like Times Now and Republic have targeted JNU students as well as Left and democratic activists countless times as “Tukde Tukde Gang” (based on the fake video claiming to show JNU students raising slogans calling for the dismemberment of India). The Republic channel has even referred to a Politburo member of the CPI(ML) and AIPWA leader as a ‘lawyer for the Lashkar-e-Taiba’.
The JNU Administration recently sought to punish JNU students including Umar Khalid for “anti-national” activities on 9 February 2016 in JNU– sparking another round of vicious and gleeful gloating by the Godi Media channels. The Delhi High Court reprimanded the JNU Administration and prevented any JNU student from being punished. In Court, it was shown that even a Magisterial Enquiry into the incident failed to show any evidence of guilt of any JNU student, and that the Delhi Police, for want of any evidence, has failed to file a chargesheet against any of the JNU students in the past two years.
Khalid has earlier too complained of threats to his life. It is this climate of relentless hate-speech and fake news that has resulted in the shocking incident where a gunman could attack Umar Khalid in broad daylight in front of Delhi’s Constitution Club, and make his escape unhindered in spite of the “tight security cover” and “terror alert” in Delhi just days before Independence Day!
Expectedly, the BJP’s New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi, while paying lip service to the cause of justice and saying the perpetrators would be identified and punished, has indulged in victim blaming, claiming the attack on Umar is “sensationalism” and “drama”. Meanwhile, the BJP IT Cell army on social media are claiming the incident was ‘staged’ while also celebrating the attack and calling for Umar and others like him to be killed. In the same way, the BJP IT Cell Twitter handles backed by the PM and Cabinet Ministers celebrated the assassination of Gauri Lankesh.
It must be remembered that just days ago, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) busted a terror cell of the Sanatan Sanstha – a shadowy terrorist organization implicated in bomb blasts and several assassinations – of rationalist Dabholkar, communist writer Pansare, Professor Kalburgi, and journalist Gauri Lankesh. The ATS discovered bombs and explosives and arrested three Sanatan Sanstha men on charges of planning a series of terror attacks all over Maharashtra. One of these men is also linked to the Shri Shivpratisthan Hindustan, an outfit led by Sambhaji Bhide, one of the key architects of anti-Dalit violence following the Bhima Koregaon events.
Narendra Modi, in June 2013, sent a message to the All India Hindu Convention hosted by the Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti in Goa, in which he described these terrorist organisations as inspired by “nationalism, patriotism and the tradition of loyalty.” He did so because in the eyes of his organisation the RSS and his party BJP, Sanghi terrorists are ‘nationalists’ because the only nation they recognize is the Hindu Rashtra. The RSS and BJP support terrorists who seek to finish the incomplete task of Partition and turn India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in which Muslims will no longer be equal citizens. Modi has also publicly greeted Sambhaji Bhide as his guru and mentor during the 2014 campaign for the Parliamentary elections.
Media in India failed to demand that the Modi Government comment on such terrorism by ideological allies and friends of the Prime Minister himself. The TV channels which brand JNU students and Left activists as ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ fail to utter a word on the Sanghi terror outfits that are actually out to partition and divide India once again. The same media and the Modi Government are also silent when anti-reservation outfits openly burn the Constitution of India in the national capital as well as Pune. No doubt, their silence is on account of the fact that the RSS and BJP would like to replace the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar, with the Manusmriti that Ambedkar burnt. This is why those Manuvadis who burn the Constitution and raise slogans abusing Dalits and Ambedkar in casteist terms, are not accused of seeking to dismember India!
Acts like the burning of the Constitution at Parliament Street and the attempt to murder Umar Khalid outside Constitution Club days before Independence Day are not the work of ‘fringe groups’ – they are clear messages by India’s fascists that democracy and the Constitution are in their firing line. For India’s people, there can be no greater or more urgent task, no better way of paying tribute to the great legacy of the anti-colonial freedom struggle, than defeating these fascist forces who betrayed the freedom struggle and seek to divide and rule India today.