The events of Delhi University are ominous. ABVP, the stormtroopers of the RSS, rioted for two consecutive days in Delhi University, using bricks, stones and sticks to prevent a seminar from taking place. The Delhi Police colluded with this assault, with its men joining ABVP in assaulting women students and journalists. Three constables have now been suspended – but this gesture only begs the question about who was giving the orders to Delhi Police to permit a riot on the University campus?
Several facts are notable here. The Delhi Police refused to file an FIR against the ABVP cadre that were indulging in open, wanton violence and celebrating by dancing atop a Delhi Police bus. Instead the Delhi Police did a lathi charge on the students peacefully waiting outside the police station for an FIR to be lodged. Rights activists have pointed out that the Supreme Court judgement in Lalita Kumari vs State of UP (2013) has laid down mandatory guidelines for police to register an FIR in case of a cognizable offence. On whose orders did the Police refuse to file an FIR against the many instances of openly recorded violence by cadre of the ruling party’s student outfit?
It emerges that the DCP in charge of the Delhi University North Campus is the same Jatin Narwal who, as DCP in charge of Patiala Court last year, had allowed goons to rough up JNUSU President Kanhaiya as well as teachers, lawyers, journalists and activists inside the Court premises last year. Narwal still faces an ongoing case in the Supreme Court regarding his role on that occasion. There appears to be a clear pattern where the Police officer knowingly allows a pre-planned assault by an organised mob, as the police force stays away from acting to arrest or disperse the mob.
The remarks of Minister for State for Home Kiren Rijiju on the episode further reinforce the conviction that the ABVP riot had the sanction of the Home Ministry under which the Delhi Police operates. Mr Rijiju has declared that “No anti-India slogans will be allowed in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression in the country does not give anyone the right to make college campuses hub of anti-national activity.” This statement begs many questions.
First, the ABVP violently attacked a seminar – on the pretext of the speakers it invited and not on the basis of any slogans. Second, is the Minister implying that the ABVP has the freedom to throw stones and bricks and assault teachers, journalists and students but students do not have the freedom to debate? Third, as a representative of the country’s Home Ministry Mr Rijiju should answer, whether he believes it is nationalist of the police in Bastar to rape and murder adivasi women – but anti-national of a JNU activist to speak about such rapes and murders? Is his Ministry approving of the police-approved vigilante groups that attacked Bela Bhatia or Soni Sori in Bastar, just as the police-approved ABVP attacked students and teachers in Delhi University? Fourth, how can ABVP or the BJP have any right to brand Umar Khalid as ‘anti-national’? The Delhi Police is yet to chargesheet Khalid for his alleged acts of ‘sedition’ last year. Yet the ABVP is using Khalid’s presence at a Seminar to unleash a riot against thousands of students and teachers waiting to hear him speak. Fifth, a number of men accused of being ISI agents have been found linked to the BJP and VHP. Why do arrests of their men for ISI links not make BJP and VHP ‘anti-national,’ but Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid are declared ‘anti-national’? Is it because of their outspoken views against Hindutva and the Modi Government?
Finally, what views are ‘anti-national’? ABVP leader, former Joint Secretary of JNUSU Saurabh Sharma declares on Twitter that JNU is anti-national because it is a hurdle to India’s becoming a Hindu Nation. Why is it not ‘anti-national’ for ABVP to call for turning secular India into a Hindu Nation, but ‘anti-national’ for students to support – or discuss and debate – Kashmir’s right to self-determination or Bastar’s right to democracy?
On campuses and in the country, the freedom to express dissent, and debate freely is the essence of democracy. For ruling party-backed goons to attack democracy with open violence in the capital city, is a sign of growing fascist forces in India. The students and teachers of Universities are at the forefront of the resistance to fascism however – as displayed by an inspiring march in Delhi University that defended the ‘right to debate and dialogue’ from the violence unleashed by goons.