February 27, 2017

India: Cow terror to student terror (Saba Naqvi)

The Tribune - 26 February 2017

Cow terror to student terror: The cretins have arrived!
Saba Naqvi

At the heart of the psyche of an average ABVP foot-soldier is a deep inferiority complex about the Nehruvian liberal and left wing ideas

Clearly, we are moving on. From the tales of the Cow Brigades, we now hear of the Student Brigades, both of which terrify and assault but claim they do it for the higher purpose of Mother India. The violence against students in Ramjas College, Delhi University, comes cyclically a year after the events that put JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in the news and made it a flashpoint for subsequent protest followed by a ham-handed crackdown.  First let’s clarify a few things about the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) that’s unleashed vicious propaganda and violence against those who disagree with their idea of India. It is not the student’s wing of the BJP in the manner that the National Students Union of India (NSUI) is of the Congress or the Students Federation of India (SFI) is of the CPI (M). The ABVP was founded in 1948 while the BJP was born in 1980 after the collapse of the old Jan Sangh.  The ABVP is technically the students wing of the RSS hence its ideological orientation is not moderated and it is actually answerable to RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat and not BJP President Amit Shah. The BJP actually is the big national party that does not have a students’ wing that fights elections in universities. It does, however, have a youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) that often works with the ABVP. Of course, the technicalities apart, they are all part of the ideological fraternity of the RSS.  There are some BJP leaders who have come through the ABVP and not the RSS, which means that they did not necessarily spend their growing years in khaki shorts. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, for instance, was very active in the ABVP in Delhi University the 70s and rose to be presidents of the students union, an effort for which he spent 19 months in jail during the Emergency declared in 1975. Among the current crop, the culture and tourism minister Mahesh Sharma spent a childhood in the RSS and youth in the ABVP.  Clearly the clout of the ABVP has increased since the BJP’s electoral win in 2014. The difference now is that they believe they can act without any consequences. What is deeply worrying about their assault on campuses is that they have succeeded in inverting the idea of protest altogether. As they have no worthy intellectual tradition to peddle except for the mediocre (and bizarre) observations of some of the rightwing ideologues, they have taken it upon themselves to act as vigilantes against other points of views.  At the heart of the psyche of an average ABVP foot-soldier is a deep inferiority complex about the Nehruvian liberal and left wing ideas, both of which draw from a more robust intellectual tradition. Those who try to defend the ABVP would often suggest that there was a stranglehold in academia of leftists and they would be right that universities have had academic cliques that exclude those who did not belong. Equally true would be the fact that the right wing just has a poor intellectual tradition, beginning with those who pass for their founding fathers and ideologues.  Yet their cretinism should not let anyone underestimate their ability to succeed in politics. They understand power, they pack muscle and know how to use it. In a dystopian age, their ideas of nation worship and working with prejudice works rather well. They know how to hate, be it communists, liberals, minorities, the list is long and growing.  Being an informal wing of the ruling party at the Centre also means that more than ever, the frontal student organizations of the right wing are cash rich. We therefore have a systematic assault on the ideas of protests itself.  Street plays, spoofs, protest gatherings, seminars against actions of the state, should be part of any healthy democratic tradition and should certainly be happening on campuses across India, a country that was liberated from colonial rule though protest. If the ABVP were to have its way (as it appears to be doing) they would put an end to any articulation of critical thought on campuses.  All they have to offer as replacement is their crude notion of nation worship. Mother India is basically an emblem to shut down all dissent by describing it as anti national. Go though their literature, pamphlets and stated goals and no one can be in any doubt that these are forces that deal with the base human emotion and have limited capacity for higher thought.