March 02, 2017

India: Editorial, The Telegraph on Violence and Intimidation by ABVP in Delhi University Colleges[1 March 2017]



In a relentless sequence of horrors, it may be difficult to decide what is most horrible. When three professors and numerous students were ruthlessly beaten up for defending the right of Ramjas College to invite whomsoever it chose for its seminar, it was horrible enough. It also revived an older sequence, which burst into public notice with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad's attack against a group of students of Jawaharlal Nehru University last year, the leaders of which were labelled "anti-national" and one of whom was invited to Ramjas College. The ABVP has since flourished in its career of violent suppressions. Its efforts to silence different voices - rather, any sign of critical thinking and intellectual exploration - are spread over colleges and universities in different states and has now exploded in Delhi in a thundering claim of patriotism - predictably - with the threat that anyone who raises a finger against 'their' country will have his finger cut and "will not be allowed to speak". Resistance to the ABVP's bullying was led by Gurmehar Kaur, labelled a "martyr's daughter" to remind her that she is failing her father, who died in Kargil, by defying the ABVP and upholding democratic freedoms. Apart from being threatened with violence and rape, for which she has been forced to withdraw from the front line of protest, she has been likened to Dawood Ibrahim by a Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament while a minister has claimed that her mind has been polluted - presumably by anti-nationals, or the Left or 'subversives', all of whom are now being rolled into one in the rhetoric of BJP ministers and leaders.
Which of these is the most horrible? Since the BJP likes 'laboratories' - Gujarat was one - is the university space a laboratory in which the BJP leadership, through the agency of the ABVP which the party is openly encouraging, trying out its policy of silencing difference with violence in the name of patriotism? Also, the attack on rights is being carried out most blatantly through a sustained attack on studies. That is most telling. There is nothing irrational in the goal; only the rhetoric is cannily irrational. In this apparent chaos, upholding democratic rights will require collective resistance with the courage of conviction and clarity of thought of Ms Kaur and her peers.