FTII to JNU: BJP's Hindu politics has muddied the campus

They have spoiled the academic atmosphere of institutions, so much so that it has now started targeting its own people.

 |  5-minute read |   24-02-2016
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Two months back, nobody would have thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's authority would be questioned by ordinary university students on campuses. The campaign which brought Modi to power in Delhi was so high-profile that in the initial period of his prime ministership, an atmosphere was created in which, not just common people, but even his own party members, elected representatives and ministers couldn't question him.

He, like a headmaster, believed only in one-way communication, the media rarely questioning him or his decisions. But 2016 has seen the aura built around Modi be punctured on several occasions.

The government's interference in academic institutions and its simultaneous opposition by the academic community, started with Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) when Gajendra Singh was appointed chairman in June 2015. The students, after a prolonged 139-day protest, continue to oppose his appointment and refuse the offer of dialogue with him on this issue. The issue started taking an ugly turn after the suicide of Rohith Vemula on the campus of Hyderabad University on January 17, 2016.

Shameless interference by central ministers, use of violence to subjugate dissent by ABVP/BJP members and manipulation of facts by those sitting in responsible positions like V-C, became a pattern. No other political organisation uses violence so easily against others as the Right wing. The police and government usually stand by and let them go on a rampage as was recently witnessed at Patiala House Court.

But the response to the government and university administrations' highhanded treatment by has been equally strong. On January 22, three dalit students, Ram Karan, Amrendra Kumar Arya and Surendra Kumar Nigam had raised slogans against Narendra Modi, denting his awe-inspiring image for the first time during the convocation of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University at Lucknow.

Following this, the BHU authorities were circumspect and took extreme care that no untoward incident took place during Modi's presence on campus during its convocation. A Dalit minister came in advance and held a meeting with Dalit students and professors to assuage any anti-government feelings they might have. Inspite of this, about 200-250 members of Bhartiya Vidyarthi Morcha, two of whom had earlier courted arrest in open defiance when they went to seek permission from the Varanasi DM to show black flags to Modi during his Varanasi visit, protested at the gate of BHU and shouted "Narendra Modi go back" slogans.

At BHU, when Narendra Modi was proceeding towards the gate leading to Ravidas temple, members of Bahujan Mukti Party raised "Rohith Vemula Zindabad" slogans and demanded punishment for culprits responsible for his death. During the convocation in BHU, one student Ashutosh Singh raised slogans demanding the revival of the students' union which has been suspended since 1997.

In response, he was slapped and overpowered by police. These three incidents took place when BHU was converted into a fortress on February 22, 2016 and every person and corner was placed under strong security. Imagine if this security cover did not exist. It is quite possible that Dalit organisations alone would have blocked Narendra Modi's entry into campus.

Compared to the two terms of Manomohan Singh in which, what now appear to be major achievements, important acts like Right to Information; Protection of Women from Domestic Violence; (Mahatma Gandhi) National Rural Employment Guarantee; Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights); Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement; National Food Security Act, Right to Education; Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending); Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act were enacted.

The Narendra Modi-led government hasn't really accomplished anything worthwhile to show. The Make in India and Startup India programmes have failed to take off due to the lack of interest of investors. Hence RSS has found it convenient to fall back on its tested strategy of polarising the society on emotive issues like patriotism and anti-national activities.

Usually, university-level politics is left to the student groups. Every political party its worth has student groups on campuses. If Congress has NSUI, the BJP has ABVP. Left parties, which otherwise are not very strong in state-level politics, have a strong presence on campuses in the form of AISA, SFI and AISF associated with CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M), respectively, and are able to win student union elections quite easily. There are even ultra left groups like DSU, which don't believe in contesting elections.

In other words, universities have seen a plethora of groups that believe in diverse ideologies that co-exist. Usually, they don't engage in violent clashes with each other even though their ideologies may be contradictory. Sometimes, they resort to violence, but it is usually against the administration or government.

No other political party has been as obsessed about taking control of academic campuses as the BJP. And they have made a mess out of it. In addition to encouraging clashes between student groups, by direct or indirect intervention through RSS-affiliated V-Cs or the police, they have spoiled the academic atmosphere of institutions, so much so that it has now started pinching its own people.

Three JNU ABVP officer bearers Pradeep Narwal, Rahul Yadav and Ankit Hans have resigned citing differences with RSS and BJP on the Manusmriti and the Rohith Vemula incident. A PhD student at JNU, Neetu Singh, feels the BJP has let her down as people outside the campus now call her anti-national.

Writer

Sandeep Pandey Sandeep Pandey @sandeep4justice

The writer is a teacher, Ramon Magsaysay awardee; social activist and vice president of Socialist Party.

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