The Minister's fabrications in parliament are the smallest of misdemeanours in the ongoing saga of Rohith Vemula suicide in Hyderabad Central University and Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest from Jawaharlal Nehru University. I say this with responsibility, knowing fully well the consequences of a cabinet minister speaking untruths on the floor of the house. The HRD minister’s misleading statements have been nailed by the media — from Rohith Vemula’s mother to the HCU chief medical officer to the Telangana Police report to JNU teachers association to numerous journalists, commentators and editors. The CPI-M will serve the notice for a breach of privilege against the HRD minister and she will be answerable for her 'bunch of thoughts' to the house.
If a minister lying to parliament is not the biggest misdemeanour, then what is? The bigger challenge faced by the country is the insidious attempt by the RSS to control India’s thinking, distort its ethos and straitjacket into a majoritarian Hindutva ideology. The students at colleges and universities – especially those who come from families of the poor, the downtrodden, the farmers, and the labourers – are targets of the RSS in this project to distort young minds by killing progressive, modern education. Rohith Vemulla and Kanhaiya Kumar belonged to that group, and because they chose to oppose the RSS agenda, one of them is dead and the other behind bars on trumped up charges.
India’s demographics are dominated by those below the age 35, making up 65 percent of the country’s population. The Sangh Parivar realises that its pracharak Prime Minister had enticed the youth with a lot of false promises in 2014, and none of them have come to fruition. Modi had promised 250 million new jobs every year but what we have instead, due to his government’s anti-people economic policies, are both greater unemployment and continued underemployment.
Modi had also announced huge skill development plans and private sector employment with great fanfare. The skill development plans have failed to talk off with only 13 percent rate of achievement of National Skills Mission. A scheme called SETU (Self Employment and Talent Utilisation) -- only if every acronym coined by Modi added 0.1 percent to India’s growth, then we would be a bigger economy than China!-– remains only on paper, with no funds allocated for it.
No wonder, youth across India are already comparing Modi’s grandiose boasts to Mungerilal ke haseen sapney (The wonderful dreams of Mungerilal).
With the anger rising in campuses, the RSS, using its government at the Centre, is trying to remove the nodal points of channelising that anger. Student organisations, opposed to the RSS ideology, have become targets of blatant political witch hunts. Public universities and institutions of repute – FTII being a point in case – have been handed over to mediocre people to head, primarily because a Gajendra Chauhan is pliable while an Amartya Sen is not. Not fully unintended, but one of the consequences of such appointments is the destruction of these institutions, both by design and their incompetence.
A Vice Chancellor from the Sangh Parivar will take directions from the RSS, through the HRD ministry — as in the case of HCU — and allow police in the campus to intimidate the students opposed to the RSS’ political line. Anyone who asks questions of the RSS or undertakes campus activity which opposes the BJP can be treated like a criminal by a pliant V-C.
The JNU V-C allowed the police in to the campus without any warrant or legal cause to arrest the president of students union, Kanhaiya Kumar.
By using these strong-arm tactics, the RSS is trying to push its students arm, the ABVP into a dominant position in the campuses where it has no support. The ABVP thinks it is able to demonstrate its power and dominance by making state agencies act at their behest, e.g. getting the JNUSU President arrested, and by ensuring through two union ministers that Rohith Vemula and four other Dalit students are pushed out of HCU hostel and denied their dues by the administration.
What the RSS is doing here in India is not unique. Majoritarian religious organisations in various countries across the globe, whenever they have captured power, have attempted to do the same. Pakistan after the mid-1980s, is a prime example of what happens when conservative, reactionary and majoritarian forces start controlling the education system of a country.
Pakistan, in fact, has always been an object of special fascination for the Sangh Parivar. BJP leaders were fond of asking all their opponents and critics to 'go to Pakistan' but have stopped saying so since Prime Minister went to Pakistan uninvited to attend a wedding ceremony at Raiwind. Their best hope, one fears, now lies in making India a mirror image of Pakistan.
Fortunately, in a country as diverse and plural as India, with robust democratic traditions imbibed by the students, the Sangh Parivar’s failure is guaranteed. But this comes with the tragic loss of many lives, like it happened with Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy, during the period of the rise of Fascism. This is a battle that will have to be fought and won by progressive forces. This government's web of fabrications, are set to only widen. Because they need untruths, distractions from addressing core bread and butter issues of the people with fanning hatred, to further their larger ideological agenda.
The latest desperation of the Sangh-sarkar, to try and tarnish the majority of India, which did not vote for them, as ‘anti-national’ is an attempt to cast a dangerous veil over its serious and mounting national security failures. A dangerous situation created by this government’s rudderless policies since May 2014, continued flip-flops over Pakistan, Nepal, the Gurdaspur attack, Pathankot, followed by the more serious situation at Pampore, suggestive of a greater crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, the arrangement with PDP causing unease in its own camp, have forced them to try and hide behind a whipped up frenzy around ‘slogan shouting’ ‘Anti-Nationalism! Fake charges, doctored videos and getting after students, have all been part of an attempted national diversion from its own failures in the field of national security.
The HRD minister’s utterances in parliament defending the indefensible during the debate on JNU and HCU developments, are also a part of this design of trying to create a false category of only themselves as Deshbhakt.
This needs to be defeated, to first defend India, and from there, build a better India.
Sitaram Yechury is an Indian politician and a member of the politburo of CPI and the party's Parliamentary group leader