Gurmehar Kaur and Ramjas College row: Chaos at India's campuses are engineered by ABVP, indulged by govt

But these are not normal times. And that perhaps explains why Union minister Kiren Rijiju has obliquely chosen to defend those threatening Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of an Army Captain who died fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir, after Kaur launched a social media campaign against the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) following last week’s violence in Delhi University’s Ramjas College.

Monobina Gupta February 28, 2017 11:23:15 IST
Gurmehar Kaur and Ramjas College row: Chaos at India's campuses are engineered by ABVP, indulged by govt

In normal times, a senior minister of the rank of Union Home Minister of State would have unequivocally condemned any collective threat of violence made by individuals on social media, regardless of the political and ideological affiliation of those making the threats.

But these are not normal times. And that perhaps explains why Union minister Kiren Rijiju has obliquely chosen to defend those threatening Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of an Army Captain who died fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir, after Kaur launched a social media campaign against the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) following last week’s violence in Delhi University’s Ramjas College.

Gurmehar Kaur and Ramjas College row Chaos at Indias campuses are engineered by ABVP indulged by govt

Violence at Ramjas College. Image Courtesy: Facebook/Comrade Sunil

On the NDTV programme We the People on Sunday, Kaur, 20, a student of Lady Shri Ram College, said that since protesting the violence on North Campus and expressing solidarity with the attacked students, she has received rape threats. One man in particular, Kaur said, has put out a description in the comments section on her Facebook, detailing how he would rape her.

Alarmingly, it is not just social media trolls who are intimidating Kaur. These trolls are drawing support from BJP legislators and even ministers. It appears that the AVBP and BJP is pushing a collective objective to deepen the already existing climate of fear, and muzzle civil society critics, students and political opponents alike. Take for instance, the case of Pratap Simha, a BJP Member of Parliament, who, in a tweet compared Kaur to fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. According to a report in The Indian Express on Monday: “On Sunday evening, he posted a picture collage on Twitter with Kaur on one side and Ibrahim on the other side. Kaur is behind the ‘Not Afraid of ABVP’ campaign.”

In a rejoinder to a video made by Kaur last year, in which she held a placard saying “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him,” Rijiju has blamed those (read Left-wing students) who critique the politics of war for apparently “polluting” Kaur’s mind. “India never attacked anyone but a weak India was always invaded,” Rijiju further said in a tweet. Union minister Venkaiah Naidu along with Rijiju told Kaur “not to abuse the motherland.”

What exactly is going on here? Under the tutelage of the Modi government, the ABVP has begun spinning out of control. The truth is the powers that be, those now calling the shots, are not inclined to use the law against hooligans associated with the organisation. If anything, the tweets and responses of legislators and ministers are tantamount to encouragement for an organisation, which, since the Modi government came to power in 2014, has escalated its violent activities against students and teachers who are ideologically opposed to their views.

In a situation that can best be described as alarming and fast moving towards complete chaos, the police continues to shield the vandals – in some cases even joining them (recall the recent scenes of policemen beating up students) – in attacking, beating up students and professors from the other side.

The prime minister does not seem to care that university campuses across the country are turning into battlefields. Even as Modi waxes eloquent on democracy, his ministers, MPs and MLAs trot out statements and tweets which express an essential intolerance toward any views on nationalism other than their own. The situation is becoming grimmer given the prime minister and his trusted lieutenant, Amit Shah’s recent communal campaign in Uttar Pradesh.

The question is: Who is going to enforce the rule of law? Those indulging in violence and those supporting criminal actions must be held accountable. If these elements continue to violate the spirit and letter of the Constitution with such willful abandon, the Indian Republic will soon start to resemble a totalitarian regime.

The dismal state of the Congress party, particularly its weak leadership at the top, has made the task of holding the government responsible more difficult than ever before. Currently, the Modi regime is facing its most formidable challenge from academia, students and teachers alike. The Congress is taking its political cues from them.

At the heart of this violent conflict is a vigorous debate on the definition of the nation itself. Will India be defined as a majoritarian country, or will it embrace a multi-cultural, democratic, liberal social order? In such a context, the slogan of aggressive and homogeneous nationalism has come to stand in for aggressive Hindutva – the ideology that has always defined the RSS, which provides ideological inspiration to the BJP, ABVP and a host of others.

India’s campuses are rapidly hurtling towards chaos, deliberately engineered by the ABVP and indulged by the government. If the tide of intolerance is not stemmed soon, then the choice between an open society and a totalitarian one will no longer even be a choice.

Follow our live coverage on the Ramjas College issue here

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