It takes special talent, nay chilling depravity, to organise mass violence against your political opponents, and then portray yourself as the victim. The “Peace March” in JNU, organised by the Left teachers and students on 17 September to protest ABVP’s alleged violence in the aftermath of the recent JNU Students Union election, is a classic example of how Communist, totalitarian regimes and organisations the world over have used sophisticated propaganda to win sympathy and gain legitimacy.
Yet, the “Peace March” also reveals a moral paradox that the Left is unwilling to confront and unable to resolve. Remember Arundhati Roy’s theorising of Maoists as “Gandhians with Guns”, and the subsequent denial? Socialist ideologies, specially the Marxist-Leninist variants, are essentially undemocratic and authoritarian. For them to gain ground in the land of Gandhi and Buddha, semantic subterfuge of the kind provided by Roy and intellectuals of similar ideological persuasions, is resorted to frequently.
This cynical “Peace March” was another semantic and visual subterfuge, aimed at glossing over a series of attacks that the members of the Left Unity launched against ABVP members immediately after the former won the JNUSU elections. It may look intriguing, but isn’t difficult to discern, why the members of the Left Unity, despite winning the elections, transmogrified into remorseless goons. The orgy of violence fits into a pattern established by their Maoist brethren in the Dandakaranya Forests.
Eyewitness accounts and those of the victims from ABVP say the Left Unity members formed gangs of 50 to 100 members, combed the campus, raided hostels and messes at unearthly hours, singling out ABVP members for untold violence. The Red Hounds didn’t even spare female students and activists, ripping their clothes, molesting them, and thrashing them with alarming impunity.
Angshuman Choudhury, wrote in Firstpost on 19 September, “The margins of loss were less than consoling: The ABVP president candidate, Lalit Pandey, lost to his Left Unity counterpart, N Sai Balaji, by a daunting 1,179 votes.” A victory of this scale should normally occasion rejoicing and a renewed commitment to work towards ensuring a conducive, peaceful academic environment. But what followed was a horrific wave of attacks, as the Left marauders, armed with sticks, iron rods, and sharp weapons, reportedly went on a rampage, leaving many ABVP members with grievous injuries.
So, what prompted this violence? Fear. ABVP, through its years of activism, has grown into a largest single organisation on campus. Let’s face it. On a one-on-one basis, ABVP outnumbers every other organisation electorally. It’s this fear of electoral annihilation at the hands of an ascendant ABVP that forced at least four organisations (AISA, SFI, AISF, DSF) to forge an opportunistic alliance called Left Unity in the first place. Subsequently, the post-poll violence was aimed at striking fear into the heart of ABVP and demobilise it psychologically as well as politically. That the ABVP observed extraordinary restraint amid extraordinary violence is commendable, and reflects its resolve to wage a political battle against the Left organisations and their ideological mentors among the faculty.
The premeditated violence unleashed by the Left members, ably supported by outsiders with alleged Maoist links, is also reflective of the fact that the ABVP has firmly secured a moral and ideological victory. To then dub this victory as an “inglorious defeat” electorally for the ABVP is living in denial. The ABVP has had a stunning electoral run in Delhi University, and across campuses in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Bihar, and, hold your breath, Kerala. Yet, the Communists, and their mentors and sympathisers in the academia and media have a propensity to extrapolate the results in JNU and portray them as a mandate against the BJP government at the Centre.
To be fair, this contrived naivete is a clever Communist ploy to project an outsize salience of JNU in the national political milieu, as it helps the leaders and academics of the Left retain their relevance in, and, stranglehold over intellectual and political discourse. It is in this context that the relentless misinformation and slander campaign against ABVP to turn it into a political pariah must be seen. Towards this end, the Left organisations use a familiar trope of fatigued and discredited labels such as “Communal” and “Casteist” for ABVP and the larger Sangh Parivar. This has a parallel in the national politics as well. The more the political rivals, especially the Left parties, sought to outcast the BJP by calling it communal, the stronger it grew.
A cursory look at India’s map will tell you the dramatic surge of the BJP and a concomitant shrinkage of the Left and others. The ABVP has won everywhere nearly consistently, except JNU, and the Left is on a retreat everywhere, except JNU. In that sense, JNU is the last refuge for the Left and a final frontier for ABVP. The battle is going to be intense.
The author is a journalist and an alumnus of JNU. He was an ABVP activist during his student days.
Updated Date: Sep 22, 2018 19:52 PM