Hindutva outfits are now attacking students in university campuses. The brutal violence on Sunday evening inside the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University clearly relayed the right wing’s involvement. The goons who had entered the campus without any hindrance started shouting and raising slogans such as “desh ke gaddaron ko goli maaro”—shoot the traitors—whilst attacking students and teachers with iron rods, cricket bats and lathis and destroying university properties. Such slogans are well known as the provenance of the Hindutva brigade all across India.
Those who do not support the aggression against students will no doubt be asking themselves and each other a range of questions. For instance, where were the security guards who are always stationed at the gates of this university, who ask every visitor whom they want to meet, why and where. Also, why did the police not take on the attacking goons? These people would be wondering whether the police remained a mute bystander simply because right wing men were leading the pack of attackers? Or was it because they were instructed not to stop the goons?
It is not as if the Bharatiya Janata Party is a mute spectator to events that it does not support—quite the contrary in fact. Consider the BJP-run Uttar Pradesh government. It is all set to ban the PFI or Popular Front of India and it has arrested several of its alleged members in the state, within days after protests erupted in the state against the new Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the parallel legislation, the National Register of Indian Citizens or NRIC. Yet, the same state government does not even contemplate banning the communal brigades that are participating in violent riots across the northern belt. To cite just one instance, in 2016, Hindutva outfits organised an arms training camp in Ayodhya to indoctrinate youngsters into hating the ‘Other’. Men wearing skull caps were used in these trainings as the target of Bajrang Dal workers’ guns and sticks. Clearly they sought to send the signal that the Muslims are enemies who have to be shot down without any remorse. But no action was taken against them.
On Sunday, the political analyst and politician Yogendra Yadav named a BJP politician as the leader of Sunday’s attackers at the JNU campus and hostels. For doing so, he was roughed up by students affiliated with the ABVP who were present there in full strength. It is obvious from this that the orders on whom to protect and whom to target are dictated by these ABVP ruffian’s political rulers. That is why the police force can enter any university campus when it wants, open fire at peaceful students and even arrest bystanders.
State-led savagery in Uttar Pradesh is so severe that even madrasa students and teachers are not being spared. Children of one madrasa in the state were allegedly assaulted by the police to such an extent that, news reports say, at least two children were left with rectal bleeding. Who will protect these poor orphans and punish their tormentors? Videos have surfaced that display the policemen’s brutalities and frightful communal biases. Who will book them?
The government wants to send the signal that nobody should react, no matter what it does, because whoever opposes any move of the stat could be the next one to come under attack. The JNU incident clearly shows that the ruling party and its forces are looking for any possible alibi to kill those resisting its brute force.
It is double standards all the way. All those speeches that the BJP’s top leaders have delivered saying that they want to reach out to “young India” are turning out to be bogus. Students are being severely beaten by Hindutva goons in the current dispensation with apparent police complicity. This government has done so in Kashmir, where a large number of youth have been blinded by the use of pellet guns. The practice started in 2010 and since then things have only gotten worse, as the entire region has been transformed into an open prison.
This government is so caught up in fighting its own people that it has hardly been able to respond to the latest international development: the blatant United States airstrike in which Iran’s top commander Qasem Soleimani died. The question to be asked is who is a terrorist in today’s world—and in today’s India? Who is terrorising hundreds or thousands of people? To quote the American philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky, all that the US-sponsored “state terrorists” have done in Central America, South Africa, West Asia and other places is “barred from the annals of terrorism by a simple devise… terrorism is terrorism that is directed against the United States and its friends and allies.”
Chomksy also draws a parallel between the United States and the Nazis who emerged in Germany in the previous century. He points out that the Nazis would bitterly condemn terrorism and conducted what they called counter-terrorism against terrorist partisans. He says, “The United States basically agreed and organised and conducted similar counter terrorism in the post-war years.”
In the Middle East, hundreds have been killed in car explosions, homes and buildings have been destroyed, settlements have been razed in the garb of the United States “searching for terrorists”. There are dying children and fleeing families almost all over the region. When Osama Musa was posted in India as the Palestinian envoy, he had told me that Israeli tanks are getting inside Palestinian homes and killing Palestinians inside their homes. “The situation in Palestine is so bad that it is Israel which decides everything, including the mass killings of our children… Israel cannot survive a single day if America didn’t support it… I have been reduced to a refugee in my own land and there is nothing I can do about it as America-backed Israel controls our lives.”
This kind of marginalisation is what Indians who oppose the present-day rulers are wary about. The rulers of India, after all, have said that they will go to any extent to “protect India”—but all they seem to be doing is attacking Indians in the garb of protection. It is now coming to pass that all voices of disagreement are being crushed and sidelined. This is not happening for the first time in the world. In 2001, Libya’s erstwhile ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif-el Islam had told me what he thought about the “terror” tags imposed on his father and his government by the United States. “...being a super power, [it] considers it its right to impose embargoes or bomb and attack another country…”
Does this not remind all Indians of what the BJP-led government believes, too? It is always trying to assert its control over the political class and the people, and it subverts democratic elections as the shield to unfold its plans to control people.
Closer to home than the middle east is Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s grandson, Asfandyar Wali Khan. On the growing turmoil in today’s world he had told me, “If you have two badmashes in a village that is okay, because they will be busy settling scores with each other. But there will be chaos and confusion if there is only one badmash left! That’s the trouble in today’s world. Also, where is the leadership of calibre in today’s Muslim world? Post 9/11, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are being looked at as if they are similar, which is not the case...”
Of course, madrasas and other religious institutions along the Afghan-Pakistan border had been set up by the CIA as well—a fact we often forget. Just like we forget that in India it is the right wing goons who are promoting and furthering religious extremism. Is the example of the United States what the Indian rulers want to follow; except that they are spreading terror in their own country. Many commentators have written about how the Sangh parivar and its ilk follow the model set by Germany’s Nazi party, and how they are keen to cosy up to the United States and Israel, at the cost of their traditional friends and allies everywhere in the world.
The parallels between the right wing Hindutva goons and the rest of the world do not exhaust themselves with Israel, however. Even the well-known Mexican writer, Juan Miguel De Mora, had told me whilst on a visit to India several years back about the role of the United States in his country. “Mexican president General Porfirio Diaz had said way back [he was president until 1910], ‘Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the US.’” Then, another Mexican President, Adolfo Lopez Mateos had said that the biggest problem faced by Mexico is “the US”. It was Mora’s view that both these Mexican presidents were far too diplomatic. “President’s Bush’s democracy is like Stalin’s and I have been writing in my columns that Bush’s policies are a danger to humanity.”
For those who are accustomed to reading between the lines, it would not be hard to draw the appropriate conclusion from these incidents for India’s context. As the battle-lines being drawn in JNU make clear, the Indian state is doing to its own youth what the United States has done in the world.
The author is a freelance journalist and commentator. The views are personal.