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UP: Hostility Between Pro-Dalit Groups, Right-Wing Camps Growing in Universities

Both groups have clashed several times at university premises in past few months.
UP: Hostility Between Pro-Dalit Groups, Right-Wing Camps Growing in Universities

Image for representational use only.(File Image)

Tension is growing in universities between pro-dalit groups and the Hindutva Right-wing camp in Lucknow with the latter persistently attempting to establish its hegemony in higher education centres.

In the past few months, both the groups have clashed several times at the various university premises. It seems the Right wing wants to stifle its rival groups and individuals, especially the Ambedkarite dalits. 

Clash With Dalits on Ram Navami 

The latest is a clash that erupted between the Right-wing student union Akhil Bharatiya Vidiyatrhi Parishad (ABVP), which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and dalit students at the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) in Lucknow. The situation turned volatile when some outsiders entered BBAU during the Ram Navami procession on March 29.

The Ambedkar University Dalit Student Union (AUDSU) protested against the saffron-clad crowd of ‘outsiders’ on campus and their provocative slogans. This led to violence, in which several students received minor injuries. According to sources, the ‘outsiders’ entered the BBAU campus with members of the ABVP. 

ABVP Marred Rohith Vemula Anniversary 

This was not the first time pro-dalit groups and Right-wingers had a scuffle at any university. Earlier, ABVP students disrupted programmes organised by various student unions, including the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association (BAPSA), to commemorate the 7th death anniversary of dalit student Rohith Vemula at Lucknow University (LU).

To counter this programme held January 7, the Right-wing group chanted Hindu religious slogans in front of the statue ofBhimrao Ambedkar on LU premises.

Attack on Dalit Thinker 

The Right-wing group at LU even targeted a professor. Last year, on May 11, ABVP came to the LU campus allegedly to threaten and heckle a professor of Hindi, Ravikant Chandan, over comments he had made about the ongoing dispute between the Gyanvapi mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi.

It is noteworthy that Chandan quoted a story from the book Feathers and Stones by Pattabhi Sitaramayya, which describes the alleged circumstances under which a temple at the disputed spot was destroyed and a mosque erected in its place.

A First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against the professor based on the complaint by a university student. Interestingly, the police did not register an FIR against the students who had attacked the professor.

Reinforcement of Hindutva 

It seems that ABVP wants to reinforce the agenda of "Hindutva" at universities. However, several other student groups and some individuals have been persistently opposing the imposition of a communal agenda in universities.

Many people think that since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government in Uttar Pradesh for the second time in a row, the ABVP has been acting aggressively against their ideological opponents.

Authorities are Tight-Lipped 
The role of administrations (universities and districts) is nothing more than that of silent spectators. The dalit group blames the district and university leaders for not listening to their complaints and problems. The police and other authorities avoid taking action against the Right-wingers as they have affiliations with those in power.

Why are Dalit Groups Weakening? 

Many see a political reason behind the persistent attacks on pro-dalit groups. Political thinkers believe that in the past decade, the dalit movement has lost momentum with the decline of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

They also blamed Bahujan leaders for the pathetic condition of dalits in higher academic institutions. According to a political analyst, BSP never formed any student wing that could fight for their rights on campuses.

Ambedkarites Dalits are on Target

While talking to this writer, dalit thinker SR Darapuri said: "Despite that, a large chunk of dalits are now with the ruling party (BJP), but the news of attacks on them is still coming in from academic institutions." The former Indian Police Service (IPS) believes these attacks are on dalits, who are Ambedkarites. He feels that the enlightened Ambedkarites dalit group faction is becoming an eyesore for Hindutva forces because they challenge and question the regressive theories of "Hindutva."

No Political Support

Darapuri said the Other Backward Classes (OBC) students have the support of the Samajwadi Party-led Samajwadi Chatra Sabha. Muslim students shelter in the Samajwadi Chatra Sabha and the Congress-led National Student Union of India (NSUI). But dalit students are in crisis and are facing atrocities and discrimination because no political force backs them on campuses.

Gaurav, a dalit student at BBAU, told this writer that his friend Ankit was hurt in an attack on Ram Navami by Right-wing students and people from outside the university. 

Universities ‘cow’ down to ABVP

Gaurav said many outsiders entered the university premises and chanted religious slogans, but authorities did not act against them. "It seems that the university's administration is bowing down to them, as the RSS has put its weight behind them,” he said.

Many such incidents reported in the past few months show that the atmosphere at both LU and BBAU has become hostile for dalit students. Students and teachers who differ from the saffron ideology are being targeted.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Uttar Pradesh. Views expressed are personal.

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