Saffron Violence

Arup Kumar Sen

On January 5, 2020 (Sunday), masked men wielding sticks, rods and sledgehammers terrorised the JNU campus for close to three hours by entering hostels and attacking students and teachers. The masked men targeted students in three hostels. They left after hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings. A women's hostel was also attacked.

There was a pattern in the violence. To put it in the words of The Telegraph (January 7,2020): "Accounts from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus...suggested a systematic attempt on Sunday night at targeting or sparing students after marking out their rooms on the basis of ideological belief and religion, recalling a Nazi-era policy of segregation and persecution".

Who led the attacks and what was the role of the police? As reported in The Indian Express (January 6, 2020):

Eye witnesses and many of those injured said the men, who as per some estimates numbered around 100, were mostly outsiders and belonged to the ABVP—a charge the RSS student outfit denied. Eye witnesses also accused police of failing to stop the mob from entering the campus or ending the violence sooner, despite calls from JNU as well as frantic students and teachers.

Outside the campus gates, a large mob had gathered on the day and, refused to allow any student to step out of the campus or anyone to get in. They did not allow ambulances to reach the campus by puncturing tyres and smashing windows. The mob chanted: "Desh ke gaddaron ko, golimaro salon ko" (Shoot the anti-national traitors). The masked men reportedly did such things next to a police barricade and in front of a police detention van. They threatened journalists and manhandled Yogendra Yadav, National President of Swaraj India. Hari Ram Mishra, a pro-RSS Sanskrit professor of the JNU, was allegedly found in the mob. (See ibid and The Telegraph, January 6, 2020)

More than 30 people were injured in the attacks, including the president of the Students' Union (JNUSU), Aishe Ghosh, and professors Sucharita Sen and Ameet Parameswaran. Aishe Ghosh had 16 stitches on her head after being beaten with iron rods.

Aishe Ghosh, who was brutally attacked by the masked men in the JNU campus on January 5. 2020, has been named in the two FIRs filed in connection with two incidents of alleged vandalism in the campus on January 1 and 4. The police "filed both FIRs on Sunday night, when the violence on campus, perpetrated by around 100 masked men, was at its peak". (The Indian Express, January 8, 2020)

It should be mentioned in this connection that the JNUSU has been protesting against the steep hostel fee hike in the University. In the wake of the brutal violence on January 5, the Federation of Central Universities Teachers' Associations (FEDCUTA) unequivocally condemned the violence "unleashed on the students and teachers of JNU by armed goons" and blamed the Vice-Chancellor of the University, M Jagadesh Kumar, for it.

No doubt the colour of violence unleashed on the students and teachers of JNU and in the campuses of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia is Saffron.

What has happened at the JNU campus is the most glaring example of brutal violence against all sorts of dissent. In form, it resembles the vandalism that has taken place earlier at the Jamia Millia University. But there is a difference. At Jamia Millia, it was the police who acted as vandals; at JNU, it was a well-planned act by hooligans wearing masks and owing allegiance to the ABVP and the BJP. It was a carefully planned and meticulously organisd onslaught against students who refused to be swayed by the project of a Hindu Rastra in which religious minorities and dalits were to be treated as animals.

In self-defence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ideologues are constantly talking gibberish. Thanks to the unprincipled behaviour of some regional allies like Nitish Kninar and Navin Pattanaik, they have been able to pass the anti-constitution CAA in the parliament by a majority vote and are constantly parading the argument that this approval by the parliament (not unanimously, although) makes the CAA above all criticism and those who dare to criticise it are anti-national. This sort of queer reasoning is plainly against the Constitution of India, which despite its many limitations, have at least granted the power of freedom of opinion to citizens, irrespective of religion and caste.

The countrywide protests and condemnations have revealed a bitter truth, which is that the Modi-Shah combine will brook no opposition to their March for a Hindu Rastra. Their fascist arms, supplemented by all sorts of devious means of course aided by corporate and bania money, stand entirely exposed by this unabashed display of barbarity.

The BJP and its student wing had for long nursed an anger against the JNU students as a whole, because notwithstanding the deployment of all their might, they have never been able to establish their hegemony there. The JNU has been a place for free thinking, and this is what is repugnant to the fascists of the Nagpur variety.

Even artists and film makers of the Mumbai Film Industry have come forward against this unprecedented piece of barbarity. The latest Bengali Nobel Laureate, Abhijit Binayak Banerjee, has likened this incident as a move along the path of Nazi Germany. Lastly, but not the least, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have considered it wise to maintain a studied silence on this vandalism.

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Vol. 52, No. 30, Jan 26 - Feb 1, 2020