The BJP Suffers BFT: Blunt Force Trauma
February the 9th, 2016.
At India’s most famously ‘liberal’ and ‘left wing’ campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University students organised, as they are wont to do, a student meeting on issues that they wanted to highlight and protest against.
The Democratic Students Union, a far left group were the purported organizers of the event, and the main gripe was the ‘judicial killing’ of Afzal Guru, a convicted Kashmiri separatist who masterminded the attacks on the Indian Parliament, and was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of India.
That the circumstances of the trail, as well as the sentence itself, are shrouded in all sorts of mist are constantly argued in India. The most contentious part of the order, according to most observers, was the highest court of the land seeking recourse to public opinion in passing the death sentence, “ …the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender.”
Since the passing of the order and its subsequent implementation, which was again denounced by observers as ham handed and falling foul of guidelines, protests have taken place across many parts of India, in many Universities, neighborhoods and social circles. So far, its fairly simple.
A man was hung to death under circumstances that could be called polarizing leading to protests from certain segments of the very society that was meant to ‘satisfied’ by the highest court in India.
The organizers at JNU were merely continuing the sequence of protest and agitate that has continued under 2 successive governments. One, the Congress led UPA under whom Afzal was hung. And now under the BJP led NDA government of Narendra Modi.
On the 9th of February 2016, everything turned far murkier and farcical. According to reports that were circulated 2 days later, certain sections of the students at the event (supporting or dissenting with the views, we aren’t sure yet) started to raise slogans to the effect of, “Afzal we’re ashamed, Your murderers are still free” and “How Many Afzals will you Kill, every house will produce another Afzal”, to finally, the slogans that lit the torch paper, “Under the end of Bharat, the Battles will rage.”
Who these individuals were is the subject of intense speculation now. And this was given fuel by all sorts of views, opinions, videos and pictures of the event shared by all sides of the ideological divide. And more specifically, forces on the religio-nationalist Right Wing promptly labelled the attendees and organizers of the events as ‘Anti-National’.
From being a routine conflagration of right and left backed student groups on a campus known for its charged politics, the issue snowballed into one of sedition and treachery against the state.
The left, so far in serial decline due its ossified ideology and track record of stagnant, even regressive administration in states they did hold power, suddenly found itself rejuvenated. Support came flooding in from a broad cross section of society aghast that charges as serious as sedition could be slapped against students who were doing what they have always done.
In stepped the Delhi Police which in a very Indian anomaly answers to the government at the center and not the state administration. A police presence at the actual event had noted nothing untoward and no complaint was filed on the night of the 9th. Two days later, at the urging of the East Delhi Member of Parliament Mahesh Girri, and the Human Resource Development Minister of India (euphemistically the Education Minister) Smriti Irani, they arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, the left aligned elected leader of the University Students Union. And just to make sure they had a water tight case, Umar Khalid, one of the organizers and members of the JNU DSU, and the one person who was nominally ‘muslim’ was said to be backed by terrorist organisations from Pakistan. The Ultimate betrayal. Others called him a Kashmiri, which is even more insidious since Kashmir is a part of India where sections openly agitate, sometimes violently, for ‘independence’ backed by Pakistan, a double whammy. And all this based on a tweet that sent its support to the students. Unfortunately for the Delhi Police and the Home Minister of India, the tweet of support came from a parody account of a known Pakistani Jihadist leader.
In itself perhaps none of these issues would be remarkable in nation where the sedition law is utilized much more frequently than behooves the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy and the media loves a frenzy till the next one comes along.
What caused alarm was this seemed to be a result of the constant sniping towards JNU for a long time now by members of the BJP and its ideological brethren. Now in power they have used the Blunt Force of state mechanisms and stirring popular hysteria against ‘traitors’ to subdue an uproariously contrarian University campus. Hotbeds of left activists and marginalized segments of society (Kumar’s family survive on $50 a month) many did not conform to the narrative being peddled by the ruling dispensation. And this shock and awe tactic did more to strengthen the dwindling ‘Left’ and left the BJP with trauma.
As Kavitha Krishnan, CPI leader and ideologue, described it to me in the aftermath of the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, “they have scored an own goal”.