Goons run riot in JNU as the police stands its ground
JNU has been a rude reminder to the BJP—ever since it came to power in 2014—that its triumphalist narrative will be challenged and its project of creating a Hindu majoritarian polity will be countered, even if in small pockets of resistance.
In an utterly shocking and outrageous incident, the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University was attacked on the evening of the 5th of January 2020 by masked goons, around 100 in number, allegedly affiliated to the ABVP. More than 50 students have suffered injuries, including the JNUSU President Aishe Ghosh. Some 20 students were admitted to AIIMS and two are critical according to reports last received. Teachers too were not spared and many of them were reportedly beaten up by miscreants. In its violent spree, this band of thugs armed with iron rods, hockey sticks, lathis, and bricks, moved from one hostel to another at leisure, ransacking property, and leaving behind a trail of bleeding students with broken limbs and smashed heads in its wake. It was no spontaneous fracas erupting in the heat of the moment, but a methodical act of violence carefully planned and executed. This is reasonably clear now as many incriminating messages on WhatsApp groups—though unverified—that have surfaced show. This is a dastardly attack on ordinary students to break their spirit, to grind down their resilience, and to teach them a lesson for their unrelenting dissent against the Modi-Shah government.
It was not a fight between two groups as most channels have been reporting. That is how truth is buried in layers of cowardice—in the inability, incapacity and unwillingness to call out the perpetrators of violence; by concealing information that matters the most, the media becomes a party to the violence itself. But can the media summon the courage to call a spade a spade? Or, will it obfuscate, confound and prevaricate always—even in instances that are black and white? It was an undeclared war; it was terror that was unleashed on JNU, but not just on JNU; it carries a chilling message of fear to all those who dare to question and criticise, to all those who dare to dissent. Moreover, the random, almost wanton way in which an organised band of ruffians easily walked inside the most premier university of the national capital and vandalized, brutalized and terrorized with gay abandon reeks of complicity—of not just the university administration, but also the Delhi Police and its political masters.
Facts, unfortunately, hold no value for the sold media as it has struck a Faustian bargain with the devil to manufacture them in the interests of the ruling regime. Most channels have uncritically bought the Delhi police narrative that the violence was the result of a clash between two political groups on campus. It didn’t matter that testimonies by students ran counter to what was being peddled by the police. The marauders indulged in hateful sloganeering which included what has now become the fascistic chant of hyper-aggressive nationalism — “Deshkegaddaron ko, Golimaarosaalon ko”.
Also, the numerous videos showing violence inside the campus and the attack on Yogendra Yadav outside the main gate of JNU did not motivate the police to take immediate action. The police stood its ground; it did not enter the campus until after the miscreants had wreaked havoc and disappeared. It was apparently waiting for permission from the university authorities, which came inordinately late, to go inside and restore order: a laughable excuse for a force that lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to firing inside the Jamia campus last month without any permission from the university. The Delhi police is brazenly toeing the BJP political narrative. In Jamia, it forcibly entered the library, hostels, and the campus to punish “anti-nationals” and in JNU it refrained from protecting “urban-Naxals” who were victims of organised violence by the ABVP.
We have been reduced to a society where truth is deliberately camouflaged in a sea of conflicting opinions so that government propaganda—regurgitated endlessly—can hold the field. The media has done a great disservice to India by vitiating information and suppressing reality; by resorting to fake stories and hate-mongering; by dishing out ideology under the garb of analysis; and, by othering dissenters as “urban-Naxals”, or “anti-nationals”. One should remember that the broadcast media, especially channels like Zee News and India TV in 2016 ran doctored videos ad nauseum allegedly with slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad” to defame JNU. Tragically, all this has led to the spawning of a culture of falsehood. Will our tattering democracy survive a society to which truth does not matter, a society which is condemned to swing like a pendulum between disbelief and gullibility? What good can such a people be except to be trapped in a tunnel of despondency and driven to rage against concocted enemies? Whenever a history of the descent of India into unbridled fascism is written, its darkest chapter will be on the complete capitulation of the media, and its utter complicity. It has been the greatest ally, the most invidious side-kick, to the forces that thrive on hate and bigotry.
The media has become a threat to civil liberties in India. Its tendency to valorise the army and the police is unhealthy for our democracy. All institutions must be open to scrutiny and criticism. It is shameful that the Indian media largely has supported the police action against those demonstrating against the CAA-NRC. The protestors have been delegitimised by the media as arsonists, vandals or anti-nationals. The police atrocities have been ignored by our media, even as the world is shocked.
One must say that the police conduct, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Karnataka is reminiscent of the notorious Waffen-SS in the early days of German Fascism. The SS was a law unto its own, the most virulent, vengeful militia that the Nazi party had created to act in parallel with the uniformed police and the army. Its recruits were steeped in the party ideology of anti-Semitism and were mostly goons looking for employment and plunder. So brazen and ugly was the violence that the SS committed that even Hitler realised that it had to be reined in. It was slowly withdrawn from the public eye and tasked with the management of concentration camps and the extermination of Jews. It is alarming that our police have become increasingly communalised, as recent events in UP, Jamia, AMU, and now in JNU show. It was reported that many civilians, mostly ABVP and other Sangh Parivar members, were allowed to don the police uniform and beat up students in Jamia. How can any law-enforcement agency inspire confidence if it shuns its political and religious neutrality?
The attack on JNU must be seen in the wider context of the recent groundswell building up across India against CAA-NRC. Opinion polls largely have shown that most people are against the sectarian and communal laws which threaten to divide the country. The BJP has lost its nerve somewhat. It began its missed call campaign to drum up support for CAA but the party’s IT cell perhaps went too far by promising free Netflix subscriptions and chats with lonely women—the whole campaign became the butt of jokes on social media and took all the fizz out of it. It is quite possible therefore that the JNU attack was planned to deflect attention from the CAA-NRC imbroglio. It is surely not beneath our modern-day Chankakya to try out a stunt like this!
JNU, after all, has been a rude reminder to the BJP—ever since it came to power in 2014—that its triumphalist narrative will be challenged and its project of creating a Hindu majoritarian polity will be countered, even if in small pockets of resistance. In many ways, JNU has been performing the role of a principled opposition to Hindutva. JNU has also been successful in inspiring students across the country. The only redeeming feature of these bleak times has been the idealism of our youth. The last few months have shown that India belongs to the young who know how to defend its constitution and who instil hope that not all is lost. It is perhaps time that they should lead and not follow.