Beyond the Binaries

Let’s assume that left has been thoroughly innocent in this incident and has been a victim and sufferer of violence at the hands of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists. Does this exonerate them from the type of politics and the kind of narrative they employ in university politics?

There is little doubt that the invitation to Umar Khalid was a political manoeuvre.  It is more evident from the fact that SFI-ASIA members were pre-emptively present at the venue. They did expect a reaction from ABVP; the quantum of the reaction, however, was unexpected. This politics of baiting is pervasive in all universities. This reaction is then appropriated and re-painted to project that right in general and ABVP, in particular, is an anathema to dissent. Complicit in this are a good majority of professors who lend intellectual legitimacy to the students, who for them are their ideological pawns, warriors of for their utopian dreams.

This is perhaps, a right opportunity to point out the duality in their narrative. The pendulum of freedom the left swings from freedom from India to freedom in India. While on camera the narrative switches from pro-naxals, pro-separatism vitriol to the right to dissent and securing the rights of the marginalised.

If Umar Khalid merely demands the rights of the marginalised, then, by all means, have a say. But the moment you deify an Islamic fundamentalist, a terrorist, celebrate naxal ambushes and question every adversarial judicial pronouncement then you are not confined to demanding freedom in India but also from India.

It also appears that in its obsession to counter ABVP the left ignores the principles that are fundamental to their ideology. In order to monopolise Muslim votes from other prospective parties like National Student’s Union of India (NSUI), the left conveniently ignores the violation of basic freedoms that radical Islam harbours. Thus any incident of Islamic suppression is either ignored or met with lip-service condemnation. Did the culture of protest seminar have a single event on protests in fundamental Islamic countries? Would the panellist in Ramjas have asked Umar what made him leave Islam (he claims to be an atheist) despite being a son of an erstwhile SIMI (Student Islamic Movement of India) member? I am sure leaving the professed religion of the family is the highest form of protest in Indian households.

This discernible duality and politics of victimhood baiting are precisely the reasons why a significant majority of students get pushed towards ABVP even if they are not convinced it is the best option.

Moving on Let’s assume for a minute that nationalism for Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is nothing more than benign patriotism that expects nothing else but a respect for the motherland. This definition, without going into its theoretical implications upon various states, is fairly digestible and perhaps even magnetic. But who would you expect to propagate this form of nationalism? If the charge is given to a demagogic ideologue, who has nothing but rhetoric to feed, rather than propagation it leads to further antagonism.  A generation who has been taught to question and which indeed questions can’t be expected to be satisfied on the diet of dramatics and emotions.

Furthermore, this definition of nationalism, If wants to survive, it needs to be more accommodative and elastic. If it is rigid, it turns into a machinery of censorship and nothing else.  The Streisand effect of Ramjas is a lesson enough to know that suppression, especially of the violent kind leads to further propagation.

Lastly, If ABVP is so profoundly aware of media hostilities then engaging in violence is a political death-wish. It should also understand that building campaigns upon extreme connotations of ‘anti-national’ is unconvincing. This straightforward dismissal would hardly blunt the edge of the invasive left.The party would have to shed its organisational and campaigning yore and engage in pragmatic discussion for that to happen.

Postscript – The posters of communist violence perpetrated in the various state put up by ABVP today, was perhaps, the most indicative symbols of the need for articulation in the right. When even in possession of evidence we are not able to indict the left for its crimes and contradictions.


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