By Riad Azam:
A recent remark by a Hindu Yuva Vahini leader, calling the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) ‘a nursery of terrorism’, is an instance of the increasing penetration of fundamentalist right-wing politics in India. Although the remark is just another feature of a trend that has started in India over the last one and a half years by various leaders making hate speeches, in this case it needs special analysis, because here the remark has been directed towards a secular educational institution which admits students of all religious, regional and linguistic diversities.
The BJP’s unprecedented victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was backed by incredible groundwork by the RSS, especially in the rural areas of North India, coupled with religious polarisation which was a consequence of the riots that ripped through the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Ever since the Narendra Modi-led government took over the reins of power, the RSS has been steadily asserting itself in order to push through its agenda. Two major fields where the RSS has given its major attention to, are education and culture.
India’s right-wing politics spearheaded by the unmistakable influence of the RSS and several other offshoots of its kind, such as the Hindu Yuva Vahini, Dharma Jagran Manch and others have sought to bring about their Hindutva project by a homogenization of the multicultural ethos of India. Under that attempt, the diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and regional groups will supposedly be brought under the grand idea of a Hindu nation, where similar historical backgrounds along with the same cultural practice will be imposed upon these diverse groups.
If we look into the various policy level decisions taken in the last one and a half years by the current ruling dispensation, we can trace an agenda being undertaken on the above-mentioned issue. One of the first decisions that the Narendra Modi Government took after assuming power was to appoint Prof. K. Sudarshan Rao, a historian who is known for his proximity to the RSS, as the Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR). This has obviously been done to rewrite history to promote a Hindu supremacist consciousness where all other diverse identities are relegated as the ‘other’. This is also coupled with the appropriation of popular historical figures to suit the needs of the Hindu right. This pretty much explains the BJP and the RSS’s attempts at appropriating a personality like Dr. B. R. Ambedkar who stood firmly against the politics of the Hindu Right, (one only has to have a glance at Ambedkar’s magnum opus ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ in order to understand the kind of politics he believed in) to make massive inroads towards the huge Dalit population in this country.
As a part of this homogenisation project, educational institutions which have always harboured the kind of politics which does not agree with the prevailing narrative are being routinely targeted. If we analyse from this perspective we shall understand why BJP leader Subramanian Swamy called Jawaharlal Nehru University ‘a den of naxalism’, and why people who questioned the moral authority of the protesting students at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), just because they supposedly take narcotics or other addictive substances. The remark on the AMU is also similar on this line. The sole purpose of this kind of remark is to question the very legitimacy of these institutions and negate the kind of politics or the cultural ethos that prevail over there. In the case of AMU, it is more of a cultural project because it is one of those campuses in India where a large number of minority students study and exercise their cultural freedom.
In this entire scheme of things, there exists a two-way methodology. At one hand the BJP, after having assumed the unprecedented majority at the Parliament is making significant policy-level changes, especially in the field of education by implanting people who hold proximity to the Hindu Right (at times incapable people as has happened at the FTII, Pune). They are expected to take important decisions pertaining to matters such as the syllabi, appointment of faculties, etc. in order to ensure that the kind of consciousness that the BJP or most importantly the RSS seeks to create, is generated in these institutions.
On the other hand are the foot soldiers such as those of the Hindu Yuva Vahini who brazenly make communal remarks or undertake forced religious conversion projects such as ‘ghar wapsi’ undertaken by Dharma Jagran Manch at Agra. The purpose of these things is to polarise the already volatile situation especially in North India which bears rich political dividends.
The results of such regressive politics would certainly be ill-bearing for the nation. Leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi are branding their form of aggressive Muslim identity politics as a reactionary approach to what is being promoted by the Hindu Right. Things become worse when even educational institutions are dragged in the dirt as it is being done right now. It has become essential for students, secular citizens and intellectuals to fight back against this and it should be done with a sense of urgency because India has already started to resemble a boiling cauldron.
Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here.
You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.