Why I Find The Current Political Atmosphere ‘Unfavourable’ (But Students Give Me Hope)

Posted on April 4, 2016 in Society

By Mohammad Arsalan:

Demonstrators pictured at a protest march in New Delhi, India, March 1, 2016. Dozens of protestors from Campus Front of India (CFI) protested to express solidarity for Rohit Vemula, a low-caste student of the University of Hyderabad who was found hanging at a hostel in January and were also demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar, a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student union leader accused of sedition. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTS8QM0
Image credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

In this era, when job and education crises are at a peak, people are hardly able to think and analyse. It is indeed an unfavourable atmosphere which has taken shape in India since the coming of BJP to power in 2014. The RSS backed government has no doubt a huge and massive partisan nationwide. But it’s facing huge criticism over it’s Hindutva image from many sections of the country.

The JP Andolan (1975-77) in India was one phase in Independent India which produced many prominent leaders in our country including two Chief Ministers of Bihar. The Emergency era saw Indian politics take a dramatic turn, as several new parties emerged after it including the BJP. Many of them upheld ideas of socialism. It appeared that a revolution had taken place and the country that would take shape would be a modern, developed and powerful India. This also provided a platform to the RSS to highjack or perhaps make their own party so that they may get into politics.

CPIM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury says, “The Modi government is slowly trying to create an Emergency-like situation. They are trying to break the communal harmony of the country by pitching one religion against other and one community against another.” After around forty years since the Emergency, it may be argued that the country is facing the same crisis again.

BJP’s campaign in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was indeed well organised. The Congress didn’t perform very well during its rule and like any other party was met with strong epithets in the whole country. The 2G scam, Coalgate scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, price hikes and so on played their part in soiling Congress’ image. Some may even claim that the silence of the then PM Manmohan Singh, or maybe the puerile candidature for the projected Congress Prime Minister were reasons for the loss. But popular slogans (like ‘Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi’, ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ etc.), polarisation politics, Hindu radicalisation and the Ram Mandir issue were used to defeat the Congress as well.

Narendra Modi took the opportunity to fill the leadership crisis by using beautiful slogans to win over poor people who saw him as a ray of hope. Words like ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’, ‘Har har Modi, ghar ghar Modi’, were strong slogans which caught the imagination of young minds, farmers and the toiling poor of the country. The masses of the country saw a ray of hope.

After winning with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and forming a robust government, things did not turn out to be so positive. People started wondering whether the promised fifteen lakh rupees would be debited to their bank accounts. There were other issues as well such as the alleged unemployment among the youth, the beheading of an Indian soldier and so on which negatively affected the government’s image. When the government couldn’t manage that, it appears that some of their affiliates started creating new issues to make people forget the government’s false promises. There were several controversies like ‘Ghar wapsi’, ‘Love jihad’, asking people to go to Pakistan etc. When this didn’t work, the government backed by the RSS began, as some people feel, targeting Scheduled Caste people all over the country. Many public intellectuals returned their awards in protest against the ‘fascist’ tendencies of the ruling dispensation.

It was going well for the government until the suicide of HCU’s Dalit student Rohith Vemula. Some have called it an ‘institutional murder’. Rohith’s suicide in January 2016 led to massive criticism of the government, especially when letters of communication from HRD Minister Smriti Irani to HCU-VC Appa Rao and a local MP of Hyderabad were discovered. This led to huge outrage and mass protests all over the country. Students of prominent universities including AMU, JNU, AU etc. came out on the roads to protest.

Smriti Irani was already under fire from students leading the ‘Occupy UGC’ movement, who were protesting the scrapping of the non-NET fellowship that is granted to research scholars. In all these protests, JNU students played an active role. A couple of students including JNUSU president Kanahiya Kumar were arrested in connection with so-called ‘anti-national’ slogans being chanted. The government machinery tried all possible measures from physical violence to legal ways of suppression to subdue the students and break their resolve. But, that led to another debacle.

The sedition law that comes under Section 124A of the IPC, a legacy of our colonial past, is being used by our government today. It was used against the students. The law was introduced in the year 1870 under the British Raj to prevent Indians from going against the state. Victims of this law include Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and many other prominent freedom fighters. Now, at this juncture, it feels like we’re back in colonial times. Meanwhile, a foul debate in the country has started over who is a ‘nationalist’ or an ‘anti-national’.

It’s high time that we got rid of such laws which have no place in a democracy. In this era, when the world is busy making satellites, discovering previously unknown things about the universe and so on, such pointless debates seem like a travesty.

After the JNU row, the students’ movement has again risen to prominence and have caused a stir in the country. Young leaders are coming out from colleges and universities. The media seems to be coming back on the right track and civilians appear to be getting to know the reality. This shows that India is now combatting fascism and moving towards revolutionary change. Let’s hope that the new drift, unlike 1977, may bring out potential leaders who could fulfil the idea of India dreamt by Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah and all other prominent freedom fighters who suffered under the British and gave up their life for our freedom.