Revisiting ABVP’s History Of Vandalism And Protests

As I sit down to write this, I feel traumatised and dismayed by how things unfolded in the campus last week. The members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) vandalised a seminar at Ramjas College on February 21. The seminar was to host a talk by JNU research scholar Umar Khalid. There was no reason for the ABVP members to create a ruckus at the college. Nonetheless, ABVP justified their actions, stating the campus has no space for ‘anti-national’ activities. Therefore, they resorted to hooliganism to oppose the ‘anti-nationalism’ which was allegedly being practised on campus.

This isn’t the first time that ABVP has vandalised an event and gotten away with it. It has a glorious history of getting away with such violent disruptions. A few months ago, ABVP activists led by DUSU President Amit Tanwar violently disrupted a peaceful meet at the Arts Faculty, organised by AISA, titled ‘Idea of a University’. The speakers at the meet were to talk about the actions that hamper the liberal nature of the university campuses and seek possible solutions.

In the same event, the DUSU President allegedly punched AISA activist Kawalpreet Kaur on her face and also injured her friend. The AISA activists demanded an FIR against the DUSU President and the others involved, at the Maurice Nagar Police Station. “We went to file an FIR against the ABVP people involved in the incident. However, the police refused to file an FIR citing lack of evidence,” said Vageesh, an AISA activist.

It is imperative to mention here, that the event had to be cancelled because around 50 cops inside the campus cited their ‘helplessness’, in handling a chunk of 20-odd ABVP activists. Despite having permission, students and members from AISA were also forbidden from carrying mics inside the Arts Faculty campus.

In the last two years I have stayed here, I have realised the extent of their rigidity and conservativeness. This also gets reflected in how they curb every voice of dissent that is raised on campus. In 2015, Ankur, the theatre society of SGTB Khalsa College, had to face the ire of the student activists for staging an alleged ‘anti-Hindu’ street play. They wanted a ban on the theatre society.

More than a year later, some ABVP activists allegedly snatched a cage that was an essential prop in their street production: “Untitled”; which revolved around freedom of speech and censorship. As the society rightly narrated: “Ye Pinjre humse chinne gaye hai aap par daalne ke liye” (These cages have been stolen from us to trap you in them).

In 2015, they violently disrupted the screening of the documentary “Muzaffarnagar Baaqi hai” at Kirori Mal College. Students were threatened, harmed and property was damaged. As you may recall, no action was taken against them in this case either. The cops were engaged in pacifying the activists.

In another instance in 2015, Quint Journalists were questioned by the then DUSU President Satender Awana for asking ‘sex waale’ questions without DUSU’s permission and also for shooting a video on the public road, inside a campus. What is worse is that they were dragged to the police station, where professors from a constituent college had to intervene. These occurrences perhaps narrate how the jagirdars of morality and nationalism in the campus have suppressed the liberal and free spaces, including our classrooms.

Any show of dissent and you could possibly be witch-hunted; a situation which AISA activists often find themselves in, being on the other side of the political spectrum. What further compliments these jagirdars is the ineffective and partial functioning of the police. With every incident of ABVP being at fault, the police has a record of either turning a blind eye or of detaining the opposing voice.

So then, who is responsible here? ABVP? No. The police? Maybe not. I think it is the student community of Delhi University. It makes me sad that despite all these occurrences, ABVP has been holding pivotal positions in the DUSU office for the last three years. This is largely because of the ignorance or abstinence exercised by the students of India’s so-called best undergraduate university for liberal arts.

The recent occurrence at Ramjas might as well be viewed as part of the age-old opposition in student politics. The university campus is in a state of great turbulence right now. SGTB Khalsa College had to cancel a street play competition, allegedly under the pressure of ABVP. The Khalsa College Principal had denied this.

The DUSU President had allegedly said that if there was anything objectionable about the content of the plays being performed, security couldn’t be guaranteed. There is a dearth of safe and sound spaces in the campus right now. Is this how one practices nationalism and liberalism? This is undoubtedly the darkest hour of India’s most liberal undergraduate university campus.

Image source: Virendra Singh Gosain/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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