It is quite legitimate for a student to think that the power holders in a nation are saviors of some sort. In a democracy it is right to think that the ruling power will come up with newer and better ideas and interact with the students. But what if the party in power wants its students to think in a particular way and does not allow varying thoughts, ideas and questions to arise?
Universities and college campuses have always been spaces for new ideas, debates and discussions. They are institutions where freedom of thought is encouraged and differing views on a subject matter are necessitated. No country is perfect and has to constantly keep improving and improvising. Hence, contradiction of thoughts become natural and disagreements become the uncontested result. The idea of democracy can thus, be seen sustained through varied opinion, thoughts and solutions based out of dialogue. This is the definition of democracy that I had come to learn.
The recent events that took place at Ramjas College, Delhi University, have shaken me up and forced me to review my definition of democracy. The seminar – Culture Of Protests – was marred by utter violence and hooliganism.
Students, teachers and journalists were beaten by the members of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) while the police watched. The members of ABVP were protesting against the seminar organized by the college. They came out in large numbers and disrupted the seminar, throwing stones in the hall. Later, they beat up the students and teachers who were participating in the event. Their main issue with the seminar was an invitation to Umar Khalid who is doing his Ph.D on Bastar from JNU. He was to speak on “War In The Adivasi Areas”.
To the members of ABVP, Umar Khalid is an “anti-national” booked under charges of sedition last year. He is a “threat” to Indian society. Khalid had to cancel his talk as the events took a wrong turn. Later, Ravish Kumar from NDTV invited him to his Prime Time show to speak on the very same topic.
The members of ABVP threw stones, chairs and laathis (sticks) at students and teachers who were protesting peacefully on February 22, against the events that took place the previous day. This is what disturbs me the most about the protests. There were students not affiliated to any student organization but, people were prompt to bracket them under organisations such as All India Students’ Association, Students’ Federation of India and All India Students’ Federation. The issue was never about these factions or about their political stand.
The protests at Ramjas College and at Delhi University are about the Right to think differently. They are about creating spaces for analysis, debate and about raising questions to understand theories and issues better. People claim that Umar Khalid is an “anti-national” because he was accused of sedition. The “Act of Sedition” was introduced by the British Raj against Krantikaris (revolutionaries) and when translated into Hindi, it is called Raj Droh (going against the establishment) not Desh Droh (going against the country).
Small instances are a proof of the lack of intellect of the members of ABVP which then leaves them with the only option of violence. In the protests, girls were openly beaten up in front of police. When these people can’t respect the opposite gender, how can they claim to have respect for the country? RSS, the parent organisation of ABVP, is the most influential pressure group in the country. The government is also RSS backed and hence, ABVP has the leverage to exercise violence in order to shut people up. Universities are a place of differing opinions and debates and it is this culture that the government wants to kill.
The issue is not about the Right or the Left wing. It is about enforcing ideas, hindrance to student struggle and death of democracy. It’s about exacting violence in the name of nationalism and “Bharat Mata” (mother India). Students in the colleges of Delhi University are being forced to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai (All hail mother India)”. It’s not only about Umar Khalid or Shehla Rashid, it’s about supremacy of one thought, one idea and one race.
Students are open to various ideas and thoughts, the issue is about killing those thoughts and ideologies. Delhi University has been turned into a war field and students who are witnessing these events are scared. They are being labeled and people from various parts of the country are showing support to this violence. The idea of violence is scary for a democracy. And yes, it is definitely about Aazadi (freedom). Aazadi from the people who want to attack democracy, debate, discussion and dissent. It’s also about Aazadi from hooliganism and violence. It is about looking for a better future and no power can stop this student movement, the movement for Aazadi.