Akhlaq or Afrazul or Najeeb Ahmed are not just names; they represent a remarkable trend in Indian politics right now and the alarming growth of hate crimes.
We have, as a society, come up with various justifications for hate crimes- Love Jihad, Gau Raksha, Anti-Romeo Squad and so on.
It is not enough to decry it, to talk of the RSS or other members of the notorious ‘Sangh’ as “enemies of the people”, to wail over a slow death of democratic secularism. One must also understand why the Indian youth is (if at all) willing to side with this violence.
The BJP campaign in the upcoming Gujrat elections can clue us in. The campaign is run in the name of “development” but comprises only of hate speeches. This is the BJP model of ‘development’, the model wherein UP children die like flies and Tamil Nadu farmers reel under debts. This model has heavily affected the youth, and it is growing increasingly violent in nature. It has no opportunity for education, no jobs, no dignity in livelihood. In such a situation it takes little instigation to join mob violence, and the violence is inevitably directed towards the minorities.
Less than a century back, a situation like this led to the rise of fascism in Europe. About 25 years ago, we saw a large group in India itself, rise to demolish the Babri Masjid. Extremism is not only generated by the people who come to power using it, it
is also widely supported by the very people who suffer from it.
On the brink of a fascist takeover of the country, it is important for the resisting forces to lead a prolonged struggle against not only the Sangh, but also its ideology. The battle is political and ideological, the need of putting up violent resistance in some places is merely incidental. The task today is to win over the frustrated youth to help them see the real enemy, because it is only then that the ideology might be defeated.
All is not lost; the students across the country are reacting to this with fierce determination. Some call for a ban of the RSS and the Sangh, some call for a more secular I
ndia, some compare the RSS to the ISIS in Facebook memes, and none of this is to be discredited as futile. Abir, a second-year Engineering student who works with the AISA unit in southern Kolkata, talked of the organization’s city-wide campaign against communal propaganda, “We are visiting various localities and talking of the need of secularism. We are using various means of protest. Cultural protests like songs and street plays leave a greater impact on the audience than simply leaflets and talking. We are focusing on the more communally sensitive areas.”
Rittik, another member of the same unit, relates his experience while performing the street play, “It is called Najeeb, after the missing student from JNU. This is the first time I am taking a message like this to the people, and we have been met with mixed reactions, while there is a section of people who believe it was wrong, we can see polarization especially when the character of Najeeb talks.”
David Hassan, the district committee member of the same organisation talks of repression that he faced, “We were making a graffiti with the message on campus, and we had the authorities call us up and ask us to refrain putting up such things in the main building of the campus.”
It is clear that students and youth across Kolkata are actively rising against communal hatred and taking forward the message of harmony. Yet the polarization is gradually creeping into Bengal, and the appeasement policy of the West Bengal government is not helping. There is an increasing communal rift in the state that stands as one of the few that are free of BJP rule at present.
It is important that the student-youth across communities and classes unite to resist the ideological indoctrination that precedes any political takeover by the BJP. It is also important to speak up for the basic demands – education, health, jobs and livelihood – that tear the mask of “development” that this force lures the youth with. Finally and most importantly, it is important to develop a prolonged political battle that does not erupt only in the face of one or two incidents but organises the youth of the country into a proper resisting force.