After the Arab Spring in 2011-12, Indian youth went for a pan India anti-corruption drive. Thousands of youth mobilised towards Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi to support a Gandhian, named Anna Hazare. He was leading a movement called India Against Corruption (IAC). The rise of IAC came with new slogans and themes such as the Indian National Congress is synonymous with corruption, and the party is responsible for all the evils in India. People from left to right bought this argument. Anna movement demanded the passage of anti-graft laws such as Lok pal bill, whistleblower bill, and gharwapsi of Black money. To be honest, I was an active participant in the Anna-led movement, and we had pledged to dethrone Congress, but we didn’t have any alternative at that time.
IAC movement and media houses manufactured a virtual vacuum in the minds of the new social media savvy generation.
In 2013, a man was projected as the panacea to fill this vacuum. Then chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, who was accused of being complicit in 2002 Gujarat riots, got sudden limelight of every newspaper and primetime shows of most of the news channels. Modi was projected as an ideal contender of the Prime ministerial position. Within few weeks, Modi was everywhere. His speeches, promises of instant Achhe Din (good days), his downtrodden background, tea stall (Chai Wala) narrative, vikas (development) propaganda, vow to deposit 15 lakhs in the bank accounts of every citizen, and creating two crore jobs every year suddenly become the talk of the town. Most of my friends and relatives bought the idea of Modi. But, I did not. In 2013, my region became the eyewitness of the heinous and real face of Modi. Muzaffarnagar was burning, and the villages that had never seen riots, even at the time of partition, saw saffron flames rising from the burning fields of Muzaffarnagar. Around 50,000 Muslims had to leave their villages to save their lives. It was JNU that gave me deep insights into how the riots were used for the benefit of the communal forces and British in pre-independent India, and how Muzaffarnagar was a replication of Gujarat model in Uttar Pradesh.
The Muzaffarnagar riots brainwashed the 31% Indian electorate, and Modi, on May 26, 2014, formed a majority government. According to senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, Rs 3,000 crore were spent on ‘Brand Modi’, funded by India’s biggest corporates. My experience of activism with All India Student Federation (AISF), the student wing of Communist Party of India, was helpful for me to understand the brand Modi. However, due to some serious differences with Kanhaiya Kumar, I left AISF and joined NSUI in hope to revive the Nehruvian Congress in Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Meanwhile, post-2014, Modi Sarkar reciprocated electoral funding favours to his Masters by promulgating Land Acquisition ordinance thrice. A significant amount of land was sold at low prices to a few businesspeople by tweaking the pro-farmer Land Acquisition act 2013. Be it MNREGA, Right to Food, Right to Education, or Right To Information, every welfare scheme that was established to strengthen the downtrodden was either smashed or weakened by the Modi sarkar. Higher education funds were decreased, and jobs in the public and private sector dried rapidly. October 2015 saw the death of UGC NON-NET Fellowship, but we fought back at #OccupyUGC. In any fascist regime, this onslaught against masses requires a smokescreen, and institutional murder of Rohith Vemula was the beginning. Later, on February 9, 2016, the alleged ‘anti-national’ sloganeering, which was synchronised by RSS and Radical Left, gave BJP another smokescreen to hide their anti-people actions under the carpet of nationalism. Unfortunately, JNU became the new victim of RSS. Thankfully, we were not alone. Rahul Gandhi (then Vice President of Congress) stood with the students and supported #JusticeForRohithVemula and #StandWithJNU. A section of Congress was not happy with the Gandhi’s proactive defence of the institution. RSS-corporate nexus invested millions in branding Rahul Gandhi as ‘Pappu’. However, it was JNU, where we saw Mr Gandhi emerge as the real political scion of Pt. Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
Given my disillusionment with the fake Gandhian and B-team of RSS, Anna-Kejriwal gang, I see a ray of hope in Mr Gandhi’s Idealism.
Cases such as Akhlaq lynching, Una Dalit atrocities, and the Mandsaur farmers’ protest were a clear indication for the progressive and liberal section of the society that Indian democracy was under deep threat. But, we are not alone, the Congress of Mr Gandhi is promising us that India and constitutional republic is still safe, provided we are united for our Constitution. My first hour-long conversation with Mr Gandhi at the University of Hyderabad, where he was observing a day-long hunger strike to demand #JusticeForRahithVemula, convinced me that he was sincere against caste and class inequalities and the associated atrocities.
Coming back to the JNU narrative, on October 11, 2016, during Vijayadashami, we burnt the effigy of Modi and his gang. Immediately, the corporate-owned media houses coloured this protest as blasphemy against Modi, as if it was the first effigy of Prime Minister to be ever burnt in independent India. On October 14, 2016, the Gujarat model was replicated. The infectious ideas of RSS/ABVP mob lynched Najeeb, and after that night Najeeb disappeared/kidnapped from the campus. The NSUI sat for 11 days indefinite hunger strike to ask JNU’s VC Mamidala #WhereIsNajeeb. But, this was not the last shameful act shielded by VC Mamidala. JNU administration never punished any ABVP lyncher; one alleged mob lyncher even contested for from ABVP for JNUSU.
On the other hand, recently NSUI activists were punished for pakora protest on campus, and for ‘Jai Bhim’ sloganeering. Not just that, the name of NSUI’s JNUSU presidential candidate was withdrawn on a flimsy ground. Later, Delhi High Court ruled in favour of NSUI and noted that JNU order was “unsustainable on innumerable grounds”. The slow death of JNU did not stop here. In 2016, around 1,000 research seats were reduced from country’s premier institute. The UGC notification of 2016 killed the reservation system, and about 50 teachers of campus were punished for participating in the protest against VC.
The above narrative, based on my experience in JNU and India, paints a grim picture of the prevailing situation in the country. All institutions which were erected under the guidance of the Indian constitution are under grave threat. India suffered a loss of Rs. 3 trillion along with millions of jobs, and more than 100 people died due to demonetisation. Not just RBI, even the Supreme Court of India is under attack from the RSS-corporate duo. And every time, the modus operandi is the same, the nexus between RSS fundamentalists and crony capitalists create the smokescreen around communal and caste-based hatred, so that super rich can become more prosperous. In this given context, a united democratic front against the fascist regime is the only solution, and the Congress of Mr Gandhi has the hope. While NSUI or any other wing of Congress have their contradictions, these differences must not stop us from saving our democracy. It is my greatest hope that NSUI will also begin to resemble the Nehruvian Congress, the ideals that I admire the most.
We, NSUI, appeal to the youth of the nation, let us go back to our Indian Constitution and strive for a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic of Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar, and thousands of our ancestors who fought for our present and future.