In the supremely polarized political atmosphere in the country, nobody is leaving any stone unturned to target their rivals, whether it is the ABVP trying to suppress the Left with the support of their saffron masters or the leftist student unions galvanizing mass support over every issue to target the government, backed by the communist parties.
In the midst of this pandemonium, and in the context of the JNU showdown, there are a few important questions which are worth pondering upon.
Will the same youth who catapulted BJP to a resounding win in the 2014 elections be the cause for its downfall? Is saffronization of campuses proving to be counter-productive?
Let me quote a message which is being shared widely on Facebook.
“First they came for the Muslims
Then they came for the Christians
Then they came for the Dalits
Then they came for the liberals
Then they came for the leftists
Then they came for non Hindi speakers
Then they came for the lovers
Then they came for the intellectuals
But then came 2019.
And everyone came for them”
It may just be one among the many such forwards online, but the way BJP, especially the HRD Ministry, has been interfering in student politics and university matters, those lines could prove to be prophetic.
It is quite unfortunate that youngsters across the country who had actively rallied behind Modi in 2014, for his vision of a developed India, are being hounded just to push BJP’s student wing ABVP’s agenda.
This could also be the perfect opportunity for the Congress to stage a comeback, banking on the anger and frustration against the government.
Many ridicule and mock Rahul Gandhi for various reasons, but his new avatar is definitely energizing. In the past few months, he has made a conscious effort to connect with students and colleges even if there were some minor goof-ups.
While the Rohith Vermula incident was more of an issue between two ideologically different student groups, Rahul’s bold statements supporting JNU students is indeed a testimony of the fact that he is ready to adapt and take charge. Honestly, one would have expected him to be wary of directly supporting JNU students given the nationalistic sentiments and jingoism involved, but he chose to hold his ground and not bow down to pressure. This has not always happened in the past.
For instance, in the last Parliament session, there were widespread calls for passing the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, which had been vehemently opposed by the Congress, but when Nirbhaya’s mother’s media blitzkrieg led to arguments accusing the Congress of supporting rapists, it eventually caved into pressure and supported the bill.
Despite the fact that Afzal Guru was hanged in the UPA-2 regime, and extremely sensitive nationalistic emotions were involved, Rahul chose to support the JNU students actively, which in my opinion, is a positive sign.
The BJP must remember that many of its prominent leaders were products of the anti-government protests during the Emergency. Though it is too early to call this an emergency, the kind of blunders committed by the Centre pertaining to colleges and education only seems to support the argument: Ambedkar Periyar group in IIT Madras, Rohith Vermula incident in Hyderabad, scrapping the UGC stipend for non-NET candidates, sedition charges on JNU President – the list is endless.
BJP’s Achilles heel is the negativity spread by their own leaders. The party’s special interest in leveraging their political clout to propel the ABVP ‘s presence in universities is proving to be detrimental.
At a time when it should be focusing on the upcoming Budget session and attempt to pass important legislation, it is engaged in mindless politicization of student campuses and giving the Congress space to stage a comeback. It must remember that throughout history, successful anti-establishment agitations are rooted in college campuses.
It may be true that the opposition camp doesn’t have a strong leader who can challenge Modi, but given the fact that Modi is too busy in wishing birthdays and sending greetings, hasn’t spoken up on any burning issue and is likely to remain silent in the future as well, the youth of India won’t hesitate to find a new Maseeha and rally behind him.