5th January, Sunday saw one of the most vitriolic attacks on the Jawaharlal Nehru University Campus where 50-70 masked men attacked the students mostly affiliated to the left. At around, 4.30 PM, masked men with iron rods and sticks entered the campus hostel which ultimately led to the assault. Those who have followed the politics since 2016, sloganeering will know for sure that these issues are not new in the university.
Umar Khalid one of the student activists was shot close to the campus a year back. Shehla Rashid, the former president faces regular abuse and veiled threats on social media platforms. Kanhaiya Kumar spent some months in Tihar due to the allegations that he had raised anti-Indian slogans which later on were found to be fabricated. Those who are not aware of the JNU culture must be thinking, “What is wrong with JNU?”.
Well, nothing is wrong with JNU. The problem with the current regime under the Narendra Modi government is that they cannot tolerate protests and critical questioning. It is the exact same reason why they have created a huge army of loyal followers, who will not question the government on any issues. Student protests have been a part of Indian culture and that has created outstanding student leaders and politicians including Sitaram Yechury, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Jai Prakash Narayan, Mamata Banerjee to name a few. The present government wants us to forget about India’s past and instill a sense of fake nationalism in the minds of gullible students, which essentially means toeing the line of the government whenever they are asked to.
JNU Issue 2019
JNU is one of the very few liberal arts universities which have taken an anti-establishment stand for the last few decades. Whether it is Congress or UPA or the NDA government JNU along with Jadavpur University and Aligarh Muslim University has been extremely vocal about the wrong policies of the government. In the student election also the left parties have swept the JNU campus which has shocked the ruling party leading to a series of conflicts in the past few years.
As the BJP came back to power with 303 seats, they began to push for a largely non-left ecosystem in the Indian academia. Now the issue here is since most reputed universities have strong left unions with the professors backing them the ruling dispensation found it extremely difficult to change the discourse. This is primarily one of the reasons why the BJP led the right-wing government, has been targeting universities since 2016 onwards. With Vice-Chancellors who act as a puppet of the government, the RSS has tried its level best to dismantle the infrastructure but have largely failed. BHU, AMU, JU and Allahabad University are some of the institutions where they have lost badly.
Why is the government so scared of students?
The government’s performance over the last five years has been pretty average. Apart from the social welfare schemes like Jan Dhan and Mudra along with Skill India, Ujjwala most of the middle –class population are simmering in anger with the retail inflation touching 11 years high and massive unemployment post demonetization and GST disaster. In 2019 India’s growth slumped to 4.5% in the last quarter and is expected to further shrink in 2020. Unemployment and increasing cost of services have irked their core voter base. So Modi essentially woos the poor to win elections, taking money from the rich.
Since students who are aware of all these issues keep on questioning the government they feel insecure to a large extent. In 2019, Modi abrogated article 370, passed the CAA-NRC bill which led to massive protests and had heated debates even in the parliament. JNU also have protested against the fee hike in recent times. The new education bill is a weapon through which the government wants to privatise the universities which would mean that academia would be a privilege of the rich. Keeping all these issues in mind and the loss of Jharkhand and Maharashtra in the recent elections along with a pathetic performance in Haryana, the government is expected to fire up the ante in the forthcoming Delhi and Bihar elections keeping its sharpest weapon of nationalism in the forefront…
Will Hindutva and right-wing populism continue to dominate Indian politics?
Considering the weak opposition parties and their negative image among the masses, right-wing parties will continue to make merry even without working hard. Most regional parties have lost their credibility due to years of corruption, nepotism and lack of vision on a pan-India level. This is primarily one of the reasons why these parties have not been able to grow beyond a certain point. BSP, for example, has always banked on Dalit and Muslim votes. Once that was broken in 2019, they suffered massive defeats. The aspirations of the marginalized people are also changing with higher education and socio-political awareness. So caste and identity-based politics will not find many takers in the future.
As Modi has fulfilled the age-old issues of ram Mandir, 370 and is about to step in with a Uniform civil code, hard-line Hindutva voters will vote en masse in the next few elections especially in the northern belt. What is to be seen is how Congress and other opposition parties tackle social media propaganda and the subsequent welfare schemes.