Descent into barbarism

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The entire nation was shocked to witness the scenes of unrelenting violence unleashed on the students and teachers of the country’s premier centre of education, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in Delhi on Sunday evening. It is not merely a case of campus violence peaking. It is the outcome of the daily demonising of the university, its staff and faculty, over a period of time by people holding high public office. Masked goons had a free run of the campus, beating up students, including women, with iron rods and other weapons, entering hostels and vandalising property and spreading fear and terror. At least 26 students have been injured, including the students’ union president Aishe Ghosh, and are being treated. Two members of the Union Cabinet, both JNU alumni, have condemned the incident. But this rings hollow. Visuals of hooligans roaming in dormitories and the campus, wielding hockey sticks and bludgeons, shouting “desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro saalo ko”, and finally trooping out of the campus, under the benign gaze of Delhi Police, are available in the public domain. The response of the university authorities and the police was even more shocking than the actions of the attackers. They did not try to prevent the attack and protect the students, but even seem to have facilitated it. The university’s security allowed the goons in, and the police looked on while the students were being beaten up. The students’ union and many students who were present on the campus have charged that the BJP-affiliated ABVP was responsible for the attack. Outsiders, including lumpen elements, took part in the attack.

The ABVP has denied the charge and blamed Leftist students for the violence. But circumstances point to the involvement of the ABVP or anti-Left elements. The JNU has been a target of the BJP and the central government for long. The recent decision to increase the fees was as a part of the pressure against the university. The students have been protesting against the fee hike and were in the forefront of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. It was when some peace efforts were being made after some untoward incidents had taken place on the campus that Sunday’s attack was staged. Credible evidence has already come out which shows that the violence was pre-planned and anti-Left elements were in charge of it and perpetrated it.

It is a frightening situation when students are attacked by goons and subjected to organised violence and the university authorities and the police play a dubious role, amounting to abetment and complicity. This is not just a law and order problem but is part of a culture of violence seen in mob lynchings, suppression of protests, intimidation and punishment of dissenters and a general intolerance. Neither the inquiry nor the claims made by the government or the BJP will carry much conviction because the institutional, public and personal trust that should ideally guide a democratic system has already been lost. Violence is resorted to with impunity, facts are denied, falsehood is freely asserted. If either of the contrary claims about the JNU violence is true, we are living in danger.

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