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As the ideologue of ruling the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is in pursuit of its agenda of Hindu Rashtra.Ã CalculatedÃ attempts are being madeÃ by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Lotus party, to whip up trouble in universities by isolatingÃ the so calledÃ anti-nationals. BJP leaders are shouting from rooftops that they will come down heavily againstÃ anti-national elements.Ã The prestigious Central university – Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in the national Capital appears toÃ be a test case.Ã Ã
The State’s intervention isÃ to send a strong and stern message that dissent will not be tolerated.Ã The arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and cracking down on political dissent has brought to center-stage once again the BJP-led NDAÃ government’s bid toÃ stifle free speech. Kanhaiya Kumar has since been granted interim bail by the Delhi High Court, released and welcomed by thousands of JNU students in the campus where he addressed a large gathering of his fellow students Thursday evening and asserted that he was for Azadi within India and not from India. His hour-long speech has gone viral on the social media network.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu reacted by saying that the JNUSU president “”is getting free publicity and is enjoying it.”” “”They are all studying at a Central university, where public money is involved, so they must do justice to the cause and they must study, that’s all,”” Mr. Naidu advised. However, there is marked silence about action being taken against lower court lawyers for attacking Kumar as well asÃ roughing up reporters of the audio-visual as well as the print media.
The crackdown at JNU was instigated by the alleged chanting of anti-national slogans along withÃ a meeting to mark the death anniversary of Afzal Guru who was convicted and hanged for his involvement in Parliament House terror attack. Kumar was arrested and the outgoing DelhiÃ Police Commissioner B S BassiÃ claimedÃ that they had evidence to charge him with sedition which has rarely been proved in the past. If convicted for sedition, he faces life imprisonment. The JNUSU president has maintained he had notÃ said anythingÃ anti-national and has full trust and faith in the Constitution of India. Investigation agencies have found many of the videos showing Kumar shouting slogans to be doctored. The alleged complicity of the Delhi police under the leadership of Mr. Bassi been a matter of concern.
With tempers running highÃ against theÃ so calledÃ anti-national elements, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh and Human Resource minister Smriti Irani emphasized anti-national slogans will not be tolerated. The Centre views itself as being theÃ torch bearers of nationalism. The use of state power is to put the defenders of liberty and critics of the state on their guard. The RSS does not want to let goÃ thisÃ opportunity with the BJP havingÃ secured aÃ majority on its own in the Lok Sabha since the party was formed in 1980. During NDA I when BJP’s liberal stalwart Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister heading a disparateÃ 26-party coalition government from 1999 to 2004, the RSS was sidelined as the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) adopted then steered clear of the three point Hindutva agenda. These pertained to building a Ram temple at Ayodhya,Ã abrogation of Article 370 according special status to theÃ only Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in the country and having a Uniform Civil Code. The second time around the RSS is determined in implementing its agenda. They handpicked Mr. Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, in SeptemberÃ 2013 to be the BJP’s Pime Ministerial nominee. He did not disappoint. He carried the dayÃ repeatedly underlining that he is a Hindu nationalist. He stole the thunder with the people rootingÃ for him overwhelmingly as he focussed on development and stressed upon “”Sab ka Saath, Saab ka Vikas “”along with making a multitude of promises.
Mr. Modi’s invincibility at the hustings after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was shattered when he lost the assembly elections in Delhi last year. The BJPÃ suffered a mind boggling defeat managing only three seats and the remaining 67 in the 70-member assemblyÃ being gobbled upÃ by the fledgling Aam Aadmi party of chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. It was highly embarrassing for the Prime Minister. Then again later inÃ October-November the BJP suffered a loss of face in the assembly elections in Bihar,Ã one of the mainÃ battleground states in theÃ Hindi Heartland. Lalu Prasad Yadav and chief ministerÃ Nitish Kumar forming the Mahagatbandhan put paid to BJP’s hopes.
RealisingÃ thatÃ the Lotus party was safe in occupyingÃ the seat of power on the Raisina Hill tillÃ the 2019 general elections, Mr. Modi and the RSS appearÃ working to a game plan.Ã It will be naive to assume that the RSS pressure is not getting toÃ theÃ Prime Minister. The meeting ofÃ Vice-Chancellors of central universities under the aegis of Smriti Irani recently adopted a resolution that central universities should install the national flag on their campusÃ to instil patriotic fervour among the students. What it means isÃ that students of JNU are not nationalist enough barring a handful belonging to the ABVP. Other universities are also not sufficiently nationalist.
CounteringÃ the BJP or the Sangh Parivar is not going to be easy. The courts will no doubt have their say but the incident in JNU is a warningÃ to theÃ people who disagree with the BJP’s Ram Rajya. The obstacles in countering the Parivar are many. Mr. Modi’s second term as Prime Minister will depend on predelictions of his masters inÃ Nagpur where the RSS is headquartered. His chancesÃ will primarily depend on whether he is able to deliver on his pledges. He has shown he canÃ think out of the box and take snap decisions. On the other had UPA IIÃ had lost its vigour with thenÃ Prime Minister Manmohan SinghÃ and UPA chairpersonÃ Sonia GandhiÃ dabbling in dual authority. For the BJP and the Sangh Parivar JNU is a test case given the various student bodies’Ã Left orientation and secular character. The present challenge is a test forÃ the country’s political democratic system as well as the opposition to strike a balance. ShuttingÃ down JNU might well be pipe dream.
T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and a commentator. Views are personal.”