“When applied to politics and taken to its extreme, kitsch is the mask of death. Fascism was all aesthetics. There was no core principle to it. There was no truth to it.”
~ John Cusack
Zero is the probability of voicing your opinion, your identity, your idea in this opinionated land, because dissent is a crime. We survive in a democracy, as they say, and in this democracy, the world’s largest one while you are at it, thinking and being different lands you in prison after being hunted like medieval witches and reduced to your ‘immediate identity’.
Jingoism, Nationalism and Patriotism are very thin lines to walk on, where any wrong step might accuse you of warpping people’s minds to manufacture ‘anti-nationals’. They call for faith, not reason. Ultra-nationalism calls for aggression and hatred in minds already blind to reason. It has to be established. It has to be propagated. This year marks the plunder of all the major universities and institutions throughout the country under the garb of ‘nationalism’ to the extent that people have started finding a pattern to this: Attacking one premier institution after the other and assaulting anyone who voices an opinion different from the official one with whatever means available (legal or not, official or not). Starting from FTII to HCU to JNU to JU, the party in power via its outfits has left no stone unturned to occupy the institutions both physically and ideologically. The incident surrounding the molestation and bashing of students in Jadavpur University by ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, student organization of BJP) members is an event that cannot and should not be seen through the prism of insider/outsider binary. Such quick and simplistic explanations prove detrimental in the long run, not bringing to the fore the larger problem at play, perverting the actual cause and effect in the chain of events.
For now, let’s concentrate on the events which led to the declaration by ABVP, calling for a march to Jadavpur Univeristy on 9th May. It all began with the screening of a film, Buddha in a Traffic Jam, at Triguna Sen Auditorium in the university. The hall belongs to the Jadavpur University Alumni Association. Reportedly, they granted permission for screening the film in the mentioned space to a group of students who belong to the ‘Think India’ group, allegedly an undeclared pro-BJP group. The programme included a panel discussion with Vivek Agnihotri, the director of the film and actor, Anupam Kher. All was well till the Alumni Association cancelled the permission given earlier for screening the film. It was then that Agnihotri tweeted for an open protest screening of the film in the JU grounds without seeking permission from the authority. Meanwhile, a large group of ABVP members who have no affiliation with the university marched inside the campus joining the ‘protest’ screening. The students of JU marched in protest showing a black flag to the director and shouted slogans, continuing the agitation after he reached the JU grounds in his car.
Once the director had taken his seat, the organizers went on to say a lot of things totally irrelevant to the film or the idea of ‘Freedom’. Some of the pertinent points are as follows:-
1) JU students, who oppose BJP and its outfits, are “intellectual terrorists”.
2) The left is afraid that their mechanism of brainwashing students has been discovered, and they are curbing Think India’s democratic rights to screen the film.
3) From the platform of the “film screening”, a certain organizer (student of the university) had proclaimed that he would start a “new party unit” that will adhere to the ideologue of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and will lead JU to glory. Last but not the least, the organizer also said that when the time will come they will show what violence is. All of this is recorded in many cell phones and cameras.
A crucial point that needs to be noted, as it has been totally missed by all media houses, is that one person out of the ABVP rally shouted ‘Pakistan Maange Azaadi’, ‘Tibbat maange Azaadi’ and so on. What was he playing at? Does this signify that they planned to raise a similar controversy as they did in JNU where ABVP members shouted the same slogans and blamed it on leftist students? No one knows. No media house talked about it or even recorded it. Here is the video link of the events mentioned above.
Students organized a counter-protest screening of the film Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hain, a film that talks about the massacre resulting from the allegedly state-sponsored riot by RSS-BJP in Muzaffarnagar. The screening of this film has constantly been violated and vandalized in every part of the country by BJP-RSS goons and all their outfits. Meanwhile, in the evening, the Joint Registrar came and cancelled both the screenings. While he was coming to tell the students about the cancellation, around 30-40 ABVP/RSS members came along with him hurling abuses and molesting the students. It was at this time when all hell broke loose, leading to a scuffle and finally the students caught hold of the four molesters, while all the other ABVP goons/members fled. They were taken to Aurobindo Bhavan, the administrative building, and the Vice Chancellor was called to hand them over to the police. Outside gate 1 of the campus arrived Rupa Ganguly, a star campaigner for BJP along with her supporters and sympathisers. Threats, abuses and pushing through the gate continued. They even started kicking the gate to forcefully enter the campus ground. Finally the VC arrived and promised the students to hand the alleged molesters over to the police who too were waiting outside the campus. But till now, the four accused have not been arrested. The authority gave a statement to the media to build pressure on the police to arrest them. FIR was also lodged against the four ABVP members by students of Jadavpur University separately. The names of the accused are: Debashish Chowdhury, Tanmay Basak, Parthapratim Chakraborty and Sandip Das.
The VC in his statement to the media has primarily blamed ‘outsiders’, .i.e. the ABVP members, for the whole event; simultaneously he also blamed the Alumni Association for the whole ruckus as they had given permission for the screening of the film previously only to cancel it later on. The Governor, on the other hand, who is also the chancellor of the University has asked for a report of the whole incident that took place, declaring that JU is ‘fast turning into centre for disturbance’.
Through the succeeding two days, various campaigns have been started by the outfits of ABVP and RSS against students, teachers and the university in general. The old tag of anti-nationalism and JU being a hub of ‘intellectual terrorists’ was being propagated, finally culminating in a call for a march from Golpark to 8b.
For now, do not fasten your seat belts because Kolkata Police constructed three barricades between the area of gate 4 and Jadavpur police station. The whole space looked like a war zone. On one side stood the students, singing songs, chanting slogans of Azaadi and all set to resist as they had declared. On the other the ABVP cadres tried desperately to break through the barricades. Ultimately they failed and walked back the path they had marched.
>> Moments from the day <<
So much so for the events that took place broadly. Every media channel has written and shown the above events vividly. What it needs is an analysis. Amidst the whole array of events, there are some things that have been forgotten or ignored.
First, the students were not there to disrupt or shut the film screening down. Ignoring the fact that the film did not get permission to be screened at the University from the Film studies department, one thing is certain that the space was used as a platform of propaganda. We do not need to think much about this because of their open declaration about opening a new political union ‘loyal’ to the nation and ridding the campus of ‘intellectual terrorists’. We all can do the simple math here. The fact that one is screening a film focussing on students’ movement, the benevolent side of the banned organization Salwa Judum and sandwich theory, reeks of hidden political agendas and intentions. The case does not stand when time and again the event organisers mentioned they had gathered for watching a film peacefully. When the political intentions of the programme had been revealed, the director should have dealt with the whole incident politically instead of resorting to falsehood, deceit and hate speech (a speech packed with lies and hatred towards the entire left fraternity).
Second, the most pertinent point of this incident is the insider/outsider binary mentioned by the Vice Chancellor that needs some analysis. It is a dangerous notion and one which has to be dealt with immediately. Let’s just take ourselves outside the narrative of education as propagated by the ruling party and focus on what we think and feel. A university is not just a space where people study, give exams, get results and go out. A university is a space of individual growth in spheres of politics and culture along with the broadening of minds. People from all walks of life come to meet each other and this becomes a large web of people connected to each other, always teaching each other through their experiences, laughter, smiles, joy and pain. Therefore, the concept of belonging to a university is not just about studying there. In a university like Jadavpur, the gates are always open for anyone to enter, literally and metaphorically. The insider/outsider binary does not work here. When the VC talks about the incident as a work of ‘outsiders’, does that mean the ‘insiders’ get to enjoy impunity from the crime if they commit the same? There have been cases of molestation of students by students of the university itself. The point being, any case of molestation has to be dealt with the same strictness, the insider/outsider notion is irrelevant here. This being said, there is an even more harmful and reactionary message that gets propagated from this binary. It calls for ghettoizing Jadavpur University, trying to tear it apart from the rest of society. We need to remember that this fight is not against one screening. This fight is not just against one Agnihotri or the one party in power. It is a fight to establish democracy, a fight for right to dissent and a fight for equality inside or outside the campus. The university is not a discontinuous space detached from society. All aspects of society are bound to have their grasp over the university. It is not an insider versus outsider issue. It might be about saving an institution and its democratic space, but limiting the movement within the institution would be betraying its spirit. Join the dots of HCU, JNU, Bastar and Kashmir along with the recent incident at JU, and you shall get a clearer look at the larger picture at play and what awaits us!
: Disclaimer :
Whatever argument is put forward is an individual opinion and BongRong neither supports nor opposes any argument.