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BJP’s nationalism card seems to be backfiring

Saturday , 27 February 2016

Delhi BJP MLA O P Sharma seen here, physically assulting a political activist of AISF, the youth wing of the Communist Party of India on 15th February Pic/thehitavada

Shifting from Modi’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ mantra, which won the BJP the election in May 2014, the ruling party seems to have adopted a stance of aggressive muscular nationalism, of late …and, it appears to be backfiring.

The man, who seems to have bungled it this time around, is Rajnath Singh, who was once dubbed by his former suave senior colleague, Jaswant Singh, as a “provincial”. Perhaps, eager to shed this image and to prove his credentials as India’s Home Minister, the politician from Uttar Pradesh, seemed to be in a great hurry to label JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) students as “anti-nationals”. He also issued a certificate to the Delhi Police Commissioner, BS Bassi, for cracking down on the JNU campus within a day.

The sequence of events that have followed, since the arrest of the alleged anti-national JNU Students Union President, Kanhaiya Kumar, on the serious charge of sedition, have left the reputations of, both, Rajnath Singh and BS Bassi, severely tarnished.

Encouraged by a muscular nationalism that is favoured by the Sangh Parivar, a bunch of right-leaning lawyers and the Party’s Delhi MLA, OP Sharma, were seen on camera, beating up students and professors of JNU, when Kanhaiya was produced in court on February 15, 2016. Even female journalists covering the event were not spared. Despite documented evidence of this lawlessness, Bassi’s police did nothing.

When Kanhaiya was produced in court again, two days later, the same bunch of hooligans, donning the coats of lawyers, beat up journalists. What’s more, even Kanhaiya was not spared, despite the Supreme Court directing the police to ensure that he was provided full protection.

When confronted by an outraged media, BS Bassi’s lame excuse for the police’s inaction was that they had not used force, because they wanted to avoid “collateral damage”. This begs the question: Why were the culprits not held in preventive detention after the first incident (of the 15th), especially when they were caught on camera defiantly declaring their resolve to indulge in similar unlawful activities two days later?

When questioned again after the second incidence of violence, BS Bassi’s pathetic response was that summons have been issued to the lawyers. Summons that were blatantly ignored by the lawless lawyers. This same bunch of hooligans continue to roam the streets of Delhi with impunity, while Bassi’s police, perhaps under orders from his political masters, remain mute spectators.

 “The ruling party’s calculation that the display of muscular nationalism, while dealing with the JNU incident, will help them overcome the setback they suffered after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student of Hyderabad Central University, seems to have clearly backfired.”

It now seems that even the video cited, with great alacrity by BJP spokespersons, as proof of Kanahaiya Kumar raising distasteful and anti-national slogans, is fake. A leading English-language TV channel has demonstrated clearly, with the help of forensic experts, that the video was morphed, prima facie.

This has left the ruling party red-faced. However, instead of showing remorse, they continue to brazenly defy clear proof of innocence by saying, let the judiciary decide whether or not the footage is fake. Like parrots, BJP figures chant on news channel after news channel, that the key point remains that anti-India and seditious slogans were, indeed, raised at the JNU campus. They, however, fail to explain why Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested, without due diligence on the part of the Delhi police.

Despite Supreme Court’s orders, Kanhaiya Kumar was beaten up by a bunch of rowdy right wing lawyers outside and inside the Patiala House Court premises on 17th February Pic/Facebook- Azaan Javaid

The irony is that, even though those who allegedly raised the inflammatory and anti-national slogans were clearly identified from footage of the February 9, 2016 event, BS Bassi’s police failed to nab them for almost two weeks after the incident, until they, themselves, resurfaced on the JNU campus on the 21st/22nd of February, 2016. Contrast this, with the swift action taken against JNU’s democratically-elected student leader, on the basis of fake footage, purportedly provided to the police by JNU’s ABVP wing (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is the youth wing of RSS, which is the parent organisation of the ruling BJP).

It is clear from the behaviour of this “provincial” die-hard saffron Home Minister and his entourage of rowdy followers, that the pseudo-nationalist party in power today has no time, even for the advice of its blue-eyed favourite spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who advised the government to be compassionate when dealing with wrongdoers. Neither do they have the time or inclination to consider adopting a more open-minded view, like that of one of their own tallest leaders, former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had famously declared that he was even willing to talk to Kashmiri separatists, within the parameters of “insaniyat” (humanism).

The ruling party’s calculation that the display of muscular nationalism while dealing with the JNU incident will help them overcome the setback they suffered after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student of Hyderabad Central University, seems to have clearly backfired.

What the party fails to understand is that, while the kind of divisive politics it is practising—majority versus minority, nationalist versus anti-nationalist, etc.—may please and appeal to its rabid followers, it fails to have any resonance among the vast majority of the average Indian citizenry.

Despite documentary evidence, BS Bassi’s Delhi Police failed to rein-in the leaders of the rogue group of lawyers, who repeatedly violated the law with impunity Pic/

The ruling party must realise, after the JNU incident that fostering a culture of intolerance, under which dissent—even alleged dissent—is brutally shut down, under the guise of ‘nationalism’ will not be accepted by Indians. Being the world’s largest democracy, it’s imperative upon the ruling party to safeguard the very tenets of this system of government, which include civil liberties and freedom of speech.

Narendra Modi will do well to rein in his ministerial colleagues like Bandaru Dattatreya, Smriti Irani and Rajnath Singh, who have no business in directly intervening in the affairs of autonomous educational institutes like The Hyderabad Central University and JNU.

Perhaps, like his call for a ten-year moratorium on sectarian conflicts, he needs to enforce at least a one-year moratorium on his ministerial colleagues and party men on transgressing the boundaries of good governance, so that India can march ahead on the path of development …which is exactly what a huge majority of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen want. And, for this to happen, Modi must realise that an atmosphere of social harmony among the various hues and shades of the great people of India, is an absolute must.