Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur may have withdrawn her campaign against the violence that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) unleashed on the campus last week, but she has left the ground with her head held high. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that the goons of the ABVP --- helped by Union ministers and a few prejudiced celebrities --- hounded her out of the unfolding narrative. But fortunately they have not been able to scare others: Hundreds of students, who believe in freedom of speech and peaceful protests and dislike the Parishad’s strong arm tactics, showed that they are brave enough to come out and have their say against the violence on Tuesday. The students were joined by teachers from DU and JNU and have also been supported by international academics as well as other institutions like the Delhi School of Economics. Faculty members of Lady Shri Ram College, where Ms Kaur is a student, also expressed support for her campaign.
All those who have been trolling and threatening Ms Kaur would not have had to the guts to do so if senior members of the BJP-led government, including Union ministers, had not fanned the flames and made wrong associations between different events to vitiate the atmosphere. Union minister Jitendra Singh on Monday said the country will not allow premium on anti-India activism and outlined the a “need to draw a bottom line on it”. In the same speech, he attacked separatists in Jammu and Kashmir for engaging in the politics of convenience and indulging in anti-national activities. “They (referring to separatists) are the people who are instigating their neighbours’ children to involve in stone pelting on security force personnel. Why don’t they ask their own children to do it?” he asked. Needless to say that there is no connection between what is happening in the Valley and in DU and by conflating these two issues, Mr Singh has sent out a dangerous signal. His colleague, minister of state, home affairs, Kiren Rijiju put out another seemingly innocuous question: “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind?” He also said that “freedom of expression is not a licence to shout anti-national slogans in campuses. Criticise the government but don’t abuse the motherland”.
It is surprising to hear that Mr Rijiju is making that distinction between the government and motherland, when actually it is the BJP-ABVP-RSS leaders are the ones who tend to confuse it all the time. Any kind of questioning is seen as an affront to the government and by extension, the “motherland”. This touchiness about any form of protest or dissent being anti-national is what is emboldening the likes of the ABVP.