The opposition is likely to put up a joint campaign in Parliament against the “vicious campaign of communal hatred” launched by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates in university campuses across the country, including violence in Ramjas College.
The second part of the budget session of Parliament commences on March 9, two days ahead of the counting of votes in five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur on March 11.
The tone and tenor of both the ruling and opposition camps will depend much on the outcome of the assembly elections in these states, especially the country’s most populous and politically important state of Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest 80 of the total 543 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
In the past also, the Congress and other opposition parties had taken on the BJP-led NDA government in Parliament on issues related to Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) protests at Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad Central University campus as well as the ruckus in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury on Tuesday said the issue will be raised in Parliament. “Our nationalism is ‘We are Indian’ not, ‘Who is a Hindu?” he said taking on the BJP and Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
The ABVP is the students’ wing affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP, and was linked to February 22 violence at DU’s Ramjas College.
APSC was de-recognised by IIT Madras after the Union human resources development ministry forwarded a complaint by some students, accusing the group of fomenting “hatred” against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and instigating protests against the Centre’s policies by distributing provocative pamphlets and posters on the campus.
While FTII students had launched an agitation against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the head of the institution, Vemula and five other students were suspended by the Central University in connection with an alleged attack on an ABVP leader.
In JNU, the then students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested in a sedition case over an event at the varsity against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.
In the case of Ramjas issue, the Congress is expected to give a final shape to its Parliament strategy in next 2-3 days while the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United) and the Left parties have indicated that they are going to vociferously raise the matter in both Houses.
“The Ramjas issue is condemnable beyond words. Ironically, the BJP has no problem in doing business with J-K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who according to former RAW chief AS Dulat – has links with the Hizbul Mujahideen,” JD(U) spokesperson KC Tyagi said.
Outside Parliament, the Congress has been consistently attacking the BJP on the issue, alleging that after demonetisation, the Modi government is now trying to impose a ban on the freedom to think independently.
“After notebandi, it is zubanbandi and sochbandi (a ban on speech and thought),” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
“You have no right to think, you have no right to speak and you have no right to dissent. I don’t know how far they say you have no right to live except in accordance with the norms set up by this government. Perhaps, let’s hope that the day will not come,” he said.
Surjewala said it was important to note that what happened after a 20-year-old girl, Gurmehar Kaur, dared to say that she is opposed to the ‘goondagardi’ of ABVP.
“She is threatened with rape, and is abused and trolled in choicest of words on social media by blind ‘bhakts’ of a certain section of the populace and the ABVP friends,” he said.
“Why? Can somebody not say that beating up your teachers and beating up fellow students is contrary to the culture of this country? Can somebody not say that goondaism will not be tolerated? Would you be raped for saying that the ABVP goons should stop their hooliganism from campuses? This is not the first time that this is happening,” the Congress leader added.
Recalling how Vemula was allegedly driven to commit suicide because he was a Dalit, Surjewala alleged that he was hounded and persecuted by the ABVP.
“You will be persecuted, hounded or trolled, if you are either a woman or you are a Dalit or a student coming from a poor background, or if you are a student who has a mind and a voice of his own. I do not think this is the culture of this country. It goes against the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb of India,” he said.
Surjewala said the universities and the colleges will never accept the culture of beating up of teachers, the use of violent means against fellow students as a way to settle scores and the language of threat and abuse to everyone who disagrees with the BJP and the ABVP.
“This is neither India’s culture nor our tradition.”