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Lock the goons up

It irritates many Indians, including those strictly apolitical, each time they find the foreign media describe the main opposition party of India, the BJP, as a 'Hindu fundamentalist party'.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2011 23:30 IST

It irritates many Indians, including those strictly apolitical, each time they find the foreign media describe the main opposition party of India, the BJP, as a 'Hindu fundamentalist party'. After all, the hoary days of the late 80s-early 90s when the party was synonymous with its steroids-pumped Hindu nationalism are in the past. Even

LK Advani now admits that the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 by Sangh parivar forces "badly dented the BJP's credibility". The 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, reminder as they were of the BJP's ideological DNA, too, have given way to the more or less standard image of an Opposition party that mostly plays by the rules of parliamentary democracy and by the norms of civilised behaviour. So the seriousness of the violence unleashed by activists of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student body affiliated to the BJP's mentoring 'cultural organisation', the RSS, can be seen as a flashback to the nasty, brutish behaviour of louts latching on to a nasty, brutish ideology of delivering extra-judicial justice.

Last week, a professor at the Government Agriculture College in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, was assaulted by ABVP workers. The louts found it perfectly fit to hand out their own idea of 'justice' as they alleged that the professor had been having 'illicit relations' with a student and had molested others. The university officials later denied the charge that the professor had engaged in any such illegal activity. This is especially believable since no complaints had been received by the authorities or the police from any 'victims'. But even if the charges were to be pursued and proved, goons under the banner of a students' union deciding that it was perfectly well within their rights to play moral police can hardly be the arbiters of guilt or innocence.

A lecturer of the college who intervened in the violence later succumbed to shock and died. ABVP state secretary Bharati Kumbhare stated that his death was now being used to settle scores against the students' body by its rivals, adding that "nobody had touched him". The ABVP may or may not have been responsible for the death, but it certainly is for the violent attack on the professor. It was the same organisation that had attacked HS Sabharwal, head of the political science department, Madhav College, Ujjain, in 2006. Sabharwal died after the attack. A Maharashtra court in 2009 acquitted the six students accused in the case due to lack of evidence. This time round, the BJP has a moral duty to condemn the ABVP's latest act of violence and use its influence to rein it in. It can always argue that the dots joining the ABVP to the RSS and the BJP are tenuous. But a body under its tutelage, ranting against 'immorality', can easily be perceived as a 'secularised' residue of the Sangh parivar's old nasty, brutish habit of treating the law as if it's not there.