Political divide, free speech focus of protests in India: Chinese media

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Feb 23, 2016 20:48 IST
JNUSU supporters protest in front of a gathering in front of Admin Building in New Delhi . (Vipin Kumar /HT Photo)

The student protests in India are a result of the inevitable clash between left and right ideologies but they are unlikely to shake Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s government, Chinese state media said in a rare opinion piece on the unrest.

The focus of the protests is the right to free speech but at the heart of the debate is the wide ideological divide between the RSS and BJP on one side, and the left-leaning Jawaharlal Nehru University and liberals on the other, said the piece in the nationalistic Global Times newspaper.

The Communist Party of China (CPC)-ruled country has a history of violence against students, most infamously in 1989, when the military opened fire and deployed tanks at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to suppress a student-led pro-reform and democracy movement.

The students wanted political reform but CPC elders clamped down on the agitation with, what many say, was disproportionate force.

In October 2014 and again earlier this month, the Chinese government quelled student protests with force in the financial hub of Hong Kong.

India-based Chinese state media has kept reportage on the students protests restricted to news reports. The Global Times opinion piece is possibly the first one to share an opinion on what a section of academics in China thinks about the demonstrations.

“Ever since Indian PM Narendra Modi took office, left-wing forces that uphold secularism have always been lashing out at the BJP and its political offshoot Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for promoting Hindutva (Hindu nationalism), hampering the freedom of expression and jeopardising India’s tentative harmony,” Zhang Shujian from the influential China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) wrote.

Zhang traced events from last year’s beef ban and attacks on social activists by right-wing forces, saying it angered Indian intellectuals and cultural figures and prompted the debate on intolerance.

“Facing the accusation, the BJP has not flinched, but engaged in the debate against the left wing with great fanfare. Being pushed to the eye of the storm in the ideological confrontation was only a matter of time for the JNU, a traditional front of India’s left wing,” Zhang added.

But the protests are unlikely to shake Modi’s hold on power or popularity, the writer concluded.

“In the by-elections on February 13, the BJP won four out of 12 seats, including Muzaffarnagar, the worst-hit area of communal clashes between the Hindu and Muslim communities. This reflects that the controversy, for the moment, is not strong enough to shake Modi’s throne,” Zhang wrote.

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