Here’s your chance to act against ‘goondas’, Mr Amit Shah

cities Updated: Feb 23, 2017 20:26 IST

At an election meeting in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is campaigning hard to wrest power from the SP – its president, Amit Shah, came down heavily on ‘gundagardi’ (hooliganism). He promised swift action, saying, the day the BJP came to power in the state, there would be no hooligan left because “the BJP will hang them upside down and set them right”.

Whether the BJP wins UP or not will of course be known only on March 11 but Shah has been presented an opportunity of coming true to his words. Members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have been running riot in Delhi’s Ramjas College and their ‘gundagardi’ has been in full display for over two days now.

The ABVP, essentially a students’ body, has every right to participate in campus activities but it did not come to Ramjas to attend the seminar being organised by the English department and the college’s English Literary Society. Young students were excited and looking forward to an engaging discussion on dissent in politics, state, literature and sexuality.

Instead, students were cowering in fear, because the goons — the ABVP is affiliated to the RSS and participates in joint activities with the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, BJP’s official youth wing — went completely out of control. At one point, stones were thrown into the seminar room, shattering glass panes. The electricity too was turned off and everyone in the room was trapped in darkness. Students, organisers and speakers were forced to duck behind chairs because the only exit had been blocked by the goons.

Here are more details: The ABVP members forced their way in, shouting slogans, looking for ‘anti national’ Umar Khalid, a JNU student who was booked for sedition along with Kanhaiya Kumar. The students’ body has no business doling out certificates in patriotism or forcing the college into calling off the rest of the event. Khalid has the right to speak at a place of his choosing. The Delhi Police, in fact, has not even been able to file a chargesheet against him within the stipulated 90 days. A year has gone by since he was booked.

It is surprising that the police did little to control the hooligans, who managed to show up again the next day and this time roughed up students and journalists, including my colleague Heena Kausar.

Universities are temples of knowledge, where dissent can be voiced peacefully but no, the ABVP had neither respect for an idea exchange nor fear of the law.

There are many witnesses to the hooliganism the BJP president promised strict action against. The teachers and students can testify, as can journalists and the policemen who, in Delhi, report not to the Arvind Kejriwal government but to the home ministry.

The ABVP did not just take law into its hands. It stands guilty of transgressing other boundaries: stifling the freedom to expression and the freedom to dissent.

It would be important for Shah to remember that hooliganism is an IPC offense. It cannot be viewed through the prism of political ideology or electoral gain, nor can state boundaries define or redefine its essential meaning. Hooliganism in UP is no different from ‘gundagardi’ in Delhi.

First Published: Feb 23, 2017 10:53 IST