Last week, students and faculty of Kirori Mal College, Delhi University, became the latest victims of Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s (ABVP) hooliganism – something that has become rather routine with the students’ group. Their object of derision this time was Nakul Singh Sawhney’s Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, a documentary film that takes us to the heart of the riots that tore apart western Uttar Pradesh in 2013.
We were told students and a faculty member were threatened with rhetorical intimidations like “Main Hindu hoon, Main tujhe thappad maarunga [I am Hindu, I will slap you]”. ABVP leaders, however, insist there was no physical violence, and that they were protesting peacefully. For those of us who have been students in the university’s North Campus (I, too, attended Kirori Mal), ABVP indulging in violence is hardly surprising. Organised student violence by the group has always been a part and parcel of life in Delhi University – and many students have been at the receiving end of it in some form or the other.
There has always been a total lack of respect for ideologies other than its own. The unwillingness to engage in dialogue with anyone who doesn’t subscribe to its beliefs isn’t a new phenomenon either. However, what is disconcerting is that the ABVP’s tolerance levels seem to have dropped to a new low in the recent past. Anyone seen to be disagreeing with the ABVP’s idea of religion, state, economy, sexuality, etc. is now instantly labelled a Naxalite /Maoist/communist/Marxist/terrorist/homosexual. And this blanket objection to any form of expression incongruent with the ABVP’s worldview has been at the heart of its disruptionist activities in the recent past. Last year, the organisation had also disrupted a discussion on the Muzaffarnagar riots in the Delhi School of Economics.
A look at video recordings of the so-called protest last week leaves little doubt about the nature of “protest”. It is very clear what they really wanted: stop the film screening and to make people present feel threatened. The videos also testify that the ABVP tried to bully students into not recording proceedings. One wonders if it were not indulging in anything unlawful, why would it have a problem in things being on record.
But what lends the ABVP the kind of confidence it wields to so brazenly indulge in such hooliganism? I spoke to two ABVP leaders who were part of the group that tried to stall the screening of the documentary. Neither had watched the documentary completely but were convinced that it would hurt Hindu and Jat sentiments. They described the people behind the film as Naxalites and Maoists who disrupt the moral fibre of the society by demanding things like “economic inequality”. One of them asserted that there were always two sides to a riot and the documentary focuses on only one.
‘Yeh sab kar rahe hain to communist hi honge…’
Speaking to Newslaundry, the director of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, Nakul Singh Sawhney, also an alumnus of DU, said Right-wing forces always existed on campus, but never wielded the amount of power they do now. Sawhney said the idea of the university being an inclusive space where all kinds of ideas meet and interact was increasingly starting to not hold true for DU. “Although people have expressed their problems with the film, including Right wing Muslim leaders, this is the first time that the film has been stopped during a screening,” he stated.
‘They think they can get away with murder because they have a government at the Centre’
While calling the ABVP a fascist force may be a little bit of a stretch, the organisation, with its frequent headline making acts has only itself to blame for people being less than charitable to them. Also, it’s perhaps time the ABVP bothered to read the book or watch the movie it wants banned. After all, it only makes sense to know your enemy well.