Displaying crass political opportunism and stooping to a new low, the Congress and the Left are using the tragic suicide of a bright young research scholar, Rohith Vemula, and the anti-national sloganeering incident at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to malign the NDA in a venomous, slanderous campaign, and are attempting to spread unrest on a few campuses by poisoning impressionable minds. That they have failed in their diabolical plan and that a vast majority of students, thinking classes and common masses are outraged by their political machinations, has not deterred them. Without sparing a thought for the damage they are causing to the future of the students and the image of the country, these parties are acting in a most irresponsible and condemnable manner.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi jumped into the fray to make common cause with those who raised anti-national slogans at JNU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU). What he did not realise was that this immature soap-operatic act of fishing in troubled waters may make for two minutes of fame but sullies his party’s image, leave alone that of the nation.
Stretching the freedom of expression argument too far, Congress and Left leaders are seeking to justify anti-India slogans although it is well known that no fundamental right is absolute and the Constitution has placed reasonable restrictions on the freedom of expression.
Some opposition parties are also deliberately obfuscating the truth and indulging in Orwellian doublespeak by creating an impression that the critics of the government are being dubbed as “anti-national”. Nothing can be further from the truth. Anti-government slogans are understandable but no right-thinking person would tolerate anti-national slogans that seek to balkanise India. Dissent is agreeable, but those wanting the country’s disintegration cannot be tolerated, much less supported.
While only three or four of more than 740 universities have witnessed some kind of agitation by a handful of students with ideological affiliations to the ultra-left and Maoists, the opposition is claiming that unrest is sweeping across all campuses. Opponents of the BJP are resorting to hackneyed methods of trying to create social tension and indulging in vote-bank politics. The Congress and Left parties are responsible for promoting tension, disaffection and unrest on some campuses. For the Congress, it is politics of convenience — self-interest and that of the “first family” is above the party or nation. For the Left parties, weakening the system is part of their inflexible ideology.
Unfortunately, disproportionate publicity by a section of the media is also responsible for creating a false impression of unrest among students. It would be fallacious to dismiss the JNU incident as mere sloganeering by a handful of students. There is a need to go to the bottom of the issue. That JNU is a citadel of Marxist ideology is well known.
The Congress, which was in power for 60 years, had a vice-like grip over academic and cultural institutions. Left intellectuals, who were the beneficiaries of the Congress regime, want their hegemony to continue. Both Congress and Left leaders are intolerant of any contrary view, want to bulldoze public opinion and impose their beliefs. While they scream “intolerance”, their ideologues — be they historians, columnists or social scientists — are disdainful of any other worldview.
Rohith’s unfortunate suicide triggered a debate that was engineered to tarnish the reputation of some leaders, including Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya. Similarly, questions have been raised about the role of certain so-called rightwing students and the university administration.
If the suicide was shocking, what followed was even more so, with political parties making a beeline for the campus in the guise of paying homage to the deceased and indulging in abominably low politics.
It is time to set the record straight. The Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), which is a frontal outfit of the ultra-left, is known to have indulged in fascist politics and intimidated political rivals. Police records bear clear, unmistakable evidence on this. It is worth mentioning that it did not spare even the Dalit Students’ Union. Following Rohith’s suicide, the police were denied access to his body, and were manhandled, abused and blackmailed into filing an SC and ST atrocity case against people of the ASA’s choosing. It needs to be pointed out that the plight of Dalits in general and the activities of the ASA are two distinct issues. Talking against the ASA cannot be construed as talking against Dalits.
As a matter of fact, Dalits have overwhelmingly supported PM Narendra Modi. Nothing substantiates this more than the fact that the BJP has the highest number of Dalit and backward caste MPs. Having been trounced in the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress, which won only 44 seats, is not even eligible for main opposition status, while the communists’ strength shrank to single digits. These parties are unable to come to terms with reality and are trying to convert the tragic incident at HCU into an anti-Dalit issue.
On what grounds would the ASA justify offering namaz-e-janaza for Yakub Memon? And yet this anti-national act was organised as a protest on the HCU campus. Placards with slogans like “How many Yakub Memons could the state kill?” and “If one Yakub Memon was killed, hundreds of Yakub Memons will take birth in each house” were held. The ASA endorsed these views and supported these activities.
Another point that needs to be made is that Dattatreya did not name any student, nor did he call anybody casteist, extremist or anti-national. As a responsible public representative and the local MP, he forwarded a representation he received in which it was mentioned that the university had become a “den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”. The HRD ministry forwarded the same to the university for necessary action. False propaganda was unleashed to make people believe that the letter written by Dattatreya led Rohith to take the extreme step. A similar disinformation campaign was launched that Rohith was not given his stipend. This has also been proved wrong, as reflected in the bank accounts.
The contents of Dattatreya’s letter were similar to the concerns highlighted by Congress MP V. Hanumantha Rao. In a letter written on November 17, 2014, to the HRD minister, Rao expressed concern over happenings like the “Kiss of Love” event in HCU. His letter also mentioned a rape and kidnapping attempt and that during the last four years, students belonging to marginalised communities from Telangana had committed suicide due to alleged caste discrimination. The reminders sent by the HRD ministry regarding Dattatreya’s letter were routine — the same protocol was followed for Rao’s letter.
A number of students were expelled or suspended by HCU during the Congress regime and as many as 10 committed suicide during the UPA rule. Neither Gandhi nor CPM leader Sitaram Yechury found time to visit the university then. An inquiry has been set up under the chairmanship of a former judge. Let us wait for the report.
The government is determined not to allow campuses to be used for creating social tension and petty politicking. How could anybody support mischievous acts like burning the effigy of Lord Ram (in JNU), distributing pamphlets portraying Goddess Durga as a prostitute or observing “martyrdom days” for Mahishasura and Afzal Guru?
The slogans raised in HCU and JNU — “Kitne Yakub maroge, har ghar se Yakub niklega” and “Kitne Afzal maroge, har ghar se Maqbool niklega” — are similar. It is important to probe whether gullible university students were being targeted by forces inimical to the country. We can ill afford to forget the fact that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”.
The writer is Union minister for urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation, and parliamentary affairs