Disclaimer: The author doesn’t condone violence in any form, whether it’s an incident of some masked goons entering a University campus and attacking students, or a raging crowd pelting stones at the on-duty policemen. However, he completely supports the use of optimal force to bring society in order when it’s being shred to pieces by anti-social forces.
The idea of India is not simple. It is a land of chaos, conflict and yet of co-existence. Understanding a country which has its entire history filled with the tales of being plundered, ruled and enslaved by foreign tyrants and yet somehow managed to survive its originalities, cannot be a cakewalk.
The same applies to Indian politics. Right since the independence in 1947, Indian politics has silently and agonizingly witnessed rise and fall of ideologies, assassination of its supreme leaders and an era where it was held prisoner despite independence in the name of national emergency.
Last month, a protest was out on the streets. The shout was of inequality, of discrimination, of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra. The damage to public property was worth billions in Rupees.
First thing first, no form of society should allow lawlessness and damage to state property. The loss to the exchequer on account of protests and agitations, adding productive time, inconvenience to citizens, loss of education and work time is gigantic. In a free society, a citizen is free to choose whatever interpretation of nationalism he wants, but as a free society the responsibility lies with its citizens to choose a narrative that doesn’t compromise on national interest.
The greater tragedy behind this whole situation was it being supported or rather led and guided by the students of some of the finest universities in India. Students protested on the streets, created chaos, disturbed civilians, and indulged in frequent physical clashes with policemen. Issues after issues, the protests intensified – first it was against the controversial Citizen Amendment Act, followed by the police action at Jamia Milia and then the registrations after fee hike at JNU.
The one which was the most concerning of them all was the ruckus created over fee hike, and hence it must be addressed first. Those masked goons are being identified by Delhi police and they must be subjected to the harshest punishment for the crime under our law. There cannot be any justification to this violence, there can only be proper penalty and punishment.
But, let’s also look at the ignored side of the story about what happened before this violence because that too, though unequally, is completely a punishable and unconstitutional offence.
Students damaged the university property and resources, and indulged in brawls with their college mates who were voluntarily choosing to register for the next semester, the right which Indian constitution provides them. Stopping a citizen from exercising his/her rights is unconstitutional and a punishable offence under the constitution of India. This happened at a time when the University had already agreed to decrease the hike to half of the original hike, and the government had communicated its intention through various channels (since the students were adamant not to talk directly) to completely roll back the hike. The reason behind the commotion in such a scenario reduces itself to a single objective of political and ideological propaganda.
Affordable education must be everyone’s right, but then selectively charging JNU a fee which has not changed in the last 40 years is an injustice to other central universities of the country who are paying increased fees on account of inflation. The claim that 40% of the students in JNU won’t be able to continue their education is completely contra-factual. Every student in JNU is almost certain to get an education loan if he/she is unable to pay the fees. Most students, especially those pursuing M.Phil. and PhD are recipients of scholarships. Junior Research Fellows are getting paid as high as Rs. 35,000 a month plus House Rent Allowances.
When our focus shifts to the protests over CAA, it becomes important to understand the political culture at these universities. JNU and Jadavpur, the two universities at the forefront of this uproar have a culture of ultra-left (Communist) ideologies. Frequent violence which these students become a part of, are a mere consequence of the core character of communism. In the recent past, these universities have consistently grown to become the nursery of radical politics, waging a conflict in which the lines between a hostile anarchic society and a civil democratic society are slowly getting blurred.
Living in a low-cost hostel, smoking pot, most of these students face existential crisis, and then they look for a purpose. This anti-establishment “Inquilabi” sentiment helps them justify their existence and pamper their ego. The result of it is, the actual addition to society and its principles through researches and studies from such students is null, contrary to the culture which these universities have consistently shown in the past. In a safe harbour, they are merely parroting an ultra-left ideology.
Because in a campus which is heavily biased towards left wing ideologies, being a communist is not a matter of bravery, something that requires sacrifice from students having other political ideologies in these institutions for standing up to their beliefs and conviction. In fact, being a communist is cheered as a sign of intellect. Far left ideologies in such campuses bring with itself a host of perks and privileges including favours from teachers in evaluation and grading, and recommendations. So, these “Brave”, “Rebellious” and “Anti-establishment” students are actually quite smartly reaping the benefits by just being a part of the ecosystem that talks, plans and causes disruption and disturbance to an otherwise normal academia.
The idea of Communism itself is pretty flawed. It has inflicted ineffable miseries on tens of millions of people under its regimes. More than 40% of the humanity suffered famines, censorship and every other sort of repression during the 20th century at the hands of communists. Marx’s arguably most celebrated theory of “Dialectical Materialism” has been proved dangerous in every practical aspect. If we look at the countries of the world which are the most democratic, open and prosperous societies today, they are all which embraced capitalism in the 20th century. Every regime that has rejected capitalism in the name of communism has failed. Abolishing private ownership and establishing state control of the economy can only lead to depriving the society of the entrepreneurship needed to push it forward. Mao Zedong’s “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution” had disastrous results, and it was only when Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping came into power that China’s economy started opening up. Post 1978, private ownerships and entrepreneurships were restored in China and Chinese GDP today (2019) is 66 times that of 1978.
Communism has always been an ideology of absolute certainty in its theories and beliefs. But there is never any self-reflection, interrogation of own views, and no sense that it might possibly be wrong. It revolves around a one-dimensional schema that reduces every aspect of society to a class struggle, ignoring technology, ideas, culture and faith. Every state that adopted communism, believing in its claims that the ultimate outcome of communism would be liberation, ultimately developed a new class elite which claimed dictatorship for itself.
Indian communists, especially the budding ones at such universities, like the founding fathers of communism, think that they know better than the benighted populace, and therefore they must have and retain the power to impose their views on the rest of the society. The real agenda is not anti-establishment but on the contrary, expansion of a new communist state over the society that would seize every right of self-expression, because communism by definition believes that any challenge to the new order under its rule is an illegitimate remnant of the earlier oppressive order.
These students are the latest instruments in political attacks expertly directed from Lutyens’ and other redundant political corridors. Unincited violence and damages to public property in the name of protests is a mere representation of their desperation about slowly losing their relevance in Indian politics. Hence, they turn to these students to mark their presence. It’s visible when these students shamelessly adopt selective protesting and choose to remain silent over the beating of their own fellow mates by policemen at Jadavpur University under the rule of a leftist government which ruined West Bengal with a mixture of violence and povertarian politics. It’s high time that students in such institutions discover some actual intellectual integrity and start contributing to the society in ways that could actually benefit it. These students are helping political parties turn India into an extortionist state, by providing a beautified, romantic and pleasant packaging to a beastly reality, which suits the taste of opposition and media.
So, the next time you hear some youth being glorified for being rebellious and antiestablishment, before idolising and romanticising them, better do a background check of the context.
[The article is the Third winning entry for the Article Writing Competition organized by Public Policy Club, IIFT. ]