I had joined JNU at a time when therewas BJP-led NDA government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the centre. Campus politics was at its feverish pitch as different communist outfits were ganging together to oppose the Vajpayee government. I entered the campus as a student till then uncommitted to any ideology but soon found myself with the ABVP which was trying to counter the communist propaganda and their manufactured agitations.
JNU, which is considered a communist citadel even now, was envisaged as a centre of Marxist thoughts by its founders. Right from the beginning, it was structured with academic programmes and faculty members drawn from the ranks and files of communist student wings. It was perpetuated through a system of patronage extended to Marxists at various levels even as alternative discourses were staunchly refuted and attempted to be nipped in the bud. There is no denying the fact that those not subscribing to Marxism had sought to create a breathing space for themselves as ‘Freethinkers’ but they remained under the awe of Marxism and could offer little resistance.
The Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) foray in the campus in early 1990s was an open challenge to the established forces in JNU who failed the test of ‘tolerance’ on several occasions. In their attempt to check the rise of ABVP, the communists had no qualms in shedding even the semblance of ‘tolerance’ which they so proudly flaunt to the outside world.
As communists on the campus continuously resorted to politics of lies and deception through their false propaganda machinery and open victimization of ABVP cadres, many JNU-ites like me started drifting towards ABVP. The high point was the expulsion of six ABVP leaders from JNU in 1999 at the behest of SFI-AISF led JNUSU. The decision of the JNU-administration was one-sided and without giving ABVP leaders a chance of hearing. It was ruthless and aimed at completely decimating ABVP. The expelled ABVP leaders were not even allowed to stay on the campus and a draconian order was issued for them to vacate their rooms immediately. Anyone sheltering them was warned with dire consequences.
It was a big blow to the organisation but the court came to its rescue. The order was quashed but after more than six months of long struggle. It was a lesson we learnt and started creating our own mechanism of defence. We started remaining alert and tried to pre-empt their designs wherever it was possible. Among many such incidents, one may be recounted when Ashok Singhal visited JNU to attend an RSS function. It was not a public function but communists thronged the venue to disrupt the programme. There were minor scuffles between ABVP and communist outfits. Later it was rumoured that SFI-AISF cadres were attacked and a demand for expulsion of ABVP leaders was made. This time we insisted for a Proctorial inquiry and the V-C who was under their pressure was somehow convinced that any action without proper inquiry will not stand the test of the courts. In the Proctorial inquiry, the lies of SFI-AISF were exposed. Apart from these major incidents, there were daily cases of victimisation by faculty members having open allegiance to communist parties. There are reports aplenty of students participating in public meetings or processions organized by ABVP getting humiliated in the class rooms and ostracized and even victimized in their career.
The communist politics which was deeply entrenched in JNU found it difficult to contend with ABVP’s discourse on nationalism. The coming of ABVP led to a major shift in the ideological debate of the campus with communists trying to counter ABVP through their discourse on ‘secularism’. The students’ wings of communists were backed by the faculty members and an influential section of administration. They always moved with a strategy, first their student wing would attack and raise an issue, then they would have a public meeting with their so called ‘eminent speakers’ and the JNUSU dominated by them would then be brought in to further press the issue. It would be followed by letters and appeals issued by groups of faculty members who would try to influence the student community with their open support to these communist outfits. Even then if the battle remained inconclusive, then the likes of Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechuri, Irfan Habib and Romila Thapar would visit the campus in the garb of their ‘eminence’.
In JNU, the communists have developed a complete system: they will hit you from several sides and even below the belt. They have a well oiled propaganda machinery which will convert lies into ‘facts’ and these facts will be sorepeatedly quoted that they will acquire the status of ‘truth’. To fight such huge machinery, ABVP relies on its cadre strength which is strongly committed to the cause of nationalism. The nation is today witness to similar kinds of tactics as we had experienced in JNU. Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister in a country which, according to them, is deeply divided and at odds with each other is unimaginable. Moreover, his rise at national level and acceptability at global level is something which they cannot tolerate.
The communists have been able to dominate academia through their grip over numerous academic institutions.They were setting the academic discourse at national level and acquiring ‘eminence’ by patting each other’s back. Now, everything appears lost to them, as the communists and the Congress have no remote chance of making a comeback at the national level in near future. So, one by one, they are returning awards and attempting to create an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Creating smoke without fire is an art in which they are most adept at. It is their age old practice which was rendered redundant due to repeated overuse.
The response to such tactics can only come by following the path of ideological commitment and thus exposing them in their own game. In JNU, we had countered them effectively and similar political will is required at the national level.
*Author Dr. Shiv Shakti Bakshi is Executive Editor of BJP mouthpiece Kamal Sandesh