Ramjas Not Alone, ABVP Has a Legacy of Violence and Vandalism
Delhi University has turned into a battleground, with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members attacking protesting students and teachers outside Ramjas College on Wednesday.
However, this is not the first time that ABVP activists have gone on the rampage. The RSS’ student wing has resorted to violence several times in the past. Here’s a recap of its long – and frequent – trysts with violence and controversy.
September 2016: Central University of Haryana
On 21 September 2016, Central University of Haryana, Mahendragarh staged a dramatised adaptation of Mahasweta Devi’s story Draupadi. ABVP members promptly held a protest, branding the play ‘anti-national’ for allegedly projecting Indian soldiers in a negative light. They also demanded the arrest of the teachers and students involved on the charges of sedition.
A report in The Indian Express quoted Pramod Shastri, president of ABVP’s Haryana unit, as saying:
May 2016: Jadavpur University
Students clashed in Jadavpur University in May 2016 after Bollywood film director Vivek Agnihotri screened his political drama Buddha in a Traffic Jam on the campus, amidst protests by a large section of Left-leaning students.
The ABVP not only screened the movie, permission for which had been denied by the varsity administration, but also manhandled and molested female students during the clashes.
March 2016: Delhi University
Ahwan, a students’ group, organised a discussion on 'The Life and Writings of Bhagat Singh' to mark Bhagat Singh’s martyrdom day. Chaman Lal, a retired JNU professor, was invited to speak.
Incensed by this, ABVP activists tried to disrupt the lecture by loudly shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and threatening violence.
January 2016: Rohith Vemula Suicide Case
In August 2015, PhD researcher Rohith Vemula and other members of the Ambedkar Students’ Association held a protest against the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Menon. A scuffle then broke out between ABVP and ASA members on the University of Hyderabad campus.
Susheel Kumar, an ABVP leader, made an “exaggerated” complaint of assault against Rohith, which eventually led to his suspension. On 17 January 2016, Rohith committed suicide as a result, triggering massive protests across India.
February 2016: JNU, Najeeb and the Anti-National Debate
On 9 February 2016, a protest was held on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus in Delhi to mark the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
Members of the ABVP and leftist outfits – who had organised the event – clashed at the venue. The ABVP later also alleged that anti-national slogans were chanted at the event. They demanded the arrest of the organisers, and cases of sedition were filed against them later.
This led to the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and two other student leaders. ABVP’s relentless protests also led to JNU being dubbed a hub of ‘anti-nationals’ – a tag it is still trying to fight off.
JNU student Najeeb Ahmad went missing on 15 October 2016 after an altercation with a few ABVP members the night before. The ABVP students had visited Najeeb’s hostel to distribute pamphlets for an upcoming election. It was there that the ABVP students got into an altercation with Najeeb, post which he was allegedly hit by an ABVP activist, Vikrant Kumar. It has been four months now yet Najeeb’s whereabouts are still unknown.
August 2015: Delhi University
The ABVP disrupted a screening of Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai, a documentary on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, at Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College (KMC). They objected to the "anti-religious" elements in the film.
February 2015: Jamshedpur Co-operative College
Angry over the suspension of college principal RK Das, ABVP members created a ruckus and indulged in vandalism on the premises.
ABVP and Amnesty
An Amnesty event organised in Bengaluru in August 2016 provided ABVP with yet another excuse to unleash mayhem.
The event, titled ‘Broken Families’, was meant to draw attention to alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. But ABVP members present at the event objected to the alleged "anti-national" slogans raised at the event. They demanded the arrest of those who allegedly raised the slogans and also stormed the Amnesty office building armed with petrol bombs.
While incidents of ABVP indulging in violence have been on the rise since BJP’s stormed to power in 2014, the student body has never shied away from muscle flexing. Even before BJP’s rise to power, ABVP has been involved in a long list of violent protests.
February 2008: Delhi University
ABVP activists went on the rampage in February 2008, vandalising Delhi University’s history department. The provocation: Inclusion of an essay titled 'Three Hundred Ramayanas' by AK Ramanujan in the recommended reading list for second year BA English Honours students. ABVP claimed that the essay “hurt Hindu sentiments”.
November 2008: Delhi University
In November 2008, ABVP again flexed its collective muscle. This was when Delhi University had organised a seminar titled 'Communalism: Fascism and Democracy, Rhetoric and Reality'.
ABVP objected to the presence of SAR Geelani, who had been acquitted in the Parliament attack case. Giving it reason yet again to vandalise the venue.
January 2012: Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune
ABVP protested the screening of Sanjay Kak's documentary Jashn-e-Azadi, forcing the college to indefinitely postpone a seminar titled ‘Voices of Kashmir’.
ABVP and a Legacy of Violence
ABVP clearly has a tainted legacy of violence and the Ramjas College incident is not an isolated one. Curbing dissent and imposing its flawed notion of nationalism has been the student wing’s forte for long. The question is, where does it stop and what are the authorities doing about it?