The saffron gangs have been targeting minorities, Dalits and progressives all over the country. Now, they have resorted to violence. The Hindutva henchmen have invoked gau raksha (protection of cows) to go after minorities, while those of the dwij mindset have the Dalits and the Tribals in their crosshairs. They are assaulting the progressives for refusing to toe the Hindutva nationalist line and are branding them as anti-nationals. Needless to say, the saffron attackers enjoy the patronage of the powers that be.
On 6 August 2018, in the Bettiah district of Bihar, the workers of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) assaulted Shabnam Hashmi, a well-known human rights activist; Yugal Kishor Sharan Shastri, social activist and an eyewitness to the Babri Masjid demolition; Reshma Prasad, transgender activist; and Harinarayan Thakur, principal of Maharani Janki Kunwar College, and forced them to sing Vande Mataram.
Harinarayan Thakur is a Bahujan thinker and author and has regularly written for Forward Press. He has authored several books, including Dalit Sahitya Ka Samajshastra, Bharat Mein Pichda Varga Andolan and Parivartan Ka Naya Samajshastra.
The incident took place as a national seminar on “Diversity in India: Education and Social Harmony” was being held on the premises of Maharani Janki Kunwar College. As soon as Reshma Prasad began her speech with the slogans “Jai Bhim”, “Jai Bharat” and “Inquilab Zindabad”, ABVP kicked up a ruckus. They climbed on to the dais and surrounded Shabnam Hashmi. They called her an anti-national, abused her and asked her to sing Vande Mataram. When Harinarayan Thakur tried to intervene, they attacked him, too. They broke the microphone. It was only after the members of the Bhim Army and AISA, who were present at the function, took on the assaulters that the latter were forced to leave the venue.
Local MLA Madan Mohan Tiwari, condemning the ABVP workers, said that this kind of violent, anti-social behaviour couldn’t be tolerated. “This is an attack on freedom of expression and is highly condemnable,” he said.
AISA district in-charge Sunil Yadav said that participants of the seminar were discussing India’s social, gender, cultural and linguistic diversity. The programme was announced well in advance and the college administration had issued a press release about it. Many local newspapers carried the news. This assault proves that ABVP and its political masters are not ready to accept the nation’s diversity. In the recent past, horrific incidents of sexual violence and atrocities have shaken the nation to the core, unemployment is rampant and the survival of the farmers and workers has come under threat. But instead of raising these issues, this subsidiary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is disrupting seminars and attacking and humiliating human rights and social activists and calling them names. This is shameful, to say the least.
Reacting to the incident, Bhim Army’s Himanshu Kumar said, “Who are the people irked by the ‘Jai Bharat, Jai Bhim’ slogan? Aren’t they the same who oppress the Dalits, who deprive them of education, who killed Rohith Vemula and who threw Chandrashekhar Ravan behind bars? Let them hear it clear and loud, we will not be cowed down.” AISA’s Rahul Kumar said hooliganism wouldn’t be allowed on the college premises and that the slogans ‘Jai Bhim’, ‘Jai Bharat’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ would be raised a thousand times every day. “India is no one’s fiefdom. A capitalist has as much rights here as a labourer,” he said. He urged the district and the college administrations to take tough action against the hooligans.
Harinarayan Thakur, the college principal, had a case (number 628/18) registered in the local police station in which Ravi Patel and his associates have been named as the accused. But the fact that they have not been arrested even two weeks after the incident shows that the attackers enjoy the patronage of the ruling dispensation. Thakur has written to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Champaran Range, the District Collector, Superintendent of Police (SP), Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) and the police station in-charge saying that a delay in arrest of the accused would only boost their morale. The police have not registered the case for a non-bailable crime despite the fact that the incident was a clear case of “assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty”. The principal has also alleged that the same elements have been caught eve-teasing on the college premises. The girls do not lodge complaints for fear of the social stigma. He has demanded that police personnel be deployed on the college premises and has also sought police protection for himself.
Translation: Amrish; copy-editing: Anil
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