ABVP: In the footsteps of Pakistan’s Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba; ominously so
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ABVP: In the footsteps of Pakistan’s Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba; ominously so
Written by Javed Anand | Published on: February 28, 2016
The unfolding Modi-BJP-RSS-ABVP nexus in India is but a replay of the Zia ul Haq-Jamaat e Islami-Islami Jamiat e Talaba axis in Pakistan in the 1970s
Ideologically speaking, the ‘Hindu nationalist’ Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) with its Hindu Rashtra agenda is the mirror image of the Abu Ala Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami with Islamic state and Shariah law as its goal. It should not be surprising then that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – the student body floated by the RSS – is beginning to look more and more, and ominously so, like the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) – the student wing floated by Maududi in Pakistan.
“If you want to change a country, change its students,” noted American writer and journalism,Dan Brooks in an article, ‘Know your theocrats: Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba’, which he wrote in 2011. The RSS wants to “change India” just as the Jamaat-e-Islami is trying to “change Pakistan”. If the ABVP is the former’s instrument for ‘changing students’ in India, the IJT is the latter’s tool for “changing students” in Pakistan.
The comparison does not end there. The RSS and the ABVP claim that the latter’s real growth in numbers took place during the years that the Congress-led UPA governments were in power, that is, before Narendra Modi’s rise to the top. The Jamaat-e-Islami and the IJT too can make a similar claim. Read, Nadeem F Paracha’s excellent 2009 essay, ‘Student politics in Pakistan: A history, lament and celebration’.
Though left-wing student unions retained their dominant position in Pakistan’s colleges and universities through the 1950s, by the early 1960s the IJT had started “to emerge from the sidelines of student politics and materialise as an affective right-wing force on the campuses”. Until then, though the IJT had been around for more than a decade “it was almost completely overshadowed by DSF (Democratic Students Front) and the NSF (National Students Front),” Paracha writes.
In tune with the movement worldwide, the 1960s are often referred to as the “golden era of student politics” in Pakistan. According to Paracha however, “it is the 1970s that one can truly call the golden era of student politics in Pakistan”. It was in the latter decade that Pakistan witnessed the emergence of a state-party-student nexus. What we are witnessing in India today is a replay of the same devious plot.
“When [after ousting Zulfikar Ali Bhutto] President Zia [ul Haq] brought in members of the Jamaat-e-Islami to form his first cabinet (to help him ‘Islamize Pakistan’), IJT’s notorious ‘Thunder Squads’ that were formed in the 1960s at the universities of Karachi and Lahore to challenge leftist student activists, went on a rampage, harassing and physically manhandling their opponents”.
What the Zia-Jamaat-IJT did in the campuses in Pakistan in the 1970s is exactly what the Modi-BJP-RSS-ABVP has been re-enacting in India’s premier educational institutions in recent months— Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), IITs, Hyderabad Central University, JNU… The difference: In Pakistan the IJT was fighting the “enemies of Islam”; in India the ABVP is fighting “desh drohis”, or put differently, the “enemies of Hindu Rashtra”.
Though ideologically a mirror image of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, the RSS has chosen a different organisational path. The ABVP may not need to form its own “thunder squads” since the RSS has already put in place complementary fronts for the purpose: VHP, Bajrang Dal, sundry other Hindutva-inspired outfits, even rogue lawyers as witnessed in the Patiala court recently
Though ideologically a mirror image of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami, the RSS has chosen a different organisational path. The ABVP may not need to form its own “thunder squads” since the RSS has already put in place complementary fronts for the purpose: VHP, Bajrang Dal, sundry other Hindutva-inspired outfits, even rogue lawyers as witnessed in the Patiala court recently.
The ABVP may not mimic the IJT’s misdeeds in Pakistan step-by-step. It and the ‘thunder squads’ of the RSS may march separately but they have the same goal in mind: Changing students to change the country. Bearing this in mind, there still are lessons we in India must learn from the IJT’s trajectory post-1970s.
As was only to be expected, Zia’s harsh crackdown on the left-wing student unions in Pakistan discredited the IJT. According to Paracha, “the [Zia] regime’s plans to repress progressive student groups through its allied party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing… had left IJT in the clutches of uncontrollable violence so much so that the support it had managed to gather through student union elections in the 1970s, now stood eroded, triggering a sympathy wave for the anti-IJT student organisations.”
In the 1978 elections IJT lost out heavily to the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (PPSA) in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and in many colleges of Lahore. Meanwhile in Karachi and Sind province, the IJT was seriously challenged by the student wings of the newly-formed Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM) of Altaf Hussain and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
With Pakistan heavily involved in the USA-Saudi Arabia backed Afghan struggle against occupation by the Soviet army, to stay relevant the IJT grabbed the opportunity to bring the “AK-47 culture” to the campus.
However, in the 1983 elections to student unions the IJT was comprehensively voted out in a majority of colleges and universities across the country. In 1984, the Zia regime outlawed all student unions and politics. The ban continues till date but that does not mean, the IJT has ceased to exist. Here below are some examples of its recent activities:
- February 19, 2016: Baloch students hold protest demonstrations in Punjab, Quetta and Uthal against attacks on students in Punjab by IJT.
- October 13, 2015: Young women playing cricket at Karachi University are beaten by religious thugs. Members of the IJT who had earlier warned the cricket-playing women, broke up a mixed-gender game and beat up both the men and women members of the Punjabi Students Association with batons.
- December 2, 2013: Pakistan TV telecasts footage on how IJT “attacked and tortured teachers in Punjab University”.
- September 2013: Pakistan’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies arrest students belonging to the IJT, also suspected to have Al Qaeda links.
- March 2013: The founder and leader of MQM, Altaf Hussain demands banning of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba for their connections with terrorists…
- February 2012: Activists of Imamia Students Organization (ISO) stage a protest demonstration against IJT activists for torturing an ISO activist at the Punjab University.
- July 2011: "After philosophy students and faculty members rallied to denounce heavy-handed efforts to separate male and female students, Islamists on campus struck back: In the dead of night, witnesses say, the radicals showed up at a men’s dormitory armed with wooden sticks and bicycle chains.
"They burst into dorm rooms, attacking philosophy students. One was pistol-whipped and hit on the head with a brick. Gunfire rang out, although no one was injured. Police were called, but nearly a month after the attack, no arrests have been made.
"Few on Punjab University’s leafy campus, including top administrators, dare to challenge the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, or the IJT, the student wing of one of Pakistan’s most powerful hard-line Islamist parties.
"At another Lahore campus, the principal disdainfully refers to the Islamists as ‘a parallel administration’."
The few examples cited above are apart from the IJT’s ongoing campaigns against Ahmediyas, celebration of New Year and Valentine’s Day and “forbidding progressive literature from the university libraries”.
The ABVP may not, as yet, be able to match the fine record of its Pakistani counter-part. But with the Modi-BJP-RSS-ABVP axis now in place who can say what lies ahead.
P.S.: In an article which may be accessed on SabrangIndia, Prathama Banerjee reports that in Gwalior a few days ago, a meeting organised by the Ambedkar Manch involving an Ambedkarite professor Vivek Kumar from JNU was attacked by ABVP members, who went on to not only fire gun-shots at the gathering but even burn the Indian Constitution, perhaps to avenge Ambedkar’s burning of the Manusmriti half a century ago!
- JNUSU Condemns Rightwing Attack on pro-JNU protestors in Allahabad and Lucknow
- Joint Action Committee for Social Justice (UoH), statement dated February 13, 2016, condemning ABVP attack
- Right or Left, violence is a ‘black hole’ that swallows up everything in its vicinity
- Afzal Guru’s execution has made him a martyr
- Between Freedom and Fascism: Speech is really free only when it hurts
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An abridged and translated version of Ravish Kumar’s impassioned monologue on the state of the TV media.
SOLE CAMPAIGNER NDTV
India’s top anchor Ravish Kumar
PHOTO BY TRIBHUVAN TIWARI
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NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar last week delivered an impassioned monologue on the state of the TV media. Here is an abrdiged version, translated from the original Hindi.
Namaskar, I am Ravish Kumar.
You all know that your TV has fallen ill. In the entire world, TV has developed TB. We are all ill. I am not saying others are ill so I can call myself a doctor. I am also ill. First, we became ill and now you are becoming ill. Everyday, some among you write letters threatening to either beat us up or set us on fire. Are we responsible for delivering that poison to you which is, in reality, the poison within us?
I am not a doctor. My TV is also ill in the name of debate. Everyday, you listen to noise which may make you wonder whether it enlightens you or takes you into darkness. From the debate, accountability is fixed. Instead, in the name of accountability, targeting is happening. The concept of debate arrived on the television screens to bring clarity to issues in society. But, very soon the debate became a game to kill public opinion. Public opinion is a cluster of multiple opinions, but debate TV is killing the variety of public opinion. It has become a way to perpetuate the rule of ‘one person’ public opinion.
Anchors and spokesperson who have no boundaries while expressing themselves, are deciding the boundaries of freedom for you. It has become necessary to ask yourself what are we watching and why are we watching it. You may say we are watching what is shown to us. And, we say we are showing what you see. Within this, there is a number one as well as a number 10 like us. If someone is on top, somebody like me is fail. If TRP is our goal, why are you our fellow traveller? Is TRP your goal, too?
This is why we want to take you into the dark world of TV so that you alone can listen to the noise and understand the hopes and the fears that the group of anchors give birth to everyday. We would urge you to recognise and understand that yelling. This is why I am taking you into the darkness. There is no technical fault. Your signal is perfect. This darkness is the picture of today’s TV. We have deliberately made it dark. Just imagine, I have shut off all the lights in your drawing room and I am talking to you in your ear.
I know I will continue to do what I have been doing thus far. Nothing will change. I cannot change anything. We anchors are one among many. We anchors have begun shouting and threatening. When we speak, our veins get pronounced. And, watching us makes your blood boil. A war of perceptions is on. Information is no where and even if it is there, it’s very less. It is not helping us in thinking in different ways. We need to ask the toughest of questions to those in power. But our job is not to dare them. It is not to rebuke them. It is not to shun them away. It is not to provoke them. It is not to threaten them. Our job is to question them, question them till the last. In this process, we often commit mistakes for which you have also pardoned us. But, many a time it appears that we are not committing mistakes but we are deliberately doing so.
The black screen during Ravish Kumar’s monologue
This is why we are taking you into the dark world. Please listen to our voice. Please make out the difference in the way we ask questions. Who is not worried and disappointed? If we fan that disappointment, it will create such a hot wave within you, causing a storm in you that will ultimately engulf and burn you, too. Do not look at the way in which TV channels have covered the incidents at JNU from a partisan viewpoint but from the societal and balanced perspective. Do you shout and talk to your wife? Do you shout and speak with your friend? Does your father shout like that at your mother? Why is it that the shouting by anchors sounds like that? ( Party ) Spokesperson are also like the anchors, threatening. Questions are getting hidden somewhere. None is bothered about the answers. Beat him, beat him, Catch him, Catch him, is what you hear. Once or twice, I have also got angry and shouted but I have not been able to sleep because of the tension it causes within me. I often wonder how our colleagues manage to shout and yell.
If answers can be obtained by shouting and screaming, then the Prime Minister should be shouting everyday to get work done. The Army chief should be appearing on television daily and shout. Everyone should shout at everyone. How can television be given so much liberty that instead of giving information, it is shouting at you and threatening us. How is it possible that it is creating a mob and provoking the mob saying- go and get him. He is a traitor. He is an anti national. What is an anchor who provokes mobs and collects a mob to act? What is he? In the entire world, it appears that the tribe of anchors who scream is only growing. You think he is correcting the situation by shouting. In reality, he not doing that.
Many spokesperson are abusing and threatening to shoot and kill. They do that to scare us so that we quietly endorse what they are saying. Everyday our TV anchors are delivering speeches like I am now. They have become spokesperson for nationalism. Everything is being seen from the viewpoint as nationalists or as traitors. The sacrifice by our soldiers is being politicised and in their name, people are called traitors. In this very country, the clothes of soldiers were torn at Jantar Mantar and their medals snatched away. Even those among them who had lost a limb or a part of their body during the war were not spared. Who goes to them to wipe their tears? Martyrdom is the highest sacrifice in our country, but is the political exploitation of martyrdom the highest deed?
In Kashmir, everyday anti India slogans are shouted. In today’s Indian Express, a police officer has said that how many of those shouting anti-India slogans can be arrested. We need to know as to how many have been arrested in the last year for shouting anti-India slogans since the BJP-PDP government was established . What is their number ? Almost every day, Pakistan flags are shown there or some terrorist organisation supports IS. What does the Kashmir issue have to do with the Muslims living in other parts of India ? There is no connection between the two. The issue of Kashmir has nothing to do with Islam. The Kashmir issue has its own complexities. It should be left to the government. The PDP believes Afzal Guru is a martyr. The PDP has not said yet about Afzal Guru what the BJP believes, that he is a traitor.
Despite this, the BJP chooses the PDP to lead their government. But what is tragic is the fact that this experiment is being devalued in the name of branding a few students at JNU as terrorists. What BJP did in Kashmir is a grand political initiative. History will give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a good place for this. Questions will continue to be raised over BJP leaving its principles. If Afzal Guru is a terrorist in JNU, what is he in Srinagar? There will be no end to the debate on complex issues if we look for a yes or a no answer. These issues can only remain in a logical society. We will become a mob. This is not good for democracy.
However, in the world of channels, all rules have been abandoned. Earlier we were taught that those who incite violence, make provocative speeches, cause enmity between two sections of society will not be shown or printed. What do you do now when anchors have begun to speak like this? They are giving all freedom possible for the spokesperson to say anything they want. Kanhaiaya’s speech video ran dangerously on TV screens without checking its authenticity. Now, TV Today network and ABP news have shown that it was a doctored video that was shown. If there has been a cut here and there, some slogans have been added elsewhere. If the videos are so different, it deserves a proper investigation. Then, how were we forced to come to that conclusion ?
Slogans were shouted against the JNU on the streets. Students were called traitors and anti-national. Will the channels take responsibility for showing doctored videos ? Will the anchors scream an equal number of hours to say that the videos shown were not the correct ones ? That their veracity was questionable ? In some, if Kanhaiya is talking about freedom from poverty, it has been shown as he was talking of freedom. So how was it believed that he was talking about freedom from the country ? Our colleague, Manish, went to his house to realise that his family is so poor that it lacks the capacity to even offer a cup of tea to media people who reached there. If a student in such a poverty stricken situation does not talk about freedom, will our politicians sitting in the lap of wealthy industrialists talk about it ?
Kanhaiya Kumar’s photo was shown in various angles for viewers to see him as a terrorist and a traitor. In one video, Kanhaiya is shown giving a speech with a disputed flag of India in the background. A photoshopped picture was added. Photoshop is being used often on social media now-a-days. It is so dangerous. Who are making groups on social media and fanning such things? Who is making Umar Khalid a terrorist and a traitor before any kind of evidence comes forward ? he also should not have run away. He should come out and say what he spoke and why did he deliver that speech.There is a difference between Kanhaiya and Khalid and the mob is slightly lenient on Kanahiya, but Khalid does not get this liberty.
Should we not have waited to run the verified video ? This is why we have made the screen dark. Today we will make you listen to some voices. Maybe some of you may go away from watching this screen. It can also be that some of you will listen to the voices which for weeks together have been haunting you. First you listen to the voices that were heard in the studies of various channels. We have not got all the voices in all channels but we play those which we could download. I am not interested in mentioning names because it could be that I may also have done so or may do so in the future.
What journalists have said is not any different from what spokespersons. It is as stormy as what anchors have said. They are no less terrible. Anchors have also said things as terrible as spokespersons. But, the manner in which the journalist has defined the nationalism is dangerous. My intention is only to present this picture to you. Please listen. And, listen carefully. Feel it while listening. But the way journalists have defined traitors in the name of nationalism, it is scary. My only aim is to caution. Listen to this. Listen to this carefully. Feel these words as you listen to them. When you listen to them, please note when your blood boils. When do you get excited. You have to keep in mind that none of the facts have been proven till now. Like the two channels have told you that the video has many versions. Thus no conclusions can be drawn about anything.
Your screen is dark because it is a repentance of Journalism for which all of us are responsible. Let me remind you, you can not see me. There is no technical fault. This is an attempt to reach your conscience so we can listen to what we say, how we say it, what happens by saying what we say.
From the very beginning, it has been amply clear that the people who raised anti-India slogans at the Jawaharlal Nehru University on 9 February were Kashmiris. Yet, the Delhi Police has not even been looking for them, because arresting Kashmiri students in Delhi will finish any remaining chance of saving the PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir.
Arresting no one was not an option given the nationalist hysteria whipped up by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the ABVP. As a result, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are in jail even though they raised no anti-India slogans. If anything, they tried to douse that fire.
Initial eyewitness accounts made it clear that it was Kashmiris–who were neither students nor teachers at JNU–who had raised anti-India slogans. It is common for some Kashmiris living in Delhi to attend Kashmir-related events in Delhi, sometimes even raising azadi slogans. On 9 February in JNU, however, activists of the ABVP tried to block the event which they saw as an effort to paint terrorist Afzal Guru as a martyr. As ABVP activists provoked the Kashmiris with slogans such as “Kashmir hamara hai, saara ka saara hai,” the Kashmiris responded with equal provocation.
"The organisers Umar Khalid, Banjyotsna Lahiri and Aswathi intervened twice to stop the students from chanting such slogans.”
Here are two such eyewitness accounts.
JNU student Talha Chowdhry told Tehelka: “The Kashmiri students chanted slogans for Azaadi—‘Tum kitne Afzal maroge, ghar ghar se Afzal niklega,’ ‘Afzal hum sharminda hei, tere khatil zinda hain’. The ABVP activists retaliated by shouting, ‘Doodh mangoge kheer denge, Kashmir mangoge cheer denge’, and ‘Jo Afzal ki baath karega, wo Afzal ki mauth marega’. In between, the Kashmiri students chanted slogans such as ‘Bharat ke barbadi tak jang rahegi’ to which the organisers objected. The organisers Umar Khalid, Banjyotsna Lahiri and Aswathi intervened twice to stop the students from chanting such slogans.”