View from JNU: Recent hooliganism by ABVP reveals its divisive communal political core

During a recent incident at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), members of the right wing student outfit  Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) allegedly attacked a study circle organized by students to discuss an essay by Friedrich Engels, a 19th century German philosopher of repute. This an eye-witness account of the incident.

Tayyaba Ahmed and Aatika Singh |

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The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has left no stone unturned in realizing the violent and divisive dream of its political mentors; Hedgewar and Golwalkar. Especially post 2013, the right-wing student outfit has indulged in divisive communal politics in democratic spaces across the country; more so at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

In a recent incident, on 14 November 2021 members of ABVP, most of them upper-caste men, disrupted a study circle that was going to be held in Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) office, Teflas at 9 p.m. by Hundred Flowers Group on Friedrich Engels’ essay, “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.” ABVP was quick to play its divisive and violent politics. After forcibly occupying the office, restraining the members of the study circle, and disrupting the discussion, the members of ABVP attacked the students who wanted to attend the session and study. The office-bearers of ABVP along with the newly inducted members harassed women and assaulted many students present at the office. When some students attempted to take the injured ones to the hospital, the ABVP members forcibly intercepted the movement and assaulted the student who had fainted. The saga of atrocity didn’t stop here. From shouting caste and gender insensitive cuss words to disrupting democratic dialogue and arbitrarily inciting one-sided violence, these ABVP members damaged property, tore books and broke tambourines. Their sloganeering, which has been recorded, was filled with offensive statements, caste remarks and ridicule.

After creating an atmosphere of terror and violence, the ABVP members stormed other parts of the campus – instilling fear in students and creating a ruckus. The ABVP members warned the students to leave the campus, threatened and bullied them. The hooliganism of ABVP was clearly on display as ABVP members used sexist comments, ridiculed students and made obscene gestures, pushed women and threatened them with rape. The trauma that women students faced during the incident is unmeasurable. The intimidation tactics of ABVP was resisted by many students as they were forced to vacate the union office. The members of ABVP left the scene only a few minutes before the Delhi police arrived near the venue. This incident cannot simply be read in isolation as the violence perpetrated by ABVP was a culmination of a series of past events starting from 2014. It started with the incident of 5 January when hundreds of students were left badly injured by RSS-BJP-ABVP, to the vandalization of the union office by ABVP the third time on 9 October 2021 during which the portraits of Rohith Vemula, Bhagat Singh and Che Guevara were defaced with shameless slogans like, ‘Hang Sharjeel.’

Fearing accountability, ABVP then started peddling videos of false narratives knowing that the IT cell and Godi media would ensure the propagation of myth. Due to prevailing impunity for right-wing violence in India, these members continued to spread the web of deceit. After illegally occupying the Sabarmati T-point, ABVP has ensured every night that ideologically progressive women and the minority students of the campus live in fear.

It was ironic that on the day of the incident on 14 November, several members of ABVP were seen holding posters of tribal icons like Birsa Munda and Gunda Dhur when we know that ABVP does not even remotely stand for what these leaders represented and fought against. Class, caste and gender sensitization is not expected from an organization that supports Manusmriti and has deep-rooted Brahamanical tendencies.

Pattern to ABVP’s intimidation tactics
A similar major incident propagating hate against minorities, and which resulted in the violence against students from the minority communities took place on October 29, 2021. On this day, the Centre for Women’s Studies, JNU, had announced a webinar on ‘Gendered Resistance & Fresh Challenges in Post 2019 Kashmir’. Without understanding the academic context in which the webinar was being organized, ABVP complained against the same and began its usual extremist narrativization. The webinar was cancelled followed by a Victory March organized by ABVP, which was filled with threats and warnings to the students. The jingoism was taken to the next step when ABVP verbally abused minority students.What the minority students go through is an unquantifiable mental trauma on a daily basis. This needs to be rejected and resisted by the whole student community of JNU.

The fact is that ABVP’s impunity for these crimes comes from the RSS-led-BJP government which promotes its reckless behaviour on the campus. The inaction shown by Cyclops, the present security agency in JNU and their passive reaction to violence by ABVP adds to the student’s legitimate angst who are perplexed and wonder if this company registered under G.D Bakshi’s name is indeed for the security and safety of all students. On the day of the incident, the Chief Security Officer was sharing laughs with the ABVP members when the crowd was in panic and tension.

From these violent acts, it must be noted with worry that not only is a campus space like JNU being attacked for its democratic ethos, but it is the core of academic progressiveness that these right-wing forces are trying to dismantle, and whose every action goes against the Constitution of India. The student community of JNU has reiterated its unilateral stand against ABVP and all its sympathizers, as we believe that such a Brahmanical and fascist organization must have no place in any university.

ABVP thinks they can divert our attention from urgent pressing issues of caste discrimination, rampant (mis)use of draconian laws like UAPA, farmer’s protest, shrinking of democratic rights and spaces, the disappearance of students and the rising atrocities against the marginalized communities – by indulging in peddling false narratives. However, we believe it won’t take too long for students of the country to realize that ABVP is an enemy of thought, freedom, education and we must stand up to it.

The authors are students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).