Amit Shah does not need to look to UP for goondagardi – ABVP offers it in Delhi too

A year after the authorities in Delhi stood by as right-wing mobs attacked students, teachers and journalists in a city court with impunity, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad is back at it. On Tuesday, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed students group locked a seminar hall in Delhi University’s Ramjas College and began pelting stones at it. The ABVP’s violence was in response to Ramjas inviting Umar Khalid, a Jawaharlal Nehru University student who was accused of sedition in 2016, to speak at a literary festival on campus. As a consequence, the college withdrew the invitation to Khalid. A day later, when students and teachers decided to protest the ABVP’s violence, the marches devolved into clashes .

ABVP ramjas Violence
Image: PTI

On Wednesday, the police, who were well aware of the tensions on Tuesday, unsuccessfully attempted to segregate the ABVP members from those belonging to the left-backed All India Students Association, as well as teachers who were also protesting. The police later filed a First Information Report against unnamed persons, after complaints that several students, teachers and even some of their own personnel had been injured. According to the Times of India, journalists were even “slapped, punched and kicked” by police personnel.

The incident suggests that Delhi, and the Delhi Police in particular, have not learnt enough from recent incidents. Last year, right-wing mobs complaining about Khalid and fellow students sloganeering in JNU, were allowed to attack their critics without fear of legal action. Right-wing mobs even managed to cloister a judge and the accused in the sedition case into a room inside Delhi’s Patiala House court complex while they beat up journalists and students outside. The home ministry, which oversees Delhi Police and is responsible for law and order in the capital, seemed more interested in finding fictitious Pakistani connections to the sloganeering students than cracking down on the violent mobs.

Of course, ABVP had the right to protest Khalid’s invitation. But its willingness to resort to violence suggests it has no interest in ensuring a free space for discourse that a college ought to provide. More dangerous is the police’s inability to maintain law and order.

On Wednesday, on the campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh, Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah complained about goondagardi or mob rule in the state, and referred to his political opponents as Kasab – Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, an acronym that is reference to the name of the terrorist who was caught in the Mumbai attacks. Yet, his own government is unable to prevent violence from an outfit affiliated to his party. If the violence that occurs in Uttar Pradesh is goondagardi, how is the capital under Delhi Police and the ABVP any different?

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