In the new parliament building two youth breaching security entered, jumped the visitors’ gallery and sprayed the yellow gas, creating a ruckus in the house (December 13, 2023). The plan was hatched by four of them, to air their plight related to unemployment. Among these one was an e rickshaw driver, one a farmer, one a Government job aspirant and one a daily wager. They were given the visitors pass by one BJP MP Pratap Simha from Karnataka. The two of them who entered the parliament had hidden the spray bottle in their shoes. It was on Anniversary of the terror attack on Parliament by terrorists in 2001, on the day when Parliamentarians had paid tribute to the martyrs of the attack.
The group which planned this included a girl Neelam (with post graduate degree) and a boy (Sagar Shinde) who were spraying the gas outside the parliament around the same time. Neelam Azad, is from Haryana’s Jind and has many degrees to her credit, M.A, M.Ed, M.Phil and has also cleared the National Eligibility Test. She could not get any job. Slogans shouted by them were against dictatorship, and for protection of the Constitution (Tanashahi Khatam Karo, Sambvidhan ki Raksha Karo); they drew attention to unemployment and also shouted Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Vande Matram.
These youth, were part of a social media group, “Bhagat Singh Fans club.” They came in contact with each other through this online platform. Their inspiration came from the socialist revolutionary Bhagat Singhs’ similar action in the Central Assembly hall in 1929. One recalls that Bhagat Singh with his friend Batukeshwar Datt had thrown the bomb from the visitors’ gallery, with a caution that nobody is hurt by that. They also threw leaflets in the assembly against British colonial rule.
These actions of the youth, who have been booked under UAPA, however misguided, is the most powerful attempt to bring the issue of rising unemployment to national attention. To recall, Bhagat Singh and his comrades had resorted to this method as they knew that their voice would not be carried by the media. There is an uncanny similarity to the present situation where the ‘mainstream’ media, appropriately called ‘Godi media’, is totally apathetic to the concerns of average people. The problems of rising prices, decline on the level of hunger Index and rising unemployment has not been its concern at all.
When Modi was campaigning in 2014, BJP promised that they will be creating 20 million (2 Crore) jobs per year. The real picture has been a total betrayal of this promise. The first major blow to the employment situation came with demonetisation, where crores of workers lost their jobs in the small-scale rural sector. The ruling Government has been under total influence of big Corporate and creation of new jobs has been put on the backburner. On the contrary some of the bigwigs (Narayan Murthy) have even given calls for a 70-hour work week for youth! In most of the unorganised sectors, working hours have been pushed up from eight to 12 hours per day.
A report in The Economic Times points out that “The overall rate (of unemployment) rose to 10.05% last month from 7.09% in September, data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Ltd. showed, and the highest since May 2021. Rural unemployment jumped to 10.82% from 6.2%, while the urban rate eased slightly to 8.44%”. Also The same paper on 1st November 2023 reported, “Last month, Indian tech-services outsourcing firms, including Infosys Ltd. and Wipro Ltd., announced plans to halt hiring of college graduates, potentially leaving thousands of fresh engineering students without jobs.”
All this is taking place in the background where the democratic space for protests is shrinking; the Universities are preventing the student unions’ elections and blocking the seminars which may be critical of Government policies.
While it is an open and shut case of frustrated students-youth expressing their anguish, though through wrong means, the ruling Government has now charged them under the oppressive UAPA. While Rahul Gandhi attributed it to the rising unemployment and rising prices, the Home Minister has not made any statement in Parliament despite the opposition demanding it. Prime Minister Modi, rather than seeing the obvious, stated that this act is a serious breach and there is a need to find the “elements” behind it. It is true that the chink in the armor of security system in Parliament has been exposed; it’s vulnerable to even minor attempts like that of these youth. On the other hand what has come to surface is that there is a need to address the issue of unemployment rather than distracting the attention to try to see it as some sort of a conspiracy.
It is clear these youths are not part of any terror group. Mercifully none of the involved youth is a Muslim or from any other terror related organization. The latter would have given an unfortunate boost to the efforts of those out to intensify Islamophobia.
The youth have brought to fore once again that it is not enough just to pay lip service to Bhagat Singh. His concern for the deprived sections of society needs to be brought to the fore. Let us remember Bhagat Singh’s message of mass movements was central to his ideology. The path of violence was abandoned by him soon enough. He had come to the conclusion that we can achieve independence only through mass mobilization. His act in the Central Assembly of throwing the bomb was meant only to make the ‘deaf hear’ and not meant for killing anybody. It is heartening to note that our youth are turning to Bhagat Singh for guidance in the current troubled times and that many groups in the name of Bhagat Singh have sprung up.
The whole episode should be taken in the proper spirit unlike the attempt of Godi media in looking for villains of the piece. The aim of youth is crystal clear; their inspiration is not from any ideology of terror but from the greatest revolutionary of our freedom struggle.
The youth have adopted a wrong method without doubt. Their anguish should be recognised, however, and the message behind the whole episode of revising our ‘employment generation’ policy needs to be given a fresh and serious look rather than trying to unearth a ‘non-existent’ conspiracy.