Saket Bahuguna, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s national media convenor, spoke to Pratik Kumar on the recent Ramjas College rumpus.
There were big hoardings across Delhi University campuses, saying the ABVP wants to fight “intellectual terrorism”. Who are these people you are fighting?
After the BJP government came to power, it cracked down on many NGOs financed by foreign bodies, Maoists, separatists and terrorists. When the Congress was in power, they had a free run. It’s their unrest that we are seeing in JNU and DU. Even today, we saw a Democratic Students Union (DSU) poster in JNU demanding “freedom for Kashmir”. They have not done this for the first time! Similarly, they raised anti-India slogans in Ramjas College.
What were those slogans?
“Kashmir mange azadi, Bastar mange azadi!” The entire seminar was on culture of protest, but the session in which Umar Khalid was to speak was on “War in Bastar”.
Two left-wing ideologues from JNU were invited for a seminar in Ramjas. Why didn’t the ABVP first wait for them to speak? If something they said was incorrect, they could have opposed then.
From the first day itself, things have been misrepresented in the media, so people have formed opinions. On February 21, Ramjas College students got to know that Mr Khalid, who had organised the Afzal Guru event in JNU, would come to the campus. According to some college teachers we spoke to, his name was a last-minute addition to the list of speakers in the seminar. The Ramjas students’ union president, who is not an ABVP member, mobilised students and protested against it.
During the third session of the seminar, a stone was hurled from outside. I guarantee you that there was only one stone thrown, and by an unknown person. Not a single medico-legal case (MLC) was filed that day. The principal himself had cancelled invitation to former JNU students’ union president Shehla Rashid. Students didn’t even know that she was coming.
Who raised the slogans? And why did students clash outside Ramjas College?
The majority of the students and teachers who were attending the seminar were not from Ramjas or for that matter DU. They were outsiders, and Communist cadre for sure. Even most of the speakers were left-oriented — of one view only.
On the first day, some people had raised anti-national slogans. I have personally spoken to students from the English and History departments who can vouchsafe this. If you see the pictures of that day, you will not see a single one of a Ramjas student.
They were gathered there to protest against the ABVP’s violence the day before. There was no violence, no MLC on day one. That day, the organisers had deliberately called off the seminar as per their own sweet will. Shehla and Umar have posted baseless tweets. When things blew out of proportion, the DSU and the ABVP got involved. Both sides resorted to violence.
The police’s role in handling the students’ clashes was hugely criticised. It was also alleged that they sided with the ABVP.
The police didn’t handle the situation well at all. They should not have allowed the protest or should have fixed another venue. Ramjas was already gripped in tension due to the sloganeering on the first day.
The theatre of protest has shifted from JNU to DU. The tone and tenor of agitation against the so-called intellectual terrorists have also changed. We wouldn’t have been offensive had this not been a political issue. AISA and AISF are not our opponents electorally.
But they can divide votes.
Of course not, their votes have decreased this year, you see the data. Our fight is against these deliberate provocations and attempts to create chaos in certain universities. We are being offensive because we firmly believe that anti-India slogans can’t be allowed in universities, whether in DU or JNU.
Is it true that people from either left or right are willing to engage in discussions?
Yes. We welcome the democratic left.
What is the democratic left?
We can’t hold discussions with the Maoists. Personally I think they should be shot. But the Army and the government have to decide what they want to do with them. Far left does not want any discussions to happen; they are trying to spread strong anti-national feelings. Their “azadi” slogans are those of the Kashmiri separatists. Our slogans have come from the India’s freedom struggle.
Gurmehar Kaur, the daughter of a Kargil martyr, has alleged cyber bullying by the ABVP followers. She even alleged that she received rape threats from them. Is it difficult to keep your supporters in check?
First, Gurmehar was not there when this incident took place and she was given the wrong impression that this violence was started by the ABVP.
If people disagree with you in a civil way, that is not trolling. If someone says that you are an anti-national, it’s an accusation. Trolling is when people send you death threats or hate messages, which was not the case. I openly challenged her on a TV show to give the names. After the fracas with the Communists, we ousted two of our members to give a strong message. We went to the police first, while she went to the DCW after two days.
We are exposing the people who are privileged, we are fighting against very dangerous people, we are fighting the anti-India forces.
Do you agree with the Union minister Kiren Rijiju when he said that someone was polluting her mind?
He said: “Who is polluting her mind?”
Do you agree with what he said?
He used the wrong words. I would have said, “who is misguiding her or who is giving her a wrong message?” If Kiren Rijiju had said this, there would have been no problem.
Do you think the Prime Minister should speak up on why the universities are on the boil? Shouldn’t he have addressed this issue in “Mann Ki Baat”?
He should have, but the problem is when Arun Jaitley said something in London, many mainstream media claimed that he was taking sides with the ABVP.