Radicalisation eating into our universities’ vitals
At the very outset, let me say that the concept of radicalisation is very injurious to our country’s health, as it afflicts the whole society. However, I would like to underline the fact that the concept of radicalisation is alien to Bharatiya ethos as these ethos vouch for the fact that the entire universe is one family. Here in Bharat, all religions thrive and prosper under one umbrella, but radicalisation is posing threat to this harmony.
Islam in India is centuries old religion; its radicalized version is hitherto unknown to this country. However, in recent times, groups that promote a radical or militant version of Islam are trying to grab the space and are influencing the youth towards their ideas that are supposed to be of a hardliner militant version of Islam. There are certain elements among the Muslim community who are trying to create an exclusive community, one that is different from the rest of society, and trying to carve a niche for themselves as representatives of the Muslim community. Regrettably, these extremist elements make it appear that either you are with us or with the enemy. This is a very disturbing trend for a multi-religious society like India. Sadly, this kind of radicalization is a growing trend in India. This is a dangerous portent for the country and needs to be nipped into the bud in a tactful manner and there should be no negative fallout in handling such issues.
Against this backdrop, it is worth raising the issue of radicalisation of universities in India. The recent JNU controversy that began with the event organised to commemorate Afzal Guru’s death anniversary and subsequently led to the slapping of ‘sedition’ charges against Kanhaiya and his colleagues. Here the important thing to remember is that such events have been held in the past as well. As far as my sources confirm for the last 3 years, events relating to Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhat and other so-called “martyrs,” were held in JNU and other campuses. We need credible intelligence to find out who is really behind all of this because several such activities seem coordinated rather than random occurrences. So, it was not as if it was the first time. The difference, I suppose, is that we have a different central government, which has no interest in the Left’s support. Earlier, such events were overlooked, but not anymore.
It does appear that there are radical groups in India who are trying to exploit various forms of discontent and disaffection that exist in our society. By bringing these malcontents together they are possibly trying to create a much bigger movement, to bring about a much wider radicalisation especially of the urban youth. Students are a vulnerable, almost “ideal” catchment area because they are idealistic, want to change the society, and contribute to the nation. These sentiments are sought to be captured or exploited by certain radical groups, who are trying to form nests in many Indian universities. You might even say they already have functioning cells in certain Indian universities, but we would need much more evidence before being sure.
A very disturbing trend of ‘ultra-Left’ elements joining hands with Jihadist forces is emerging in Indian universities. There have been radical groups in the past that used certain political issues, for example, those concerning the tribals, the poor, and the underdeveloped sections of the society.
Now, one can see two new trends. One is to connect with the ‘Jihadist’ groups and Kashmiri separatists on the one hand, and on the other to look for ways to use Dalit students as allies or shields. Their common cause is to bring down the elected government of India. They use anti-state, anti-establishment, and anti-caste rhetoric to foment rebellion. Some of these groups have openly declared their intent to overthrow the government of India through armed rebellion. This is nothing new and is even declared in their literature and websites. Whoever helps or can find common cause with them in this larger objective they will collaborate with, be it Kashmiri separatists, ‘Jihadists,’ or, earlier, agitators for a separate Telangana.
The real question is what is the better and more effective long-term strategy to change the ecosystem of Indian campuses? That requires a lot of thinking; it requires determination, clarity. Not knee-jerk reactions to a particular situation, which prove to be counter-productive. We have to go into the roots of how radicalism spreads. What are its patronage networks? What are the ways in which the hegemonic Left reproduces itself? We know how powerful the state is, how resourceful. Many such organizations, groups, and ideologies are patronised by the government and its agencies. If you pull the plug, many of these things will stop on their own. But the previous Congress governments had turned a blind eye to all these provocations all these years.
Some people say that too much of politics is going on in government universities. Instead of focussing on studies, students are indulging in party politics. But it’s not yesterday’s invention. For decades, right from the time of Nurul Hasan’s term as the Education Minister, it would seem as if Indian higher education was given over to the Left to run. When the Left was supporting UPA-I, they were given a free run. After they broke with the Congress over the Indo-US nuclear deal, their leverage decreased, but did not altogether end. They could still put their people in strategic positions. So, this politicisation of higher education, a dangerous and harmful trend, has been going on for a long time. Many Indian universities, where education is bankrolled by the taxpayers, where there is hardly any academic accountability, where hostel rooms are cheap, the food subsidised, have become the refuge of all kinds of elements. Everybody knows that. How do you stop that? And it has been done–like in BHU.
By Uday India Bureau