Feminist collective Pinjra Tod’s call for solidarity with Jadavpur University’s students collided with ABVP’s protest against ‘anti-national’ elements
On September 18, as Union minister Babul Supriyo arrived at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University, a large number of students there protested by showing him black flags. Supriyo had been invited to a programme organised by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is affiliated to his Bharatiya Janata Party. The protesting students claimed the minister, along with other BJP leaders, had been involved in instigating communal riots and unrest in Bengal, so he was unwelcome on their campus. The minister responded by allegedly threatening the protesting students, while his supporters reportedly beat them up and indulged in vandalism.
To express solidarity with the Jadavpur University’s students, Pinjra Tod, a feminist collective at Delhi University, organised a protest at the Arts Faculty on Friday. This call for solidarity, however, was not free of its share of theatrics. The ABVP held a parallel protest at the same time and place where they burned effigies of “left terror”. Separated by police barricades, both sides started sloganeering with gusto, with even an afternoon drizzle failing to dampen their spirits.
The ABVP condemned the Bengal government and “communist anti-nationals”, and shouted slogans insinuating violence such as “Desh ke yeh gadhaaron ko, goli maaron saalon ko” (Shoot the traitors) and “Bharat mein rahna hoga toh Vande Mataram kehna hoga” (Want to live in India? Better say Vande Mataram).
Among the ABVP protestors were the Delhi University Students’ Union president Akshit Dahiya and joint secretary Shivangi Kharwal. “ABVP talks about democracy, debate, discourse and dissent. But we condemn this selective freedom of expression. The left is known for its terror across the nation,” said Akshit Dahiya.
On the other side of the barricade, slogans such as “Jo Hitler ki chaal chalega woh Hitler ki maut marega” (Whoever follows Hitler’s ways shall die like him) and “ABVP campus chhodo” (ABVP, leave the campus) reverberated. Protestors on both sides attempted to breach the barricades but were thwarted by the police.
“I reject ABVP’s politics and presence on campus,” said a student from St Stephen’s College who was part of the Pinjra Tod protest. “The ABVP-RSS propaganda has now entered Jadavpur University. We are here to make our stand, and we are not scared.”
Songs about resistance and solidarity were sung as the students took turns to voice their opinions on the current political climate in the country and its effect on university spaces.
Amidst the opposing voices, one slogan emanated from both sides: “Jab jab zulmi zulm karega satta me hathiyaaron se, tab chapa chapa goonj uthega inquilab ke naaron se” (When-ever the oppressor uses power to oppress, everywhere the streets will echo with slogans of revolution).
Commenting on this, a student who was a witness to the Ramjas clashes of 2017 said, “Does the ABVP even know the meaning of inquilab?”
Kharwal said, “It’s nice to see the same slogan. We respect ideologies but we refuse to bear insults to our nation. In the name of freedom of expression, they create violence.”