The recent events in Jodhpur University and Ramjas College Delhi have made a few things clear:
- The ABVP is not willing to understand ideas or to counter them through discussion, debate and critique.
- They are not articulating their own position with clarity and sustain public scrutiny directed at it.
- The governments are using the hooliganism and violence of ABVP to stifle dissent and critique of its position on issues of great importance to the nation.
- At this moment the BJP seems to think that the majority of Indian public is with them on the issue of nationalism and what shape it should take. And they want to use this moment while it lasts to make the deepest impression possible.
- The ABVP people are no rashtra-bhaktas, they are only kapatis.
A strong opposition to the ideas, ideology and tactics of the ABVP is needed. Their browbeating, violence and hooliganism need to be countered. It seems the ABVP cannot even maintain gundagirdi without covert and overt support of the state machinery. Therefore, the biased behaviour of the police needs to be exposed as well.
All that one can say to Niveditas and Khalids on their stand on nation, nationalism and Kashmir is expressed in a quote wrongly attributed to Voltaire: “I wholly disapprove of what you say—and will defend to the death your right to say it.” One may disapprove of what they say, their stand may be biased and week enough to be taken to pieces in a scrutiny but they have as much a right to say it as any other Indian citizen. Actually, in a certain sense the critique by Niveditas and Khalids will do less harm to the idea of India than mindless and dishonest chanting of rashtra by the ABVP brigade.
I think the people who want to condemn and oppose the ABVP kind of censorship by violence should stop calling them “nationalist” or “rastravadis”. By continuing to use these descriptions for ABVP their critics make them respectable (even if mistaken) in the eyes of the public which may have respect for the nation; and malign the idea of the nation unnecessarily. At present juncture using appropriate language which singles out the object of critique without ambiguity is very important.
ABVP and BJP are no rashtra-bhaktas, they are simply opportunistic and are using an idea which has a lot of respect in the public mind. May be one can call them pseudo-nationalists, “kapati-rashtravadis”. But often it seems that the left leaning intellectuals are attacking the nation first and BJP and ABVP only because they happen to be “nationalists”. The debate on nationalism has its own significance, it should be conducted in as sharp terms as possible, and in as thread bare a manner as possible but without handing over the torch of nationalism ABVP. Those who think that the idea of nationalism should be attacked and critiqued should do that, but should also refrain from making their case on the assumption that ABVP is the example of nationalists. They are not. As I said above they are only kapati-rashtravadis. And this is what should be emphasised.