Challenging the ABVP – when a silent protest stood up against violent attacks

NB : The violent attack upon a completely peaceful seminar at Ramjas College is unprecedented, not for the behaviour of the RSS affiliated student body, which is to be expected, given their long-standing attraction to violence and intimidation. It is unprecedented for the shameless impunity afforded them by the police, who allowed peaceful people to be assaulted with stones, a lady lecturer attacked and held under gherao for nearly 5 hours, with a chair being hurled at her, and numerous students and journalists manhandled, assaulted and abused. The police is duty bound and empowered to take action, including arrest, in the case of cognisable offences such as rioting and causing injury. They could have acted on the spot, instead of which they allowed the criminal activity to go on for hours, treating the miscreants smilingly like mischievous children.

I Am A Professor. This Is How I Was Beaten Up At Ramjas

A detailed account of the events is being prepared by the teachers, which I will post when available. I am posting an immediate reaction by a senior Ramjas student who was an eyewitness to the events (see below). But the basic point is that there was no, repeat no, provocation by the participants of the seminar. They were merely speaking or listening. How can a Government minister talk of this college as becoming ‘an anti-India hub’ ? Has he investigated what slogans were raised ? This is an utterly irresponsible statement and shows the tendency of high officials of this government to justify violence in the name of their version of nationalism. Is it their job to encourage hooliganism ? Did they see the agenda of the seminar and know in advance what was going to be said and discussed ?

The ABVP today is not what it was some decades ago. When I was a teacher at Ramjas (1974-94) I remember ABVP boys attending my classes on Soviet history – perhaps they thought they would get a non-propagandist view of a heavily ideologised past. I am also reminded of a seminar in early 1988 on the Tamas serial at which they invited me to speak. I did not do so, but my friend Purushottam Agrawal did speak, that too in the company of East Delhi BJP MP and student leaders of the ABVP. He gave a stirring rebuttal of their objections to the serial, but was respectfully listened to. Today he would be assaulted for what he said. Thereafter, in the face of many threats, we organised a meeting on Tamas in Ramjas.

At the very least the ABVP boys those days showed a basic respect for their teachers. I can also say that during the course of Ramjas struggle (1981-83) over the victimisation of Sita Ram Mali by the college administration, many of them changed their values spontaneously, without any prompting from us. I have never propagated any ideology to my students, aside from the value I place upon ahimsa and a respect for human life. Today’s ABVP has discarded the most basic values of respect for their teachers, some of whom are being abused and targeted by name. Is it part of Indian culture to assault and abuse your teachers, including lady teachers, all the while shouting bharat mata ki jai ? This is no longer the Bhartiya Janta Party, it is Modi’s Janta Party. May God help Bharat.

Persons with objectionable ideas have the right to speak, whether or not we like those ideas. Under no circumstance should they be liable to violent assault. If people do not like certain ideas they are at liberty to question and even condemn the speakers. Under what law are they permitted to violently attack speakers and members of the audience ? Is there some law under which you can commit violent crime by saying you are ‘nationalists’ ? Is your so-called patriotism a permit to violate the law ? The Sanghis were infuriated that students protested against this disruption by taking out a peaceful rally inside the campus. The rally also called for freedom (azaadi) of speech and assembly – which slogan was deliberately misinterpreted as referring to secessionism. Now doctored videos are being circulated. The very use of the Hindi word for freedom has now been criminalised. Is the entire country and the use of language to be policed by the RSS ? Will the Home Minister and Delhi Police Commissioner kindly give us a dictionary of words and phrases acceptable to His Highness The Sarsangchaalak ?

How can police officers stand by and treat rioters with kid gloves while peaceful citizens are being assaulted ? Are they the hirelings of the Sangh Parivar ? Did they take an oath of office in the name of Indian Constitution or to the government of the day ? Every moment that a police official looks the other way when a criminal act takes place before his or her eyes contains the germ of fascist tyranny. This is what happened in Ramjas College. I witnessed some of it on Tuesday February 21, when I was due to speak (at 3 pm) on the theme of the civic response to the massacre of 1984. I could not deliver my lecture because rioting was in full swing when I arrived on the campus. I have seen this kind of scenario many times when I was a Ramjas teacher. Stones were being thrown, glass shattered, abuses hurled. None of these activities could have taken place without instructions from the higher political controllers of the Sangh. Their activists are assured of soft handling – they know they can indulge in criminal activity and get away with it. These are crimes against the law, and in a broader sense they signify an assault on our minds by activists of a totalitarian project. These persons wish to enforce their beliefs upon us, and to use political power as a cover for violent activity. It is our duty as citizens to protect our constitutional rights. More such attacks are to be expected unless we protest vigorously. We all belong to Ramjas – Dilip Simeon

This is a citation from a book on Nazism written in the 1930s : Behemoth, The Structure and Practice of National Socialism; by Franz Neumann. (republished 1963, p 27). A pdf file may be read here: Dilip Simeon

(The counter revolution) ‘…tried many forms and devices, but soon learned that it could come to power only with the help of the state machine and never against it … the Kapp Putsch of 1920 and the Hitler Pustch of 1923 had proved this … In the centre of the counter revolution stood the judiciary. Unlike administrative acts, which rest on considerations of convenience and expediency, judicial decisions rest on law, that is, on right and wrong, and they always enjoy the limelight of publicity. Law is perhaps the most pernicious of all weapons in political struggles, precisely because of the halo that surrounds the concepts of right and justice …
‘Right’, Hocking has said, ‘is psychologically a claim whose infringement is met with a resentment deeper than the injury would satisfy, a resentment that may amount to passion for which men will risk life and property as they would never do for an expediency’. When it becomes ‘political’, justice breeds hatred and despair among those it singles out for attack. Those whom it favours, on the other hand, develop a profound contempt for the very value of justice, they know that it can be purchased by the powerful. As a device for strengthening one political group at the expense of others, for eliminating enemies and assisting political allies, law then threatens the fundamental convictions upon which the tradition of our civilization rests …

A letter by a Ramjas student to a teacher: Date : Thursday, February 23, 2017, 10:07 AM

I have not been able to sleep at night … The incidents, the violent scenes in the college were on a loop in my mind. They have all videographed us and have given us rape threats and acid attack threats. They are constantly trying to instil fear in us … But we will not back down ! We’ll be out on the streets … protesting today as well … amidst their violence … their abuses … their threats ! We won’t let this fire to die down. The beauty of this movement of resistance by Ramjas was that neutral students who don’t associate with any student organization or political ideology have also joined in numbers against ABVP hooliganism. And they were able to rationally engage with what was going around in the campus. And they were with us … And they became “US” … And it was not a left vs right struggle … as was made out in the media … It was Ramjas against ABVP goondaism. It was silence doing its magic against violence. We were peacefully sitting near canteen … fearful of the uncertainty looming around …. Questions of what next and who next … terrified us … traumatised us …. as we saw friends getting beaten up … thrashed and manhandled by ABVP goondas … Our silence was hurting them … Our songs of resistance were pricking them.. They came up with the national flag … and hurled abuses … Chanted bharat mata ki jai … We were silent. Although we were numerically less … Our silent mode of protest affected them so badly that they sporadically attacked us from different sides … trying to batter our strength. Although it was disappointing for a lot of us to silently sit there while they provoked us and we couldn’t hit them back … But still from the way we’ve carried out our protest yesterday … I’ve realized that sometimes silence works wonders ! And it hits them where it hurts the most. As we were struggling inside … Our friends outside the gate were carrying out the protest that we were not allowed to carry out … They were beaten up too … But they didn’t back down ! We will not back down … The social media is flooded with their violence … firsthand accounts of what happened. We are brutally exposing ABVP … And will continue to do so. And hopefully this is the beginning of something DU has never seen or felt before !

Some relevant news reports :

‘They Tried To Strangle Me With My Muffler’ : A Day After, Shock And Anger At Ramjas College

All of last evening there was shock and anger surrounding a particular image that social media users kept sharing – that of Delhi University Professor Prasanta Chakravarty, half-lying on the ground, dazed and disoriented, his shirt torn and a patch of dirt on his face, as mayhem continued all around him on the campus of Ramjas College in the northern part of the national capital. An attempt was allegedly made by suspected members of ABVP to strangle Chakravarty with his own muffler. He was attacked from behind, pushed to the ground, kicked and beaten up.

Dear Amit Shah, rein in ABVP and act on your promise to set ‘gundas’ right

Ramjas College Violence: Delhi Police Assures Protesting Students A Fair Probe

Ramjas clashes : Delhi Police admits ‘mistakes’, transfers case to crime branch

A day after students clashed in Delhi University’s North Campus, the Delhi Police transferred the case to the Crime Branch and admitted that the incident could have been handled better. The move to transfer the case followed a joint protest by students of AISA from DU and JNU at the police headquarters at ITO, seeking action against members of ABVP for violence on Tuesday.


    Silence protests are more powerful than violent vandalism. The silent resistance to horrible incidents has made more and more people turn against the fascist right wingers. Their retraction shows that scientific discussions cannot be stopped by coercive hindutva