The Karni Sena of JNU
Organiser   10-May-2018
By violently banning the movie screening on Love Jihad, the Left-Islamists elements of JNU have replicated the Karni Sena modus operandi. It has potently tarnished the so-called “democratic progressive” image of the campus

Karni Sena is a caste-based organisation that came to limelight because of its violence based assertive demand of banning the film Padmaavat. The methods adopted for protest were brutish, lawless, and unconstitutional. The modus operandi of the Sena was a menacing example of what Babasaheb Ambedkar had long back characterised as the “Grammar of Anarchy”. The debate over the “Freedom of Expression” and why the State actors must get arm-twisted by a community force took the centre-stage.

After some five months when Karni Sena is fading away from memories, in one of the finest universities of the country—Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), we witnessed the replication of their plan of action. A joint front of Left and Muslim students of JNU violently disrupted the screening of In the Name of Love, a movie that depicts the bitter reality of human trafficking in Kerala for terrorism in the pretext of love. Filmmaker Sudipto Sen was heckled and manhandled by JNUSU led-students. Speaking to Organiser, he confirmed that, “They are no less than street goons. They physically assaulted me and tried to break my gadgets. They pulled off the video code to the screen and tried to destroy the screen worth 20 lakh rupees. It is nothing but a brutal attack on the Freedom of Expression and art.”

Now, one must question why the same JNUSU led Left brigade which claims to be the custodian of the “Freedom of Expression” is so unfairly selective about it? How are their violent disruptions, not allowing a film to be screened, heckling and manhandling a filmmaker different from what Karni Sena was doing a few months back?

Violence is their Forte

JNU alumnus and Kolkata based Historian Prof Hitendra Patel answers the queries. He draws a parallel between the community force of the Karni Sena and ideological force of the JNU-based Left-Islamic alliance. Prof Patel out rightly states that, “JNU has never been a democratic campus. The Communist dominance in the university ceases any opportunity for democracy to flourish, since a Communist can never be a democrat. For them, democracy is merely a strategy to reach the final destination of authoritarianism.”

Hitendra Patel suggests that such a violent assertion inside the Communist strong hold like JNU is very much obvious now. A sense of desperation and loss has led them to take up protest as a high pitched political war. He asserts that, “Left brigade’s shrinking stronghold has left them with one option of Direct Action in certain campuses; Direct Action which is violent and disruptive.”

Sadan Jha (Associate Professor, Centre for Social Studies, Surat) suggests that, “Each ideology appropriates and responds to violent events through its own prism. Overtly, though, no political organisation can afford to appreciate violence. And therefore, after violence is done, response usually commences with a ritualistic disclaimer of condemnation.”

However, in this case, there was not even a single utterance of such ritualistic disclaimer of condemnation. JNUSU, which is an alliance of All India Student Association (AISA, CPI ML Liberation), Student Federation of India (SFI, CPM), and Democratic Student Federation (DSF, a splinter group of SFI), has not condemned the violence till now. May be, because they cannot condemn themselves, and thus they have absolved their brute force. Organiser reached out to Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat (both JNU alumnus and members of CPM), Kavita Krishnan (JNU alumna and CPI ML Liberation) and many other defenders of “Freedom of Expression” like Ramachandra Guha, but they chose to let their silence speak and defend the culprits.

Here, is when, Chitra Awasthi (President, Rit Foundation) comes in. She suggests that, “We cannot equate this violent scuffle in JNU with the protest against Padmaavat. First of all, as soon as Karni Sena protestors threw stones on a school bus, seniors from Karni Sena not only condemned them, they also disassociated themselves from the hooligans. Contrast to that, no senior Left leader has condemned the violence in JNU campus so far.”

Gainsaying “Freedom”

Delhi-based scientist Dr Jitendra Rai accentuates the fact that, “‘Freedom of expression’ has a deep meaning, of both—right and responsibility, for an individual or an organisation and that’s why, any constitution or regulatory body extends an ‘authority to speak’ to an individual, however it does propose a restriction too, so that others’ right must not be hampered.”

However, this ideal has not worked out well in the politics in general, and especially for Left-Islamists in particular. Agrees Mayank Singh (Deputy Registrar, BHU) while stating that, “Freedom of Expression, if recent events are to be believed, is a one way street where only the Leftists and radical Islamists have a right to commute. Therefore, while the Left has an unbridled right to fabricate and propagate any view denigrating the Indian heritage and culture, even a film on Love Jihad is violently opposed because it dares to challenge the narrative promoted by the Left-Islamist combine. A filmmaker like Vivek Agnihotri faces strong opposition for his movie Buddha in a Traffic Jam because he disrupts the romantic ecosystem in vogue about Urban Naxalism.”

Dr Manoj Rai (MGHIU, Wardha) talks about a middle path approach suggesting that “The contradictions of campuses like JNU are becoming stark because students have put on their thinking heads in political corridors. Protestors on all the sides of political spectrum have chosen extremism over dialogue and Leftist brigade has done the most harm.”

It seems that the overarching strategy of Urban Naxals has started bearing fruits in the campuses now. The violence which was earlier restricted to only structural harassment of the non-Left, has now come in light; straight and direct.