Guest Post by VIDHYA
On the 18th of March, Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch – a student organization in Delhi University and Aahwan: Ek Janwadi Sanskritik Muhim – a cultural organization, organized a talk and discussion with Prof. Chaman Lal on ‘The Life and Writings of Bhagat Singh’. Dr. Vikas Gupta of the History Department in DU introduced it and facilitated the discussion. This event was organized in the Main Gate of the Arts Faculty of DU after several attempts to book a venue inside Arts Faculty failed. We had hoped to organize a discussion on the life of a revolutionary and the relevance of his message today to the students of the university.
The talk was scheduled to begin at 12 pm. At the same time, another cultural organization, namely Sangwari, came to the area outside the Main Gate to perform a play (nukkad-natak) on the JNU issue. Though this play disrupted our talk, since they were not permitted to perform in the Law Faculty, we agreed and asked our speaker and discussant to wait till the end of the performance. Minutes into the play, the ABVP goons disrupted the performance. At first, it wasn’t clear if the fracas was part of the play or not. But as soon as we realized that 15 or so members of ABVP had taken over, all those who had gathered there intervened to stop the hooliganism of these goons. It is important to state here that during the entire time, around 60 to 70 police officers and constables were mute spectators. These ABVP goons started sloganeering and those performing the play dispersed when they realized that they would not be able to perform. Meanwhile, we were waiting to resume the talk by Prof. Chaman Lal.
It was at this time, an ABVP goon upturned our table and tried to tear the posters of Bhagat Singh we had displayed. We confronted him about this. Instantly we found ourselves surrounded by the police force along with the ABVP. Instead of stopping these goons who were relentlessly sloganeering, verbally abusing and pushing those participating in the talk, the police surrounded us. When we reminded the police SHO that she had given us permission to conduct the programme and the police presence had been deployed in such absurdly large numbers for this very reason, she merely replied that the ABVP had the right to be here and sloganeer even if it disrupted our programme and that she cannot intervene.
After that, we reorganized, resisted and pushed back the goons. The police surrounded us but did not stop the ABVP. Prof. Chaman Lal, after being introduced by Dr. Vikas Gupta, began his talk. He started by highlighting the lack of democratic space in the university and how Bhagat Singh would have viewed those disrupting such programmes as stooges of colonial and imperialist powers. He invoked the words of Bhagat Singh to reiterate the meaning of fighting for the country. The ABVP goons who had been sloganeering now openly threatened Prof. Chaman Lal and all those who had gathered – ‘jo bhagat singh ki raah chalega, who afzal ki maut marega’, ‘desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko’. Prof. Chaman Lal responded with slogans of ‘inquilab zindabad’. Once again, this time the police took exception to this and the SHO directly confronted Prof. Chaman Lal and told him to mind what he says. This entire time, the 15 or so goons had free rein to threaten the audience gathered for the event. A leader of ABVP, threatened two women with these words – tu kahaan padti hai, main jaanta hun, tumhe dekh lenge. When the rest of us asked him if this threat applied to all of us, he turned to the SHO and told her, hume chodd dijiye ihnpe, theek kar denge.
Everyone who had gathered to hear Prof. Chaman Lal formed a human barrier around him. We took on those who tried to attack him and strongly resisted this assault on democratic space in the university. Despite this vicious assault, we firmly stood our ground and ensured that the programme continued. The affront to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev by the ABVP and such right wing forces besides being appalling is entirely unsurprising. But we are appalled at the extent of police and intelligence bureau’s complicity with the ABVP and strongly condemn the tactics of intimidation unleashed on us in the name of ‘deshbhakti’. Dr. Vikas Gupta reminded us that the country that Bhagat Singh envisioned was not the one being endorsed by these ‘false nationalists’. Bhagat Singh, an avowed atheist, would have firmly stood against the Hindu Rashtra these goons repeatedly invoked. He reminded us the need stand with Bhagat Singh for what he stood for rather than let him be appropriated by the Hindutva fascists. It is to the credit of those who stood firm in the face of such fascist assaults as they witnessed fascism and its blind mass appeal in the country’s largest university. Every day it is clear that a united struggle against such forces is not just conceivable but absolutely essential for the azaadi we all hold dear. Let us unite against those who are so afraid of Bhagat Singh’s views that to hear the foremost scholar on the revolutionary martyr speak in Delhi University is deemed anti-national.
It is time for us to remember the words of Bhagat Singh when he says, “The sword of revolution is sharpened on the whetting-stone of ideas. … To associate wrong ideas with our names is out and out injustice.”