“Everyone should have their own opinion and be able to voice it. No matter what it is. Of course, that does not mean your opinion is always right. But, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and that’s the spirit of democracy to accommodate all opinions.”

Ramjas incident painted another picture in which the battle of two ideologies took a violent turn .

On February 21 , the Literary society of Ramjas College organised an event called ‘Cultures of Protest’, in  which Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashela (former JNU students, also accused to be involved in the JNU row) were invited as speakers. This event was disrupted by the ABVP, a student’s wing of BJP backed up by RSS. Their reason for disrupting the event was that they did not want any ‘anti-national element’ to speak at the event. ABVP dubbed Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashela as ‘anti-national elements’ !

To protest this disruption and violence by ABVP , a peaceful march was organized  by SFI , AISA and DUTA and other DU students. The protest march was again disrupted by the ABVP, and they resorted to violence which injured 20 people. Police remained a mute spectator to this incident.

Digging deep into this incident , surely gave us some powerful insights!

Firstly , inviting Umar Khalid as a speaker was a controversial move, as he is out on bail on the serious charges of sedition. So, does Umar Khalid have enough credentials and expertise  to speak on the area of  research like Bastar which is a naxalite affected area?

I respect the rights to freedom of speech and expression of every single individual but one’s privilege of right to freedom of speech and expression comes with a reasonable restriction as to not destruct or disrupt public morality and law .

Moreover, when speakers like Shazia Ilmi could be stopped from talking about triple talaq in a seminar , Tarek Fateh’s debate was cancelled on this ostensible reason ,that his talks will have ‘unislamic’ elements ,when they were denied permission to speak on issues pressing the society and the rights of Muslim women then why couldn’t authorities deny Umar Khalid? Where were the samaritans of right to freedom of speech and expression for Shaiza Ilmi , Tarek Fateh or Tasleema Nasreen? This incident has surely brought ‘selective activism’ in limelight.

Moreover, the right to do something does not mean that doing it is right . And certainly here,  above this right , it’s more about rationale and morale behind invitation of such speakers who are under sedition charges.

Secondly, the acts of violence and vandalism are strongly condemned.

ABVP  resorted to violence to inflict it’s notion of ‘nationalism’ on others and reasoned  that such ‘anti national elements’ do not deserve to speak . It expressed it’s outrage by using physical violence and then later on tried to justify its acts by saying it was in national interest and legitimized it’s actions by chanting slogans like ‘bharat mata ki jai’ and ‘vande matram’ and certainly it’s important to understand that jingoism cannot be mistaken for nationalism. It even disguised the distinction between nationalism and fascism. The question still arises in young minds that how far will one’s nationalistic interests go to harm humanity, and why didn’t ABVP choose to debate, discuss and deliberate on such an issue. Has the culture of debate and discussion been lost  in our campuses?

It wasn’t the first time that the party has acted violently , it has a besmirched history of such acts like in JNU and Central Hyderabad university .

Throwing some light on the present scenario, this issue too has now become a political dessert .

Like ants stick to even a small lump of sugar in no time, any issue is munched upon by political parties and their leaders. This campus has now become political battleground for ideologies represented by right wing ABVP and left wing AISA and SFI. It’s now a part of confrontational politics. Blame game is being played by these parties. The right-wing is stamping the left-wing students as “anti-national”, and the left-wing is calling the right-wing students “goons”. India is yet to see a phase of mature politics. That’s why not any soon are rallies and counter rallies likely to stop.

This fiasco could have been prevented by not inviting such controversial speakers and secondly by ABVP by not retaliating in such rough ways .

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it . Let not this Ramjas incident call go unanswered . Its time to rethink our forgotten democratic principles of peaceful co-existence of different opinions. Let the spirit of democracy hail!

Simran Sachdeva