- Apoorva Gautam
Adding a few decibels to the cacophony of bizarre public statements in this country, officials from the Intelligence Bureau have alleged that ‘ultra-Left’ organisations, from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University are fueling violence in the protests in Delhi against the gang-rape and murder of the 23-years old paramedical student. They are “exploiting the existing fault-lines". This, the officials believe, is the strategy on part of the 'ultra-left' groups to tap into the urban unrest in order to expand their base outside of university campuses. A few days back, the Home Minister revealed his anxieties about having to meet Maoists if he went out to listen to the protesters in India Gate.
Interestingly, in the same breath, these officials put these Left organisations in the same category as right-wing groups with intriguing names like Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena and Hindu Sena.
|India Today report, 6th January, 2013|
There are times when one feels it is pointless to pay attention to these comments, that they are plain funny. But it would be naïve to just treat these as mindless attempts by the state to divert from the questions and demands that the ongoing agitation against sexual violence has put forth. These statements, in fact, reveal to us the complexity of the issue. If one traces the trajectory of important events of recent past and the statements given by stooges of authority -MPs, MLAs, police officials, etc., one sees a near-paranoia against protests. Often treated as aberration, even a cause of embarrassment, the power-that-be tries its best to either deny or ridicule them. And depending on the level of embarrassment caused, sometimes even legitimizes the use of violence or threat of it against them.
Unable to deal with people's anger, from Koodankulam to Tinsukia, the State has found an easy way out - blame it on the 'ultra-left' (whatever it means) and label them as Maoists. A few months back, the clash at Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar was also painted in the same shade by the intelligence officials and power-that-be. There too, “Maoists were trying to infiltrate the hallowed space of urban India, coming out of the jungles.” And now their comrades are fuelling violence and hooliganism near Raisina Hills. Here one is reminded of Anand Teltumbde’s argument of this being the ‘method of madness’ of the Indian State, where any protest against structures of oppression and exploitation is quickly bracketed as “anti-national”, “seditious”, etc
To quickly revisit what happened on 23rd of December, the embarrassing Sunday for Indian State, various groups of protesters gathered near India Gate, partly because of the anger fueled by the violent crackdown on previous day’s protests, but largely to protest against widely prevalent culture of rape and sexual violence. Till about 3 pm, protesters gathered in different groups and depending upon their political leanings and understandings of the issue, they raised slogans and staged a non-violent demonstration. But as the afternoon progressed, some really charged groups of young men found their way in, and in a planned fashion started attacking the police and instigating them to do what they had been preparing for. As we tried to dodge the tear-gas shells and baton charges, some of these young men totally changed the nature of the protest site. The same bunch was to later on overturn vehicles and set things on fire - such was their zeal. We have been meeting these energised, 'patriotic' young men at many protest sites. They have hurled many emotional diatribes at us - “you shut up, we are here for our sister”, passionate recitals of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” - upon being requested to stop being aggressive etc. Reports show that many of these zealous men were ultimately among those picked by police from the protest site on 23rd December. None of those booked for instigating violence that day were from the so called ultra-Left groups that have been allegedly fuelling violence according to Intelligence bureau.
|Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena activists leading the violent mob at India Gate, 23rd December, 2012|
And we know what happens to those who raise the uncomfortable questions in this country- the workers who challenge the owners, the irrepressible young women who wish to marry out of their choice, the Dalits who question the atrocities of the upper castes, the left activists who protest against a proto-fascist neo-liberal regime. A deeply oppressive and complicated structure and its various representatives show us their most paranoid and ugly sides in the face of real, powerful challenge. It is easy to quell some hyper, pointless mobs apparently upset about what’s been done to their sister - they are like badly behaved children letting out family secrets in public. The problem for the State and misogynistic society at large begins when the questions asked are too uncomfortable to answer, which was precisely what the 'ultra-left' was doing in Raisina Hills, India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and at many other places, not just in this city but across the country.
|This is what the so called Ultra left was doing. Photo: Tara Basumatary|
Apoorva Gautam is an activist and a Post-Graudate student in Department of Sociology, University of Delhi.