Protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act
Locals in New Delhi protest against CAA, December 2019. Photograph by Sanjeev Yadav via Wikimedia Commons (cc)
From The Guardian:
The BJP has long believed that its anti-Muslim project has two enemies: Muslims, and those non-Muslims who see Muslims as equal citizens under the constitution. The Delhi police made an example of Jamia as a warning to India’s Muslims. When that didn’t go according to plan, the same police travelled several miles across the city to help make an example of a university that the BJP sees as the institutional incarnation of the secularism that might yet thwart its dreams of a Hindu nation. Since majoritarian parties are constitutionally incapable of empathy, the BJP understands JNU’s brand of secular solidarity as a form of Hindu self-hatred.
For the better part of Modi’s first term in office, there has been a running battle between JNU students and central government, a David and Goliath standoff that has turned student politicians into national figures. But the BJP’s loathing of the university is obsessive and wildly out of proportion to the threat that its students and teachers pose. Stung by the pan-Indian support that Jamia’s anti-CAA protests have provoked, Modi’s government seems to have concluded that it was all JNU’s fault. Otherwise it is hard to believe that a dispute over accommodation charges – the last source of conflict between JNU students and the authorities to make headlines – could goad a national government into risking complicity in this violent charade. The only other explanation for the attack is that it was an attempt to turn attention away from the anti-CAA protests by giving people something else to be outraged about.
It’s hard to predict what lasting effect the assaults on these two universities will have on Indian politics. A party that controls the state will generally outlast spontaneous civil society movements that lack political leadership. For the moment, though, the passion (and existential panic) that has powered this campaign against sectarianism seems to have deranged Modi’s leviathan.