Sunday saw horrific scenes at one of the country’s top universities. Masked mobs had run rampage across Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Images of blood-soaked students, bandaged teachers and ransacked hostels streamed across India.
Several strong leads relating to the culprits have emerged. WhatsApp messages planning the attack have been traced back to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. On television, a senior ABVP functionary admitted that people in the photos of the armed mob were from her organisation. In another instance, an ABVP member admitted to a friend that she was one of the masked attackers in JNU.
There seems to be compelling evidence to investigate the role of the ruling party’s student wing in planning this terrible attack on their fellow students. But rather than indicating that it would deal with the situation honestly, the BJP went on the offensive. It launched a rhetorical attack on the students who had been physically assaulted on Sunday.
At an election rally on Monday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah – who is responsible for law and order in Delhi – declared that many JNU students were part of the “tukde-tukde” gang, accusing them of waging “violence in the streets of the national capital”. “Tukde-Tukde” is a phrase used in Hindutva circles to refer to people who allegedly want to balkanise India. Not only was Shah levelling an absurd charge at the students who had been victims of violence by a mob that may have links to his own party, he was using the incident to campaign for the upcoming Delhi elections.
That same day, the Union minister of external affairs, S Jaishankar, also echoed the phrase “tukde-tudke gang”. The West Bengal BJP chief justified the violence by describing it as “scores being settled”. The Karnataka BJP unit released a statement saying that Leftists were a type of “weed” and called for the “JNU tukde-tukde gang” to be “identified and punished”.
As political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta has pointed out, it seems the BJP’s politics has been reduced to one simple if highly destructive strategy: find an enemy and then throw all its might to crushing it.
This has been the obvious pattern behind the last six years of BJP rule. There has been little constructive work. As a result, the Indian economy sputtering and living standards now lag behind those of other neighbouring countries in South Asia. Instead, India’s ruling party has turned the country’s politics into a perpetual theatre of of deadly combat. The BJP’s politics has involved going after Muslims, liberals, the Left, Naxalites, people it calls “anti-national”, alleged infiltrators – the list could go on.
To this end, the BJP has set in motion a series of destructive policies. Brutal lynchings have been ignored and in many cases encouraged, with BJP-controlled police forces patronising cow vigilantes and its ministers fighting on behalf of lynching accused. The Left has been under constant attack. Activists who advocated Ambedkarite ideals have been jailed on flimsy charges.
Most destructive of all, the BJP has promised a Muslim-only National Register of Citizens process that would, if implemented convert India into a de facto Hindu rashtra. The process has inspired energetic protests across India. As part of its policy of incessant conflict, the BJP has used brutal police force to attack protestors in the states it controls.
The BJP’s politics of constant confrontation has paid rich dividends electorally but is lethal for India. The country cannot be ruled by a party whose sole strategy consists of lighting fires so it can sift through the ashes for votes. There is nothing more “anti-national” than this.