Author: Nitten Gokhaley
Date: April 4, 2016
After watching news coverage about the dispute between ABVP and left-wing students’ organizations that took place at Fergusson College, you think ABVP and BJP workers acted like goons, right? Perhaps, certain news channels have also forced you to believe that people representing left-wing student groups are God sent angels. Think again!
News channels tried to portray the story as upper caste vs. lower caste students’ dispute
As left-minded student leaders are already getting their share of media coverage, I decided to interact with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s Fergusson College Vice-President Akshay Bikkad to understand ABVP’s side. He is studying for SY-BSc. For those who are looking at this case from upper vs. backward caste point of view, please note, even ABVP’s Akshay Bikkad belongs to the backward caste.
ABVP had organized interaction between their JNU chief Alok Singh and college students on March 21st at FC. The organization aims to reach students and solve misunderstanding about JNU incident.
Leftists believe that ABVP did not get permission from college to conduct their chat session. As far as this point is concerned, Akshay shared the information that members of the right-wing student organization had approached the FC’s principal for permission to conduct informal discussion with students. The principal suggested that they do not need any permission as they won’t be using college’s hall or chairs. Their discussion was to take place in small groups on March 21st.
If you believe the students, Fergusson College witnessed first verbal spat between ABVP leaders and pro-leftist student union leaders on March 21st.
The Kanhaiya card
According to sources, everything was peaceful until Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s great grandson Sujat Ambedkar entered the scene with more than 50 individuals to disturb ABVP’s discussion with students at around 11:30 AM. These individuals looked like goons and belonged to SFI, AISF, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (Sujat’s father Prakash Ambedkar is this party’s chairperson), and Sambhaji Brigade (anti-Brahmin outfit).
Sujat is studying Arts, political science in FC. But, individuals who accompanied him that day while shouting slogans did not look like students from any angle.
Reliable sources claim that these individuals, along with Ambedkar junior, were shouting pro-Kanhaiya, pro-Rohith Vemula, anti-Brahmin, BJP, RSS, ABVP, and usual leftist Lal Salam, Azadi crap. The situation did not turn ugly, as Police were called, and both groups were dispersed.
Sujat claims he is studying political science in the same college. Then, why didn’t he encourage JNU’s ABVP chief to debate with him in front of all students instead of bringing goons and shouting slogans? Not even one Marathi news channel’s journalist asked this question to the young student.
On the same day, activists from a right-wing group-Patit Pawan Sanghatana-went to the college and protested in front of the principal, as he had not filed any police case against men who entered the college without permission and shouted slogans. Principal R G Pardeshi’s office issued a letter to the police and complaint was filed with a request to take action against outsiders who entered college premises and shouted slogans.
Next day (March 23rd) was full of chaos. College’s principal surprised everyone by retracting from his statement about anti-national slogans. He issued another letter to police claiming that the word anti-national was typed in the letter (sent to police) because of human error. College also issued a press release expressing regret and claimed that the institution does not believe in taking anyone’s side. However, a story released by DNA newspaper claims that phone call from Delhi urged principal to take back his police complaint, as it would implicate Sujat Ambedkar in a sedition case. But a reliable source from the college who interacted with me has rejected this theory.
Pune’s worst political drama
During the afternoon, Fergusson College witnessed the worst political drama in Pune city’s history. NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad popped up in the college with workers from NCP, Sambhaji Brigade, NSUI, and other outfits. Awhad wanted to meet college’s principal and demand rustication of all the students working with ABVP and right-wing student groups. This news about large number of political goons entering FC to target ABVP members encouraged BJP Yuva Morcha and other right-wing outfit workers to enter the college. They reached FC road and shouted slogans against the NCP MLA for politicizing the issue. Some of them also entered the college to meet the principal as per news reports.
NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad
“Kanhaiya Kumar should visit Fergusson College as he is the only hope for young college students,”-said Awhad, during his interaction with left minded students.
The scene quickly turned violent because of clashes between BJP and NCP workers. Stones and footwear were hurled at the NCP MLA. Police resorted to a mild lathi charge after Awhad’s exit. They even flashed out their guns to disperse the people.
Awhad triggered political drama?
Jitendra Awhad often makes it in headlines because of his pro-terrorists, especially, pro-Ishrat comments. He represents Maharashtra’s Muslim dominated Mumbra-Kalwa Constituency.
NCP leader has nothing to do with students or their issues. He came to the city just to take political advantage of the situation according to social workers who are closely monitoring the situation. Awhad is also famous for his anti-Brahmin speeches, and is close to leftist groups as well as Sambhaji Brigade. The outfit’s members are often reported to be involved in hooliganism, and its Kolhapur chief was recently arrested for his involvement in abducting, raping, and selling a girl according to news reports.
Report that talks about Sambhaji Brigade men involved in sex racket
One-sided reports on news channels about FC incident
Journalists questioned BJP workers for interfering in the matter. But no one questioned Awhad for coming to Pune from Mumbai and interfering in the issue that has nothing to do with him or even his party. BJP leaders issued a statement suggesting that their party workers got involved in this matter only because of NCP leader’s provocative statements.
Jitendra Awhad said during his press conference that he had informed Pune police before visiting Fergusson College. Then, why didn’t police deny permission? Why did they send security cover for NCP MLA who entered the college with his goons? This probably means police had a general idea about the situation that may be created because of NCP MLA’s entry. The point to note is that most of Pune police’s top ranking officials are those that were appointed during NCP regime.
FC is not a hotbed of leftist
“Out of around 4000 students, only 100 of them are part of student groups. People come here for educational purpose, and they should not play politics inside college premises, especially when exams are going on. We would also not like to show any support to Kanhaiya Kumar who has accused the army of raping women. Not just Phule, Ambedkar, and Shahu Maharaj, but we should also mention the contribution made by Tilak, and Savarkar,”- said students who interacted with a journalist during ABP Majha’s show Majha Vishesh. This was the only show in which journalist allowed neutral college students to share their opinion about the political drama.
Unfortunately, almost all news channels are showing misguiding reports about what exactly happened in the city. Barring few, most of the reports do not even mention that it is former Lok Sabha MP Prakash Ambedkar’s son playing the lead in this latest political drama. Channels mostly present Sujat as simple, soft-spokenstudent who has nothing to do with politics, and Awhad as a messiah of Dalits who went to FC to show his support for students from oppressed caste. Not even one channel has mentioned that even ABVP’s members from the Fergusson College belong to the backward caste.
As part of their strategy, scribes did not interact with neutral college students; they only allowed Ambedkarites to share their opinion. Website called Scroll.in even published pro-Sambhaji Brigade report claiming that Ambedkar junior had also chanted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai.’ But sources from FC told me that he never did so.
Pune police registered a case against 200 unknown persons for rioting. They are examining CCTV footage to find the names of people who caused chaos. Cops have also registered NC against BJYM activist for threatening students at Ranade Institute, which is just a few minutes away from FC.
Anyway, we have to appreciate that the drama was a result of a coordinated action between politicians, news channels, and was indeed a strategic master stroke.
- Nitten Gokhaley is a consultant journalist based in Mumbai. He works on business, political, and crime stories.
You can email him- firstname.lastname@example.org