A right-wing journalist has made a passionate defense of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)’s protest at Ramjas College, which was sparked after college authorities extended an event invitation to controversial Jawaharalal Nehru University (JNU) students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid. Shubhrastha, a freelance columnist and an assistant editor at India Foundation Journal, however urged the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated student group to not let the protest turn violent, lest it blurs the message.
She also published a Hindi post on Wednesday in which she questioned the “motive” of Ramjas College authorities behind inviting Khalid and Rashid to their literary event, Culture of Protest, in the first place.
“Has Umar Khalid published any peer review on the subject? Has he worked in the dark areas of the country that makes him knowledgeable about the subject matter? I don’t understand why the organisers even invited him to the event,” she said.
Shubhrastha, who is also a poll consultant for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also remarked in her video message posted on Facebook on Thursday,
“My problem with the ABVP’s protest is on form, not on content,”
She asked ABVP supporters to shun violence.
The ABVP has been accused of attacking students, teachers and even several journalists who had gathered for a protest march against the right-wing student body on Wednesday. The anti-ABVP protest was organised in reaction to events a day before on Tuesday, when students at Ramjas College claimed that activists from the right-wing group pelted stones at the venue in a bid to thwart the literary event from taking place at all.
“Violence can’t be justified in any form. The form of protest should be graceful.”
The ABVP should realise that they are seen as the student body of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS. They should cherish the fact that they are part of the mainstream, Shubhrastha said.
The comments come amid ongoing dispute between opposing student factions, involving supporters from ABVP and left-wing student union All India Students Association (AISA) clashing with each other. The argument whether JNU student leaders Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid should have been invited to the Ramjas College event lie at the heart of the whole controversy.
Umar Khalid became a divisive figure after participating in a commemorative event on Afzal Guru on the JNU campus last year. According to some video recordings, there were slogans raised against the Indian state at the same event which prompted the Delhi Police to invoke sedition charges against him and several other event organisers. Khalid is currently out on bail.
“They highlighted themselves by raising anti-India slogans,” Shubhrastha said in her video.
She alleged that whole episode was a well thought-out political strategy aimed at provoking the Right.
She accused critics of the ABVP of double standards, saying that they called themselves intellectuals but didn’t want to hear those with opposing views at the same time.
“Did they invite anyone with differing political views?
Why was Umar Khalid given such a platform as to discuss culture of protest?”