Gurmehar Binary Decoded: ABVP’s Saffron DNA Is the Real Problem

Gurmehar Kaur has today become a rallying point. A student of Delhi University, she exercised her right to publicly state her opinions. In response, dozens of Page 3 hopefuls and a few ministers jumped into the bandwagon to give an answer to the 20-year-old.

If the sinisters are threatening physical violence to her, Mr Home Minister seems to have donned a clairvoyant's robe to diagnose her mental state. In this theatre of the absurd, a few people seem to be hell-bent on twisting the meaning of freedom of speech. It is an absolute right. Period. This fundamental right is guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Period.

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Unnecessary Intervention by Union Ministers

The Constitution does not subscribe to the threat of violence. Speech and expression are in itself abstract, hence have benign occurrences. Actions, on the other hand, are tangible and come with the potential to have malevolent manifestations.

As for Mr Minister, suffice to say that he voluntarily ceded his right to free speech the day he took the oath of office and secrecy. This oath is administered in view of the sensitive information a minister is privy to. His right to free speech is substituted by discretion during his ministerial tenure.

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Inherent Problem With ABVP Is Its DNA

The epicentre of this storm is the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, which is a declared subsidiary of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). To understand the ABVP's actions, it is imperative to understand the ideological moorings of its parent body – the RSS – in an objective manner because there is a flurry of debates, both in favour and against the Sangh.

In this din, there is a need to dispassionately see similar occurrences across history, around the world, their objectives and their behavioural pattern – for readers to arrive at a logical conclusion.

Sangh-like establishments around the world by their very nature are communal organisations. Communal here, being an ideology which overtly stresses on liturgy (particular way of worship) and ‘organisation’, means a confederation of homogeneous people who openly advocate gaining political power to achieve the purpose.

A critical difference between an organisation and an institution is that when an institution is heterogenous, people are more concerned about rendering social service driven by a sense of duty, whereas homogenous organisations are more concerned about attaining power and dominance.

The second yet very important characteristic of any communal organisation is that when it is out of power, it demands equality/privileges for itself but when in power, it imposes its own supremacy over others.

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Claiming Stake Over Nationalism

Another irrefutable trait of such groups is that during times of social emergencies, when the majority population is trying to cope with the emergency – these organisations propagate and indulge in cultural activities. However, once the social emergency phase is over, they declare their own monopoly over patriotism.

Classic examples of such uncanny behavioural pattern are galore – especially the National Socialist German Workers Party's role of indulging in cultural activities in the 1920s when majority of Germans were trying to rebuild their nation after its defeat in WWI.

The same party declared its monopoly over patriotism in the 1940s in a resurgent Germany. Or the actions of Italian Socialists during the 1910s when Italians were going through an economic crisis when the Socialists initiated cultural programmes. But by 1920s with the crisis over, the Socialists anointed themselves with the help of supreme nationalism.

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How Religious Patriotism Took Over the Arab World

Such examples are found aplenty in the Arab world, especially Iran. While Iranians were demonstrating against the western crony Shah in the 1970s, Basij Mostazafan (BM) propounded cultural activities. But the moment the Shah was overthrown in 1979, the BM claimed ownership over patriotism and is till date in power in Iran.

In case of Afganistan, in 1991, while the ordinary Afghans were struggling to get rid of the Soviet-backed crony regime and the resultant chaos after Soviet withdrawal, the Taliban propounded cultural activities by opening religious schools. But by 1994, when an interim government was in place in relatively calmer times, the Talibs claimed sovereign ownership over their queer brand of religious patriotism and went on to usurp power too.

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Narrowing Scope of the ‘Idea of India’

The Sangh's historical evolution as well as behavioural trajectory reflects that although it existed during the pre-Independence era, its primary activity then was to promote cultural programmes. However, post 1947, it changed tack swiftly to promote, propagate as well as claim nationalism as its USP, which it continues to do till date.

Today as the Sangh-backed BJP is in power, it is but natural for the Sangh to project as if its idea of India has gained constitutional validity. From here on, it’s easy. Either my way or the highway, any divergent view can be dubbed treason.

(The author is Joint Secretary, National Organisation Building Team, Aam Aadmi Party. He can be reached @Siddharthgpf. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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