India: Attack on Sarath has hidden agenda of breaking Dalit – Muslim unity

Ethnic cultures and their manifestations in the public sphere has become target for authoritarianism. BJP government under the leadership of Narendra Modi has been trying to efface the multiculturalism and secularism from the society. Fascist authoritarianism never tolerates the democratic and secular nature of the people’s constitution.


Nature of the State will be manifested by the constitution. Indian State by its constitution is not a Hindu country. It was clearly stated in the constitution of India that the Indian State has no religion but it is a secular country. BJP government never accepted and respected the constitution of India. Modi has identified Indian State with Bhagavad Geeta. To disseminate Hindutva Ideology and to get the legitimacy to the undemocratic, un-ethical and authoritarianism which is expressed in Geeta, Modi has presented it to the President of China when he visited India.


Modi and his government are committed in promoting Hindutva culture against the Ethnic cultures of India. It is not a new starting. Many instances took place in the past. Time and again this cultural fascism has been opposed and protested by Dalits and Muslims. Democratic interventions on the part of Dalits and Muslims have been condemned in violent ways. Many of Dalit leaders have been attacked since they have fought for raising voice against violation of Constitution. Many critics and scholars have penned that regional movements will destroy the communal forces; especially it will prevent spreading of RSS network in the Telangana region. But Regional parties and organizations have provided a large canvas for RSS expansion.


Though the government in Telangana is non-BJP government, there is not much difference between the state and central government attitudes towards people. The Hindutva has spread its fold all over the state during the Telangana movement and its tentacles are spread even in the universities. Till now there was discrimination against Dalit students by the teachers and administration of the universities, now the attack on Dalit and minority students by the RSS gang has augmented in all the universities especially at Osmania University established by the Nizam state. In just past few months at least five Dalit and Muslim students were beaten blue and black by the ABVP gang without any proper reason.


One Muslim student was beaten mercilessly, kidnapped and threatened to leave the campus without taking admission in the Osmania University so that his absence makes way to the ABVP student for admission, on another occasion a Dalit student, Badri was beaten because he did not attend puja, another Dalit Ravi was attacked because he did not join them in rally and so on. It was Sarath along with the other students all the time, intervened and stood as shield to such students. Neither the university administration takes any disciplinary action nor do the police personnel take any legal action against these goons. Such is the sad affair in the universities against the Dalit and Muslim students.


The recent incidence of attack on Sarath Naliganti by burning his room on 10th September 2014 is the most serious of all. It is not just attack on him but there are different dimensions attached to it. On 10th September few ABVP students were beating a student Ravi for not joining their rally. On knowing this Sarath with some students went there to know what the matter is. Meanwhile, RSS and ABVP goons went to Sarath room, poured petrol and burnt his room. Books, laptop, certificates, clothes and cash were all turned into ashes within minutes.


Sarath Naliganti is a research scholar of Osmania University. He hails from the underprivileged community i.e. from Madiga community from Warangal district of Telangana state. During his under graduate days he was associated with Ambedkar Students Federation and played an important role in Bahujan Students movement. He joined for Masters Course in Telugu department at Osmania University. During those days, to fulfill his financial requirements he worked as daily wage worker and as a catering boy. He passed out with first division while simultaneously supporting his poor parents financially. Presently he is senior research scholar in Telugu department of Osmania University.


When we look at the recent history of Osmania University campus, we find that Hindutva goons in the name of ABVP occupied the campus for almost 20 years in 1980s and 90s. Then in late 1990s the SC, ST students confronted the ABVP goons and formed SC, ST Students Association and Bahujan Students Federation with an alternate ideology of Ambekarism. Professor Kancha Illaiah guided them in understanding Ambedkarism by encouraging the students to read as much as possible and concentrate on studies instead of roaming around.


Gradually many other student organizations came up combating the Hindutva ideology and struggling hard for self respect and unity. Sarath walked along with his seniors in this struggle. By 2005 ABVP almost collapsed in the campus completely. When Telangana movement began in 2009, BJP had not taken any stand on Telangana issue. Osmania University was the centre point of the movement those days, BJP and RSS was trying to bring students into the Hindutva fold in the name of Telangana.


With the break of KCR’s fast unto death, Arts College became centre stage of Telangana movement with lakhs of students participating in the movement from all the districts of Telangana. Dalit students’ songs especially Sarath’s songs became inspiration for the students in the movement for separate Telangana. When the students were attempting suicide, through his songs he inspired students to fight for the self respect and identity instead of sacrificing their lives.


When BJP took stand of pro-Telangana, the movement turned into fascist movement. It was the Bahujan students who demanded and fought for secular and democratic Telangana, criticizing the Hindutva ideology. Sarath played an important part in bringing Dalit and Muslim students together during the movement. He organized Iftar party every year, he spoke on different platforms organized by Muslims during the movement and made people understand that Dalits and Muslims are one entity, and when they unite a social and democratic Telangana could be achieved, political power can be gained and so on. He wrote number of songs both in Telugu and English, among which famous songs are, songs on Iftar, Beef, Jai jai Raavana etc. that are available on YouTube. Apart from Iftar party, he organized other alternate programmes such as Beef festival, Asura festival, Ravana vardhanti, Narakasura vardhanti etc.


During the recent elections, Sarath contested as a MLA candidate from Amberpet constituency on MIM ticket. Though the party had suggested him SC reserved seat, he opted to fight against Kishan Reddy, BJP candidate. He gave a tough fight to Kishan Reddy by making him spend lots of money and man power. During the course, Sarath became the centre of attraction among the Dalits and Minorities. And on the other side, RSS goons had an eye on him and were waiting for a chance to attack him. So as said above, it is not merely a fight or a conflict between two student groups as portrayed by the media.


In fact, it has many dimensions; it is an attack on secular, democratic fabric and harmonious culture that is present in the campus. It is an attack to threaten and build pressure on Dalit and Muslim students, it is an attack to re-occupy the campus and implement Hindutva ideology, and it is an attack to break the unity of dalit and Muslim students. Therefore, this attack is not merely an attack but speaks volumes about many political and social reasons. Police became the mute spectators in this issue, as if it does not matter anything. It is once again proved that Hindutva ideology is spread in different sectors including media and police. It is also shame on the part of the University administration that it has not taken any disciplinary action against such goons who are very much present in the campus.


Even though Modi government is trying to appease and prove to be a good human only for his selfish gains, no person is a fool to believe him. Every lay man can better understand his foolish policies which he is trying to prove good by various statements. If at all this incident had happened vice-versa, till now the Dalit and Muslim students must have been labeled as terrorists, cases booked against them and might have been expelled from the university on the name of disciplinary action. Such is the double standard in the higher educational institutions. But nothing has been done as said in the case of Naliganti Sharath. Police did not arrest anyone. Telangana government which promised and assured human dignity and secularism and self claimed Dalit-Muslim friend, has not responded so far in this case. What do we learn from this? Regional movements and governments are not different from central authoritarianism. Then, how do we protect multiculturalism and secularism?


(Kaneez Fathima is the Joint Secretary of Hyderabad absed Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee.)


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