We, the people of India, may have grown up with school debates that argue in favour of India being a “soft State”. However, the delusional bubble can only carry so far as the world around you, as you know it, is crumbling and, to paraphrase Rick Blaine’s line from Casablanca – our delusions of peace don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
India, as a society, is violent and not mild about it. From the practice of female foeticide, dowry murders, and caste violence to the silencing of journalists (fifth-worst as per Reuters, circa 2015), danger posed to women (Reuters, The
Guardian, CNN reported India as the most dangerous country for women in 2018), and our educational model with its suicide stories of frustrated and frightened youth – we have internalised this violence as a part of the Indian
routine alongside “chai-paani”. Then, over a week ago, a CCTV footage surfaced from Jamia Millia Islamia, which would be enough to shake the ideological core of the people of a society not so blindly in love with violence and mob justice, as the Singham, Simmba, and whatever Rohit Shetty’s making next-applauding masses are.
The footage from the University’s library showed policemen entering with lathis, charging at students who appeared to have been inside in their booths. The violence in the video is triggering as the youth holds its hands above its head to avoid injuries. The footage comes in, post the denial of the Home Minister and the Delhi Police regarding thelatter ever having entered the library on 15th December 2019. Media outlets like Republic TV, Times Now,etc. claimed to have found the “unedited” version of the footage, showing the students entering the library with stones, suggesting that the actions of the CRPF were provoked.
Alt News later fact-checked the authenticity of the footage and revealed that what had been propagated as a stone in the hands of a student was a wallet. The damage, however, to the collective conscience and moral psyche of India was done and dusted with, at that point. When Instagram pages like Indian Military Updates post captions that state “Condemn The Violent Actions of CRPF Bcoz (Because) They Were Not Violent Enough”, we need to analyse our problematic romance with violence.
Anurag Thakur and the like of his breed of politicians can get away with cries that lead to violent action, in the faces of the Jamia and Shaheen Bagh shooters, not because the judiciary or the State are being undemocratic, but because they are seemingly catering to the bloodlust of the masses. Family WhatsApp groups and dinner-table conversations should be one’s doorway to the horrifying glorification of the acts of the police. Lived experiences of the people, their dissent, a need to question – these become secondary in middle- class Indian households, to the need to dictate and control the narrative, even if it defies any semblance of fact.
Middle-aged people alike have justified the violence in the footage, believing that the acceptable realm of universities and for students is text-book education, employment, and not the acceptably dirty business that is politics. They fail to see the first two as inseparably linked with the course of political developments, blinding themselves conveniently to the ideals of the very Independence struggle that allows this nationalistic fervour but was carried on the martyred backs of young college students.
Like or dislike for student politics aside, what the attitude towards the Jamia violence shows is not just social tendency to dismiss our youth as misguided when they do anything but obey, but it is also reflective of a deeply problematic ideological acceptance and internalisation of Althusser’s repressive state apparatus. What this country needs to ask itself is not whether the students had stones or any other fictional weapon, but whether the Police has a
right to unleash that kind of barbaric violence. Or worse, when they think the State’s people condone the violence that contains and kills dissent.