Written by Ria De|Kolkata|July 5, 2020
Members of the Hindu right wing student group ABVP have been threatening and mentally harassing Arko Dev Sinha, a 2nd year undergraduate student of International Relations at Jadavpur University, Kolkata.
On 27th June Arko had gotten into an argument in a Whatsapp group for departmental students with his senior Krishna Samprati Modak, a member of the JU wing of ABVP about her misogynistic post about another woman student, an SFI activist. In the following days, Samprati took to facebook and twitter to complain that she was being “hounded from many days by communists of JU due to (her) political ideology on social media platforms.”
She released screenshots of the argument where Arko called out her “degrading and immoral” statements about another woman and eventually removed her from the group.
In her twitter post, Samprati accused Arko of being a feminist who “part time rallies for women empowerment but harasses a girl due to her affiliation to ABVP”. She goes on to describe herself as someone belonging “to a very ordinary background” and not an “Upper class Bhadralok like them”. She further claimed “democratic ‘Communists’” of compelling her to “abuse my religion, Hinduism, Hindutva & my ideology” and “when (she) didn’t do it they passed casteist slurs on me”.
As proof of casteist slurs used by Arko, she put up a screenshot of his post from 5th June. Samprati went on to give out Arko’s personal details on Facebook, following which he has been receiving abuses and threats of legal action, beatings and fatal harm to his life and that of his family.
In a Facebook post on 3rd July, Arko writes, “In the screenshots of the private chat group she had primarily posted, revealing my personal number which was only removed by her after 1-2 hours of the post being on Facebook, but in the meantime the screenshots along with my Facebook and twitter profile ID and phone number were being shared in several private Hindu extremist Whatsapp groups…I kept receiving calls, messages and death threats not just to me but to my entire family from several unknown numbers on whatsapp. I am still being harassed by unknown profiles and numbers on Facebook, twitter and whatsapp who are in fact still sending me messages involving dirty misogynistic slangs.”Arko has since received multiple messages from individuals, claiming to have filed cases against him under relevant sections of the SC/ST (PoA) Act.
Screenshots of abusive and threatening messages received by Arko Dev Sinha (Scroll left & right)
We wrote to Samprati to confirm if she had been aware that Arko is a non-urban Dalit student from the Rajbangshi community, whose father is a policy agent and mother a homemaker. We are yet to receive a response from her. Arko has written, “I myself am from an underprivileged SC caste background, from a comparatively lower middle income class family and have aggressively fought for dalit (SC-ST), lower class, queer and women’s rights over the years. I feel very disgusted, angry, worried, scared and traumatised from such threats by the perpetrator and her co-workers.” Nikhil Das of the JU ABVP has filed a legal complaint against Arko to the Jadavpur Police Station and Cybercrimes for “hurting religious sentiments and passing casteist remarks against the socially and economically backward communities” under sections 153, 153A, 295, 295A and 66A of Information & Technology Act.
Apparently upper caste Hindus going by the names Vikram Tiwari (VHP-Bengal), Avinash Tripathi (Uttar Pradesh) and others have sent voice notes to Arko with the choicest of casteist, homophobic and sexist abuses (bhosdike, madarchod, napunsak etc). Two of them threaten to beat Arko and shoot it live for his family to watch. A third electronically altered voice threatens to kill his father and sinisterly ends his message with “Jai Shree Ram Bhosdike”. All three know Arko’s residential address and details of hiS family members.
The AFSU and students of the Department of International Relations have released statements, condemning “the practice of silencing dissenters”. The Revolutionary Students’ Front has condemned “this serious breach of law and order, and rash intentions of the ABVP in Jadavpur University” and called for “active resistance against such holliganism of ABVP”. Other student organisations are yet to respond. Arko has also filed a legal complaint with the Cybercrimes department of the police but no action has been taken as of now.
The “underprivileged” footsoldiers of the Hindutva
The constitution of the ABVP panel in the last Jadavpur Student’s Union elections is maybe an evidence of the extent to which the Hindutva has been successful in mobilising SC/ST and OBC students. Thanks to Samprati’s twitter post, we know that the ABVP candidates “Subhadeep Karmakar is SC, Mrinal Khandit is ST, Ram Mangal Gope & (Samprati) belong to OBC”. ABVP however managed to get only 100-150 votes per seat and lost miserably to SFI. A perfunctory glance through her Facebook and twitter accounts will show that she is quite the Hindu. Somewhere in between is a poster of Ambedkar. She refers to him as “Panditji”. Probably unknown to her is Ambedkar’s historic rejection of Hinduism and its caste system. While the likes of Samprati invoke their own gender and caste marginalisation, they are able to rally caste Hindu men against vocal anti-caste Dalit students such as Arko Dev Sinha. The messages sent to Arko by the Hindutva brigade are dangerous because they invoke memories of all the violence that BJP-RSS has orchestrated against Dalits and minorities in the last 20 years, including what Shambhulal Regar did to Mohd Afrazul, a Muslim migrant worker from Bengal, the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the ABVP violence in JNU and Aligarh. University campuses like Jadavpur University are so elite and Brahminical that the issues of Dalit, adivasi and Bahujan students are as invisible and silenced as the students themselves. Part of this violence is the vulgar appropriation of anti-caste figures such as Babasaheb Ambedkar. Apart from the lies and misrepresentations of the work and struggle of Dalit leaders is the weaponisation of the very discourse, politics and constitutional laws that are meant to represent and protect Dalits, for instance the dilution of the reservation policy and the attempted amendment to the SC/ST (PoA) Act. To invoke “seniority” and accuse a Dalit student of casteism by way of using “lower caste” (or “neechi jati” as translated by Samprati) in his statement and then to file an atrocities case for criticising the Hindutva footsoldiers of his community, and for exercising his right to dissent and disagree with Hindutva masochism clearly speaks of the ways in which the BJP-RSS seeks to instrumentalise the politics of caste. On one occasion, we spoke to a Dalit student from Sundarban who said he had to choose between his studies and being part of a political organisation where he could represent his issues. A Muslim student echoed the same concerns. He said, “politics takes time; and we have to study. It takes hours for us to go through these English texts”. Arko is a 20 year old middle class Dalit man who has studied in an English medium Christian missionary school. He speaks fluent English, is social media savvy and chooses to be independent in his politics. Kolkata is the first metropolitan city he has ever visited. He has made it a point to speak up and be seen. Slogans against Brahminical patriarchy and the BJP-RSS will mean nothing, if the rights of Dalit bahujan students like Arko and others to not just exist safely and freely but to articulate their politics is not supported and protected.