“RSS and BJP are dangerous for our society and people should reject their politics”
April 16, 2019
In 2016, Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay award winning social activist, was expelled from Banaras Hindu University following accusations that his teachings were "anti-national". In his book Why I was Expelled from Banaras Hindu University, he recounts incidents leading up to his expulsion. Pandey was teaching at the BHU-IIT at that time. Through a narraitive of his experiences at BHU, Pandey draws a larger point about the ongoing saffronisation of educational institutions across India, under the BJP government.
The Indian Cultural Forum interviewed Sandeep Pandey about his book, his expulsion, the agenda of the RSS and the BJP and their interest in saffronising educational institutions and more.
Daniya Rahman: What happened to you in Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has been happening across campuses ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014. Can you comment on these continuous attacks on education and educational institutions?
Sandeep Pandey: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is trying to control academic institutions stifling out any other voice. By controlling young minds they want to dominate the narrative in the society and hope to maintain a long term hold on it.
DR: There is a trend of labelling every dissenting voice as "anti-national" and / or "naxalite". Why do you think that is? What according you does nationalism stand for?
SP: It is easy to discredit anybody or question anybody’s credibility by labelling somebody an anti-national or a naxalite. The idea of nationalism is like that of caste and religion, which is used to divide people. It is artificial. We have to be careful about it. I can be a good human being without believing in caste, religion or nation. It is important to be a humanist or a universalist. And that is sufficient.
DR: You have openly held the RSS responsible for your expulsion. Have you received threats from them or faced any hurdles in releasing the book?
SP: Not now, but when I was leaving BHU, two people associated with the RSS tried to dictate what I should have and should not have taught to the students one evening at the guest house where I used to stay. I confronted them. There is a continuous attempt to make false accusations against me by people associated with the RSS. On 6 February, 2019 after my book went public, there was an article in The Guardian by one Arvind Kumar of University of Chicago, where he calls me a naxalite, even though the Allahabad High Court absolved me of all false charges by giving the judgement in my favour.
DR: Why do you think your book is relevant, given the current political climate?
SP: BJP and RSS are trying to confuse the people by repeatedly raising the issue of nationalism. This approach has two problems. Firstly, it creates strife between neighbours and within minority communities or people who believe in different ideologies. Secondly, the real issues of people like poverty, unemployment, agrarian crisis, corruption, the human rights of marginalised, are brushed under the carpet. My attempt is to make people realise that RSS and BJP are dangerous for our society and people should reject their politics.
DR: Would you like to say something to the readers about why the 2019 General elections are so crucial?
SP: The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will determine whether democracy will survive in this country or not. Already, the Narendra Modi led government has eroded credibility of a number of our institutions and reduced the budget of all essential sectors like education, health care, agriculture. The Constitution of India is under threat. People have to use this election to save democracy, the Constitution and bring back pro-people politics, which has been derailed.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.