Delhi, 21st October, 2010: ‘We want freedom.’ This slogan reminds us of the Quit India movement held in the pre-independence era. But it’s shocking, infact heartbreaking that these slogans were part of a seminar on the ongoing Kashmir problem which was recently held at LTG auditorium in the capital lutyens.
The seminar was organized by SAR Geelani, Professor of Delhi university and the head of CRPP (Committee for Relief of Political Prisoners) acquitted in the 2001 Indian Parliament attack case. Many ‘eminent’ personalities were present to make the seminar a success and make the country realize the importance of Freedom of speech and their plebiscite.
The list of observers of democracy, watchdogs of freedom of speech and human rights activists included names like Arundhati Roy, Gursharan Singh (dramatist), Najeeb Mubaraki (Economic Times), Suddhabrata Sengupta (artist and writer), Dr N Venu (Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rrights), Vara Vara Rao (Activist, Naxalite Sympathiser and Poet) and the self-proclaimed Freedom Fighter of Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The seminar, to begin with, was a forum for interaction and voicing of opinions by the Kashmiri people which later with the course of speeches turned out to be an anti-India campaign. Najeeb Mubarki initiated the proceedings by making a statement “I am here as a Kashmiri not as a journalist working in the mainstream Indian media.” The situation got out of control when a wing of audience members started shouting anti-India slogans, and the alleged nationalist activists retaliated with pro-India slogans.
In minutes, the auditorium was a chamber of hatred and ruckus with a plethora of anti-India campaigners. The much unexpected fury was intervened upon by the Delhi Police and led to the detainment of around 40 nationalists. This was not the end as yet, later, a Sikh youth tried to hurl a shoe at Mr. Geelani.
In the name of freedom of speech, self determination and protest in “a civilized manner”, the pride of Indian nation was butchered publically in the national capital and the authorities witnessed it just as mere spectators. This event marked the beginning of a new pseudo-intellectualism in the country where everyone is permitted to express themselves even if it means using the choicest of abuses for the Father of the Nation and the Indian Army, or even the Indian Prime Minister for that matter.
It looked as if all the anti-Indian forces like the pro-Khalistanis, pro-Naxalites assembled at a common dais to challenge the Indian state. The seminar created a wonderful opportunity for all those who, behind the mask of intellectualism and human rights activism, do all sorts of ant-India activities or try to provoke it, to conglomerate themselves and create a new sedition industry. Those who blabber about Freedom of Speech never realized that it does not allow them to provoke the countrymen against the nation state.
Moreover, misrepresentation of facts does not come in the ambit of ‘Freedom of Speech’. The very basis of the term Indian nation was doubted as if it was a child’s play. Arundhati Roy in her speech quite easily mentioned and endorsed an incident from Kashmir where she have had heard slogans like ‘Bhukha nanga Hindustan Isse accha Pakistan.’ Her support to the separatism ideology made it clear that she did not support the real common man. Even after knowing how the young minds are being played with, she made a fool of the national pride.
There have been umpteen cases of atrocities on Kashmiris, rapes, conflicts, beating up young Kashmiri boys — which has furthered this angst. No severe measures to curb these atrocities and the tensions that hound the Kashmiris have been employed at the right time. This seminar was an extension of that thought, mixed with radical anti-national hardliners.
By no means can one justify such a gathering where India was openly referred to as Fascist country. An abuse is an abuse — polite or harsh, serving chillies in a sugar bowl won’t make it sweet. At a time when the Kashmir issue is already out of hand and interlocutors are trying to maintain peace, how could the central Government allow such an event in the national capital? And even if it did then why hasn’t there been a firm enough action that stops any such forums in the future?
While the police was busy arresting Kashmiris and ABVP activists the Government abdicated its duty to protect the dignity and integrity of the nation by allowing this event.
Right to secede cannot be accepted in the grab of the Right to Free Speech. Right to speech — enshrined in the constitution, cannot be used against the nation. Democracy and freedom of expression don’t allow anyone the Right To Freedom of Sedition. This comes under the Penal law, offences against the state.
Both faces of the coin get equal representation, organizers refute all the charges and said that Geelani was not the convener, he was only a speaker, he happened to be in Delhi for his medical treatment, so he attended the seminar. Media of a nation is just like the edge of the coin which forms the opinion of both the faces, the smoother the edge the faster the coin rolls. Mainstream media was present there but the news was not presented as vehemently as it should have been. Except a few media channels, no one even bothered to put in the headlines. Perhaps national security or national shame is not as glamorous as an actress walking the ramp. The responsible media failed not only to talk about it, but also to make others think about this issue and the anti-national seminar.
You cannot expect milk from a dead cow, which now seems to be the state of the nation as of 21st October, 2010 when the feeling the world’s fastest growing democracy died. There seems to be no reason good enough to pin point the flaws of democracy now. But a question is still unanswered, are we heading towards a democratic state where everyone fights for their language and faith and no one is accountable to the NATION?
(The writer is a student of Delhi University and is an eye-witness of the seminar mentioned above).
Image courtesy: http://www.allvoices.com/people/Syed_Ali_Shah_Geelani