By Arunima Singh:
In relation to what is currently happening in Jawaharlal Nehru University, a lot of people have said a lot of things. From demonising the institution to calling university politics “a waste of taxpayers’ money,” there really isn’t much left to be said. In case you think I am exaggerating, here’s something:
Here’s what I want to discuss: a small number of students hold protests against the ‘judicial killing of Afzal Guru’, slogans are raised, suspicious and even anti-India slogans. A self-proclaimed nationalist party’s youth wing ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) calls the whole thing ‘anti-national’ and demands that the students in question be punished.
Now it gets interesting. The media turns around and looks at a great opportunity to exploit the already vulnerable ‘national vs. anti-national’ debate. Without verified proof or anything substantial to go by, many news channels openly call these students ‘anti-national’. Kanhaiya, the president of the JNU Students’ Union is arrested after he repeatedly claimed that he didn’t raise slogans against the nation. Other than the allegedly doctored videos, I don’t know what the police has. I guess we will see. The court can decide that.
Some students decide to go underground. In the very few days that have passed, the media does what it does best – play God. They come to the conclusion that Umar Khalid, a known communist and atheist, has links to Pakistan, the Gulf, Kashmir and basically any place with Islamic extremists. It was also said, without even prefixing it with ‘allegedly’, that he had made 800 calls to a good number of countries in the past few days. And no one decided to question their claims. Umar was declared a terrorist.
Umar Khalid quoted Rohith Vemula’s words soon after resurfacing when he said that they were “reduced to their immediate identity.” Unfortunately, for the ‘terror’ seekers, these ‘seditionists’ are back. The video, it has turned out, was most likely doctored, and the media is back in the audience.
You ask me why I am narrating these incidents to you when most of you probably already know this? Here’s why!
The level of fanaticism in this country seems to be at an all-time high. People may have said things which we don’t agree with. It is dissent. And it is the right of each one of us. But I will not go there. Right to free speech has become a joke.
Anyway, after whatever happened on the 9th of February, what made me cringe was the sudden raising of slogans against JNU. How that made sense to anyone, I don’t get. Branding one of the most prestigious universities in the nation ‘anti-national’ because of a possibly doctored video, with barely any or no evidence, is as shameful as it gets.
Even if they were to be convicted, the JNU has a large body of students and teachers, and the significant part of its students don’t have any political affiliations. Putting all of them in harm’s way by portraying them as enemies of the nation, falsely blaming them for problems they aren’t responsible for, what kind of nationalism allows that?
And here, RSS predicting the future in 2015:
“JNU is home to anti-national forces which aim to disintegrate India: RSS mouthpiece”
Do tell me if this doesn’t reek of conspiracy, of a huge scheme to bring disrepute to an institution they can’t penetrate. What else could this be?
The argument that most people give against discussing Afzal is that our Supreme Court had decided he was a terrorist, and that we shouldn’t question judicial authority.
But it is okay to disrespect that same judicial authority by assaulting people in court premises? And that too, with the tricolour in your hand, shouting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’? What kind of a mother wants its children to beat each other up? What kind of nationalism allows us to fight each other instead of looking out for each other?
That’s not even the worst part. The worst bit is, these goons dressed as advocates seem to be getting away with it.
This is how much they respect the court of law:
And this, is extremely shameful:
What perhaps we should be embarrassed about as a population, is how we allowed our media channels to call out these youngsters on TV and not allow them to speak. They put words in their mouths. Kanhaiya’s identity was brought into play. Umar Khalid, a well-known atheist was even called a Muslim ‘terrorist’ by some.
Now that he has returned, no news channel has gone back and issued apologies as forcefully as it propagated those lies, making baseless claims without evidence. No one has issued apologies for showing the doctored footage of these youngsters without verification either. It was this video which brought this madness to such a level.
In a democracy, where the media is not accountable to us, where they feel they can show anything, say anything and get away with it, where are we headed, really?
I never thought I’d have to defend this one. Political awareness is a must for the citizens in a democracy. It is our responsibility to elect our government and keep a check on them. To question them and to oppose them when necessary. That’s what democracies are based on.
What exactly do our taxpayers want? History students that remember nothing but dates? Who feel nothing about the institutionalised exploitation they study about? Do the taxpayers want students of political science to not dare ask a single question about the present political situation in the nation? Do the taxpayers want humanities students who don’t care about other human beings? I pay taxes too. And that’s not what I want for my nation.
And for those who don’t understand such complex ideas, leaders such as Amit Shah started with ABVP and Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha. In fact, at one point, our Prime Minister was himself the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ‘pracharak’ in charge of the ABVP. Perhaps they should speak on this matter. I’ll leave that here.
Yes, they organised a march and had quite a lot to say about Kashmir. But video where slogans of ‘Bharat Murdabad’ and ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ can be heard, was most likely doctored.
While I may disagree with them on the stance they took on Afzal Guru, I refuse to accept that it was anti-national. A nation are its people. And whoever spoke, did so for a large segment of people in Kashmir. We hear such things there all the time. And in much stronger words.
In fact, an honourable mention to the BJP and the PDP forming an alliance in Kashmir is a must. It is widely known that PDP calls Afzal a martyr.
What I would like to conclude with, is that a very demented idea of nationalism is presently spreading like wildfire. Rabindranath Tagore had warned us of the evils of nationalism, and before you let something slip out of your mouth that you may regret, remember that it was he who wrote the ‘Jana Gana Mana’, our ‘nationalist’ national anthem!
Here I speak, not in favour of JNU. Not even in favour of our right to dissent or free speech. Here, I only speak as an Indian who is very confused. Who is it that I owe my loyalty to? The government or the people?
What is the nation? It’s people, right?
Our Constitution is built in a way that allows us to accommodate changes and revise laws with time. Our Constitution is for the people. Just like the government, and the state apparatus. And, I hope I am not jailed for this, but so is the army. They are doing a great job too, but bringing them up in every political discussion makes very little sense.
I am a patriot and proud. But I do not identify with a nation where people who ask questions, who want to know why journalists and students were assaulted in court, who want accountability from the media and who want the government to address problems rather than hoist flags everywhere, are labelled ‘anti-national’ and shamed. Shoving ideas down people’s throats is not nationalism. Call it whatever you want, it is not nationalism.
To me, a couple of students in a university who were non-violently protesting, no matter how disagreeable, can never be a matter of shame quite as much as a government misleading its people, the media acting like the God, and some ‘nationalists’ beating people up with the tricolour in hand.
Where is the nation in this nationalism?