By Prerna G Manian:
We are a country which loves to forget. We are quick to forget why something happens and focus on what emotional, physical reaction it brought about. Debating Afzal Guru’s death is not allowed, Vemula will be forgotten, Kanhaiya has been arrested. This is a systemic way of silencing us. And we should not give in.
Anti-national slogans clearly bear a marker of threat. But what about the government which reacts with words like “they will not be spared“ and literally turns into witch hunters in the university, tracking down students like thieves and arresting them on the grounds that they ‘may go against them’. What about the surveillance, the fear being instilled by the people who are supposed to represent us and work for us? By treating alleged ‘anti-nationals’ in this manner, isn’t the government turning anti-national itself?
A distinction must be made between what a protest is about and what its language is. Its language should be about concerns regarding the university’s administration which must act according to its own constitution, and not the government’s propaganda for furthering its own political interests.
The reason behind this protest was the disagreement regarding the secretive handling of the judicial killing of Afzal Guru. This had been very conveniently thrown under the carpet because of microaggressions being magnified to such an extent that student spaces have now turned into camps of negative reinforcement of discipline. Condemning resistance without any dialogue is not what a country’s democratic spirit should be about. Resistance is what gives democracy its regenerative aspect. When it is about, by and for the people, it must take into account differing subjectivities by default.
Resistance is the way you can reflect on your self. It can force you to pay attention to reasons behind dissent.
The problem is that universities are seen as spaces which should remain insular and depoliticised. But isn’t that contrary to what education stands for? What is the use of higher education when all we need to do is what we did in school, just more of it: learn theories but not apply them? Here, it is not that there isn’t enough material for application but the fear of applying the ideas we have learnt. Or, maybe, that is what education stands for: learn, but do not argue. This is the locus of it all: we are being taught to be passive recipients of history and to not make it ourselves.
The problem with us is that we stick to the superficiality of events and react disproportionately. The press takes to sensationalising half-truths with blowhards posing as journalists, resisting any kind of opinion which in disagreement with their own. The government has taken to attrition and violence. The government is making enemies of the people it is supposed to protect.
All I can do is write. But in this country, any form of expression is being treated with disdain. Today, a friend of mine doing a photoshoot wrote something against our current government. She said, “I may be shot as well.” The fact is that this nation of ours has managed to instill this fear in us. The country has become its greatest anti-national element. If I say ‘Mera Bharat Mahaan’ or ‘Bhaarat ko nasht karo’, it somehow feels the same.
“Mahanta to bech khai hai. Shabd Baki hain. Kharidoge? Mehnge parenge. (We have sold our greatness. Only words are left. Would you buy them too? But you will have to pay a huge price.)”
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