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How Are JNU Students ‘Anti-National’ When Dissent Is Our Democratic Right?

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By Prerna G Manian:

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Image credit: V. Arun Kumar/M.Phil. Student, JNU

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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  1. ItsJustMe

    How could you omit the central issue which started off this whole problem in JNU. The clearly anti national slogans the literary wizards of JNU wrote and chanted along with hundreds of other students. “Bharat ki barbadi thak jung rahega”. “Bharath ki thuukade thukade honge”. When you have the right dissent there is also a responsibility to ensure that it is not used against national integrity or for creating anti national sentiments. Afsal Guru’s death sentence should be debated, how does that translate to destruction of India? India is a nation, which has actual people and cultures. When you are threatening India, you are threatening its citizens, because that is what the nation is comprised of. It’s not just a government that constitutes a nation. You have a problem with the government, go ahead and exercise your right to dissent, problem with rules, judiciary, please by all means come forward. India looks up to JNU students to take up such issues as they have done in the past. But if you even slightly threaten India as a nation, you deserve every bit of crack down that you are receiving right now. Because you are threatening not only the government or the system, but you are threatening lives of billion people, you are threatening functioning local governments and stable societies. By the way, I couldn’t help but cringe at the whole heroic status of Afsal Guru among the students. Here is the new idol of revolution, a man who attacked the symbol of Indian democracy, like a coward. A man who follows the same ideology as Paris attackers (ISIS), 26/11 terrorists, Al- Qaeda etc. What is the rest of the nation supposed to do? Watch the students follow his path in jihad and kill innocents. Kindly think about other people who live outside of your world. People who have already lost near and dear ones to terrorists like these. The government is theirs too, and they have a right to life in this country and you just threatened every single one of those people

  2. madhusudan

    It is not about deny the Right to protest. If you are the organiser of any event it is your responsibility and so not allow any unlawful activity. No one have any problem if you protest against judicialkilling but the problem is that you are allowing raising slogan against the country and also in favour of terrorist. If some one killed in the protest organised by you and if police arrest someone related to this then you will said it is against democracy.

  3. Jitender Kohli

    your education provides you to discuss and argue but never allow you to go with the traitors, what you mean by judicial killing of Afjal who is instrumental of attacking the national seat, parliament to kill all the parliamentarians. Among these your political God fathers who are defending you were also there in parliament, could be killed in that attack. Have you ever thought about the security forces delayed modernization for decades? Have you ever asked your pauls what you have or doing for the nation and those taxpayers who are feeding this subsidized education to you? you want that freedom of speech which aims to national integration, to create disorder in the national society, you are people who are not serving nation but trying to damage by standing for the proven traitors, Afjal- Maqbool like others too. Think what responsibility you have for nation, what constitution has bestowed on us to do for nation instead of always seeking from nation.

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