By Naomi Hazarika:
It is ironic that right now, instead of writing this piece, I should be studying the principles of justice enunciated by Rawls, Sen, and the likes for my mid-semester exams. How can I focus on justice when my University is under siege? What is unjust is the way the media has been portraying the University. What is unjust is the way distinguished scholars and professors were brutally assaulted by goons in the house of justice and especially, the way the police stood there as silent spectators of the kind of brute force that has come to be the favorite tool of the authorities when it comes to dealing with dissent.
Right about now, half of the people reading this would have termed me as an ‘anti-national’. To counter that, let me make it perfectly clear that I am a responsible citizen coming from a family where 50% of the members are currently serving or have been in the armed forces – none of which should be a part of this debate and I will tell you why.
Nationalism demands us to be an enlightened and reasonable citizenry that believes in democracy and a nation that upholds democratic ideals. Democratic ideals necessarily constitute the notion of counter-narratives, disagreement, dialogue and most importantly, dissent. The reason why dissent is important is because it hinders the tendency of the opinion of the majority to take a totalitarian and authoritative tone. This is what makes a democracy radically different from a dictatorship. We allow dissent to flourish, we allow differences to exist. It makes us a better informed and balanced citizenry looking out for all its members instead just a few.
More importantly, however, not only is dissent being dismissed as being unlawful in this case, the way in which the hegemonic ideology of the ruling party is being exercised is to clearly bully any organised critique or school of criticism out of their way. The attempt is to establish a discourse wherein there is only one dominant way of thinking – theirs. The repercussions of such an approach are abundant – the ‘othering’ of Dalits, women, members of the LGBTQIA community and so on. The hegemonic effect on the idea of person-hood that pushing an ideology on the population has, is quite evident. Not only is this regressive, it is also very irresponsible.
Today there exist two Indias – one where people are swayed by biased media reports and more importantly, can be manipulated to think that their nation’s prestige is at stake, and the other, where people assume that they are free to voice their dissent against anything they want to. Sadly, these two versions of the same populace are in conflict with each other. Neither should we be swayed by popular media nor should we be assuming that, under this regime in particular, we have actual freedom of speech.
As I write this, our Central Library website has been hacked by unknown persons and is now showing a threat to eliminate Afzal Guru supporters. As students, the library is our place of worship. They have tried to hit us where it hurts the most. Education is under siege, free thought is under attack and the people who have realised this, sadly, are a minuscule minority. The student community condemns the anti-India slogans that were used during the event but we will not give up our right to voice our dissent as long as it is ‘anti-establishment’ and not ‘anti-country’.
None of us want to be any less of the patriots that we already are. The fact that I have to state this is unfortunate. Although, as students of a progressive, democratic and forward-thinking university, we will fight for our right to voice our opinions, especially if it is dissent because that is what facilitates inculcating a true democratic spirit and that is what this country was built on.
We are taught to question, we are taught to doubt and look at the whole picture while forming our opinions. If you restrict this free flow of education, what will effectively happen is that people will be blinded by this mediocre majority opinion without questioning at all. People will stop thinking about the degree of political alienation of the Kashmiri youth, they will not put themselves in their position, having lost scores of family members to AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), and then gauge the level of faith they would have in the state machinery. They will stop being inquisitive. They will become exactly what they have managed to become now – a mere majority dictated mob.
Frankly, right now, I don’t know whom to be angry at.
Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here.
You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.