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Counterpoint: I Don’t Support The Sedition Law, But Neither Do I Agree With JNU Students

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By Souravi Sarkar:

Prakash Karat (centre L), a leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M), addresses students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) during a protest inside the university campus in New Delhi, India, February 15, 2016. India's biggest nationwide student protests in a quarter of a century spread across campuses on Monday after the arrest of a student accused of sedition, in the latest battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over freedom of expression. Outrage over the arrest of the left-wing student leader, who had organized a rally to mark the anniversary of the execution of a Kashmiri separatist, has led to demonstrations in at least 18 universities. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee - RTX270BA
Image Credit: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee.

It was the morning of 17th September 2014 when I found out about the brutal lathi charge on the peacefully protesting students outside the Vice-Chancellor’s office of my university. I was deeply flustered by this news and immediately took to social media along with thousands of other students from different parts of the nation to condemn this attack on the students in the middle of the night.

What was deeply disturbing about it was the way the entire situation had been handled. The police entered the campus and allegedly molested female students. From the video footage, I recognised some of my seniors and friends being beaten up ruthlessly by plainclothesmen while the uniformed police remained silent observers. The students were only demanding an investigation into the molestation of a female student in the campus. They didn’t deserve this treatment. The V-C was supposed to be our protector. But instead, he chose to release gundas on students like dogs chasing food.

The entire series of events triggered mass protests around the city demanding the resignation of the V-C. The protest movement, known as ‘Hokkolorob‘, is one of the landmark events in the history of the world. I was a part of it. On 20th of September, I was in the rally from Rabindra Sadan to Mayo Road, drenched in the rain, with lakhs of other students. We were overwhelmed by the amount of solidarity for us from different cities and countries. We called for an end to campus violence. And we emerged victorious with the resignation of the V-C a few months later.

But very few people actually know what happened in between the two events–the rally and the resignation. Some of my friends who live in the hostel presented themselves as witnesses to the molestation case. But later they were dragged to the jail by political goons, police harassed them as criminals. But none of the leading political organisations of our college came out in support of my friends. They lost their dignity while the people who led the protest movement won positions in the upcoming campus elections.

We as students started seeing the loopholes in their political ideologies. They were leftist parties driven by a blind hatred towards the victory of right-wing parties. They started opposing any decision taken by the government. And then the Jawaharlal Nehru University incident happened.

The fact is that the leftist ideology most of these parties believe in only displays their opportunist tendencies. It is perfectly alright to oppose another party’s ideology, another person’s ideology, but no democracy permits the blatant display of hatred towards one’s nation. Our nation is indeed our motherland, to speak ill of one’s mother is indeed a crime. A cultural event that seemed more like a memorial for the ‘martyr’ Afzal Guru doesn’t deserve applause. It just shows the fact that these parties will do anything to prove Modi wrong, and to grab some publicity.

They justified their act by saying that they oppose the judicial killing of a criminal and that they oppose capital punishment. But the video footage paints a different picture altogether. Their slogans that can be heard do not show that they oppose Modi or his decisions. They have explicitly expressed their support to the destruction of the nation. No nation has ever been perfect. There are problems. But you wish for a solution, not destruction. While the entire nation was praying for the speedy recovery of Lance Naik Hanumanathappa, these students shamelessly demonstrated their anti-national mentality which they later justified by saying that Modi, the BJP and the RSS are dictators etc.

Afzal Guru was a convicted terrorist. He was involved in the 2001 parliament attacks and to portray him as a ‘martyr’ is not justified. But he was hanged in 2013 when BJP hadn’t even come to power. He was hanged by the UPA government. Then why such an upsurge of protests against BJP. JNU has always been a hub for leftist parties. Since the time Modi has come to power his opposition parties have left no stone unturned to accuse him of everything that they can possibly think of. Be it the Dadri lynching, or the Godhra riots for which he has received a clean chit from the court, or his friendship with the American President and the Pakistani Prime Minister.

The fact that only the minorities of our nation deserve protection and have the right to speak against the democracy just reveals their biased mindset. He was even blamed for the death of Rohith Vemula. Caste discrimination is not a new thing. It has existed for centuries. Then why attack the RSS or the BJP for it? All these movements and revolutions have political interests and they demonstrate the pettiness of their so-called leftist ideology.

Violence erupted in Kashmir after the hanging of Afzal Guru. The Indian soldiers protect all Kashmiris, including those who sympathise with Pakistan. But when students of elite institutions openly support terrorists, they incite terrorism in the nation. The supporters of Afzal Guru have now found more reasons to continue their anarchy. What the students believe to be their freedom of expression will only worsen the situation, with the peace being interfered with by various Afzal Guru sympathisers.

We lost our brothers in the recent Pathankot attack. Do their sacrifices mean nothing to us? Do their political agendas bear more importance compared to the grieving families of these soldiers whose wounds are still fresh? Freedom of expression doesn’t permit us to impose our destructive ideologies on the country when it costs us the lives of the soldiers who are protecting our nation in the cold and in the heat.

I do not support the shutdown of JNU because some individuals do not represent one institution. I do not support the ancient sedition laws because they have no place in this democracy. I am not a ‘bhakt’, or a supporter of RSS as some people might suspect. I am only a concerned citizen who wants the citizens of this nation to live in harmony, where people start finding healthy ways of expressing their views instead of vehemently opposing every step taken by the government.

My strongest sympathies go out to the students who felt violated by the police atrocities in their campus. But when you study in an institution that boasts off great alumni, you need to choose your words carefully. You may speak against a government. You don’t need to speak against the nation because one government doesn’t represent the whole nation. We reside in that nation too. Students have always been the major contributors towards the welfare of the country. But when you are driven by abhorrence and not sensibility, you often choose to take the wrong step to prove yourself correct.

Maybe, your intentions are good. But ideas are bulletproof, my friend. They cannot be killed by guns and the government. So, think before you actually inflict your ideas on others. The aftermath might be disastrous.

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  1. debraj dutta

    The first person to say the truth 🙂

  2. Subham

    Why exactly are we passing value judgements regarding an event that tries to discuss the point of views for calling the hanging of Afzal guru as judicial killing. Eminent activists like Nandita Haksar , Arundhati Roy , Nirmalangshu Mukherjee , Pancholi raised their voices regarding the process involved in Afzal’s trial even Shashi Tharoor. I am confident that you were well aware of it. If not then, it was for the people who took Afzal for granted as conditioned by zee news during year 2003-2006. I think the students should be atleast given that space to organize an event- “The country without a post office” a poem by Kashmiri writer Agha Shahid Ali in 1997 depicting the turbulent situations in Kashmir in the 1990s. Yes such event should not be organized at the cost of certain undemocratic slogans. Nevertheless we are no one to curb a gathering that doesn’t only intend to generate consciousness. One should totally condemn the state’s and Arnab goswami’s practice of selling lives of the army to serve their vested interests. Two days back we observed the Kunan poshpora tragedy that a section of Jadavpur University doesn’t seem to bother about as per my observations during my stay in and out of the university. I don’t know whether to term the latter as some selective amnesia or opportunist silence. I am sure there are still people in the university who would love to discuss with you regarding your perceptions centering Hokkolorob. If you respect democracy you have the right to condemn an act with your set of reasoning but not silence the former, that won’t be democracy but something strictly authoritarian and the otherwise ‘leftist’ ‘liberal’ ‘anarchist’ students and citizens will be fundamentally opposed to it

  3. Souravi Sarkar

    This is 2016.You are speaking of the 1990s.Yes of course,students have the right to question,protest,whatever they feel like doing,they can protest against capital punishment,but may I ask you something?Have you ever been to Kashmir?Have you ever spoken to people living there?yes I have read that book too,where I learnt about the ordeal of Kashmir,but that is past.The present is different.I do not want to dictate the situations there,but you can find it out yourself from quora and places where “common people residing in Kashmir write” and not self-proclaimed Kashmir sympathizers and activists.Thank you u

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