By Yamini Maggo:
Discrimination and prejudice have always been a part of our society. Universities in India are hegemonised by dominant-caste student groups. The prejudicial treatment of students from marginalised communities, especially with Dalits, became a serious matter of concern after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a student of the University of Hyderabad. The ‘rule of the privileged’ has become a norm rather than an exception in our universities.
It seems Jawaharlal Nehru University will not be allowed to be an exception to the ‘rule of the privileged’. The systematic and planned defaming of the university calling the students ‘anti-nationals’ is nothing but an attempt of those whose are desperately trying to impose their ideologies on institutes of higher education. JNU has always provided a pluralistic and an open vision of India to its students that works to render the country’s poorest and the most underprivileged visible in the eye of the state and it has always been the ethos of the university.
The upper-caste middle class in India often does not even recognise the existence of underprivileged citizens. Therefore, it becomes easy for them to swallow Sangh Parivar’s vision of India as a country of the Hindu upper-caste middle class.
While people are critical of the debate on Afzal Guru’s hanging, no one seems worried that insults have been made regularly to our Constitution by the actions of the government. It is also alleged that Ambedkar’s literature, including copies of Constitution, which were displayed outside Bal Bhawan for sale, were allegedly torn by agitating Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha activists in a recent clash in Gwalior. Why does the ‘elite’ class then sit ignorant of this, stay dormant and take no action? The government seems to be muffling the voices of the many in the name of ‘nationalism’.
India has a history of dominant groups being intolerant towards certain sections – women, Dalits, lower castes, and other minorities. These underprivileged sections were never given an opportunity to question the injustice done to them by the dominant groups and always had to muffle their voices for various reasons be it the fact of their belonging to a minority, or being born as a woman, or a Dalit. The reasons are plenty.
A movement only happened after structural changes were introduced in society. Reservation was one such step that provided a new horizon of opportunities to the long lost voices of the ones belonging to the suppressed castes, classes and gender. It is when they read that they began to question societal norms and voice their opinions. It is then that the underprivileged, which had always considered tolerance a virtue by birth, refused to further tolerate the injustice.
Class, caste and gender divisions exist in all sections of society. Today, the need of the hour is for us to be rational and understand what kind of intolerance is acceptable and what kind is not. With an Emergency-like hysteria being created, basic democratic rights being suspended and voices being stifled, whatever has been happening in JNU since the last few days is an act of atrocity. One person raises an opinion and we begin to call that act ‘anti-national’. We must recall that in a democracy, everyone is entitled to hold an independent opinion. That does not mean they are anti-national, does that?