What I Learned About The Media After Spending An Evening With Some JNU ‘Anti-Nationals’

Posted on May 25, 2016 in Campus Watch, Society

By Sarah Ather Kashmiri:

Kanhaiya Kumar in delivers slogan in JNU
Kanhaiya Kumar in delivers slogan in JNU

There was recently a storm that hit my homeland, one that affected minds. A university in the national capital was roaring while most of the nation loving patriots were sleeping. It was said, that inside the walls of the university, powerful names were feeble while wars were being fought with words. Television told us that the university was the breeding ground of dangerous anti-nationals and that I should be angry with them and thereby prove my love for the country. Angry patriotic men on streets and the internet showed their immense devotion by abusing those who were accused. Such was the fervour of their patriotism that not even the families of the ‘guilty’ were spared.

Kanhaiya, Umar, Anirban – I heard these names on a daily basis. Sometimes from an angry TV anchor trying very hard to persuade me that these names are so dangerous that I should be upset as soon as I hear them and sometimes on Facebook in the comment sections where people asked them to leave immediately for Pakistan. Often on my way back, or before sleeping, these names echoed in my head. I thought of what they might have done that their haters needed to keep reminding us that they are dangerous? What did they really do that even false doctored videos had to be introduced to ensure national security? Why was it such a huge issue if they were just a few misled students?

Days later, when the nation had had enough of JNU news, the matter subsided and news channels went back to celebrity gossips. While scrolling through Facebook, I saw that the JNU ‘anti-nationals’ had been slapped with fines and rustication orders against which they had organised an indefinite hunger strike. Unlike others, I still had unanswered questions. Amidst all this noise I decided, one day, to visit the den of these ‘anti-nationals’ and see everything for myself.

Amazingly, I couldn’t find many used condoms and saw no naked dance rituals after 8 p.m. Instead, I heard chants of azaadi. I saw a campus full of zeal; I saw a university alive and burning with the fuel of passion; I saw empathy for the ignored sections of our society and for the people of this country. I dug deeper and deeper and found voices being raised for an institutionally murdered Dalit student, voices in support of a rape victim, voices for all those who we generally forget after the news channel changes its mind. For the first time, I saw that some people were keeping a count of all horrible stories in the country, that some were fearlessly asking questions!

That one evening, I asked all kinds of questions to those strangers and they shared their stories with me, treated me like one of them and answered me with sincere eyes and all the patience, even when they had been on a hunger strike for past two days. They couldn’t be terrorists, my heart said. They can’t terrorise anyone except those who they question.

Were they ‘Anti-national’ or ‘anti-Government’? I wondered. Was there something wrong in the way news is constructed and sold? I wondered. That evening had changed me, I knew it, I knew it in my bones. Media looked like a myth-making machinery and patriotic anger turned into a sham.

I know I am not capable of showing the kind of strength they do. All I had to offer to these brave hearts is my solidarity. I wish I could go and show all those abusers and self-proclaimed patriots what I saw. If they could just to go and see and talk and then judge and call names, if they wished, just for once, to see with unbiased eyes. It is rare to witness such events, rare to see such undying spirit, and rarest of all to experience such unity. This was history being made, hope you could have seen for yourself instead of having the media colour your vision.

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