JNU Row: Answering the Unanswered Questions

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‘Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the law’- Plato.

 

It was in the 3rd week of January that this country, especially the educational institutions awoke to a whole new debate on nationalism. The incident was of the suicide of Rohith Vermula, a Phd student of Hyderabad Central University. It was portrayed as an attack on the poor dalit community and as an example of the tyranny of the ruling government against the ‘liberal’ student groups.

The story of Rohith Vermula is old now, but still holds significance if viewed in the wake of the recent JNU incident which is nothing but a magnified version of the same. Around 20 days after the HCU incident, the clock took a 360 degree leap and the country had the JNU incident at its behest.

It all started with anti-India slogans raised by the ‘left’ student groups (AISF and DSU in particular) of the varsity. Disturbingly, the slogans were not just anti-India but pro-Pakistan as well. The issue that started as a ruckus between dissenting student groups has now been stretched so as to question the ‘democratic’ and constitutional structure of the country. Let us try to understand some of the pertinent questions surrounding this issue.

Anti-National JNU?

Immediately after some videos of the incident bulged out, the entire social media went abuzz with the hashtag of #ShutdownJNU. No matter how illogical it sounded, it gained a massive support base of ‘intellectuals’ on the social media. It cannot be denied that the thoughts surfaced through these videos are institutionalized in this university. But JNU doesn’t need to be shut, it needs to be studied.

Within 50 years of its formation, JNU has become a bastion of left. An ideology that failed to garner any attention in the rest of country, is regarded as the best ideology in JNU. Is it a problem? Yes!

In an environment where words like ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’ are heard from every nook and corner, it becomes important to value dissent as much as assent. Democracy stands when dissenting ideologies compete through vote in a fair manner. Here, you find five ‘left’ parties competing against one ‘right’. The fact that JNUSU saw a member from ‘right’ after 14 years of unquestioned rule of ‘left’ is disturbing.

But does it make a university anti-national? No!

This university has produced maximum IB Chiefs, RAW Chiefs, IAS-IPS Officers, Army officers and cabinet secretaries. Are they all anti-national? Calling this university anti-national would not be any less equivalent to calling these people anti-national.

How ‘free’ is the freedom of speech?

Within a few years of its formation, JNU got the attention of the country because of two reasons:

  1. It welcomed students from some of the most deprived sections of the society.
  2. It promoted a never-before-like environment of debates and discussions in the campus.

But as it grew, the university lost its momentum and fell prey to directionlesness. Debates turned into one-sided protests, contradictory opinions turned into ‘fascist’ thoughts, peaceful protests into mourning sessions for terrorists and ‘anti-government’ slogans turned into ‘anti-national’ slogans.

The question that makes me curious now is: What level of ‘dissent’ is permissible by the state in the name of ‘freedom of speech’?

Calling for ‘barbaadi’ of your country? Check!

 

Labeling a ‘proved’ terrorist as a ‘martyr’? Check!

 

Advocating for ‘aazaadi’ of a state which is defined as an integral part of the country in the constitution? Check!

If I go by the reactions of ‘scholars’, Congress, CPI (M), ‘social media intellectuals’ and all others who stood in support of those videos, the above mentioned ‘cowardice’ is justified in the name of freedom of speech. I don’t know how far-stretched it is for the union government but this ‘new found’ freedom is certainly shaming and is a step ahead of article 19 of the constitution. No constitution in the entire world grants this freedom in the absolute sense.

Sudden revival of Afzal Guru and the conspiracy.

Where were all these sympathizers of Afzal Guru when he was hanged during the ‘Congress’ regime?

I am sure Afzal would have been so ‘broke’ to see all his sympathizers smoking weed with tea at JNU’s ‘Ganga’ dhaba when he was hanged back in 2013. These fresh and ‘out of place’ mourning sessions for a convicted terrorist cannot be labelled as a normal ’emotional’ outbreak. The justification given by Mr. Rahul Gandhi, who does not even remember that Afzal was hanged when his party was ruling, in favor of these ‘liberal’ students is adding fuel to the speculation.

It starts with mourning sessions for Yakub Memon in HCU, comes down to mourning sessions for Afzal Guru in JNU and goes further to Jadavpur University. And to form a ‘logical’ ground for these mournings, various angles of ‘atrocities against Dalits’, ‘secularism’, ‘anti-minority government’ and ‘central dictatorship’ are invoked.

The clear idea is ‘to never allow the dust to settle’. One stupidity is followed by another and active participation of social media is distorting the image, instead of clearing it.

The wave of nationalism

The biggest question that is being asked in the mainstream media these days is: How can we allow RSS or BJP to decide whether someone is nationalist or not?

The question is absolutely irrelevant in its principle, not because it cannot be asked but because it is wrongly placed. What happened in JNU involved no rocket science and a sane mind won’t require a government certification to call it anti-national.

I accept that it is difficult to define someone as a ‘nationalist’ because of the lack of a constitutional or judicial definition for the same. But, it is not at all difficult to define someone as an ‘anti-national’.

Nationalism can be anything but not ‘anti-state’ and ‘pro-terrorist’. The simultaneous existence of this deadly combination is raising some serious concerns about the ideology prevailing in JNU.

Role of Media & the next step.

Now when JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar is in judicial custody, the entire media fraternity, except a few, is standing in solidarity with JNU. When Ravish Kumar accuses Arnab of thrusting an opinion on his audience and calling Kanhaiya Kumar as ‘anti-national’ element, he smartly thrusts his own opinion by saying that ‘Kanhaiya must’ve been asking for ‘aazaadi’ from his poor situation and not from Kashmir’.

Now the point that I am coming up to is: Who passed the ‘right to pass a judgement’ to the media?

When Supreme Court (and not Delhi police) extends the judicial custody of a person at remand, it becomes our duty to abide by judiciary and look for a substantial picture. Moreover, the five absconders involved in this incident are raising questions and not clearing the picture for us!

Let us come to a consensus and accept the fact that ideologies involved in student politics have gone ‘out of line’. I feel ashamed when I find them advocating for terrorists and not for students’ rights (I hope you’re not measuring both at the same pedestal). I reiterate when I said earlier in this piece that JNU, along with many other educational institutions, needs to be studied. It needs to be reformed. Criticism should be constructive, and not destructive of your motherland!

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