Demand freedom, spread hatred

Barely a few weeks after Rohith Vemula’s suicide rocked Hyderabad University, a fresh controversy arose in Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) campus in New Delhi over anti-national propaganda in the name of organising a cultural function by a group of students. Everyone had questioned the role of ABVP in what happened to Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad campus. However, regarding the JNU incident, bigger questions need to be answered.

Are the two incidents comparable? What happened - and the way it happened - in JNU campus is condemnable. The immediate action by the Police and the role of the government may lend itself to criticism.

The arbitrary arrests in the campus may need to be refrained from, but there is a fine line between freedom of speech, cultural vibrancy, and slander. At the same time, it may not be justified to be a mute spectator to the glorification of a terrorist in a Central Indian University campus.

The group of students, who organised the cultural event and claim themselves as part of Democratic Students’ Union (DSU), had published a poster of the event that highlighted the programme in solidarity with Kashmiri people against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat. Does it mean that Indian judiciary is wrong and Afzal and Maqbool were not guilty? The poster clearly had a provocative and anti-national statement like “We will fight relentlessly till the destruction of India”. Are such kinds of statements justified, acceptable?

Afzal Guru was the mastermind behind the attack on the Indian Parliament, and Maqbool Bhat who led Kashmir on the path of destruction and who was involved in major anti-national activities including hijack of Indian plane. Should there be any space for advocating anti-India sentiments on Indian campuses?

JNU campus has produced many intellectuals, many prominent leftist leaders who have made a significant contribution to the progress of the country. But these student protesters seem to have only anti-national agenda on their mind. They never raised their voice - whether it was during the attack on the Parliament, or when there was violence in the Valley - but came forward to portray the terrorist as a hero. Is it Freedom of Speech or sedition to speak the language of separatists? Are the students not carrying the argument too far by celebrating the conviction of the main conspirator of the Parliament attack as a Martyr?

As a matter of right, everyone has the freedom to share their view on death penalty. But how far is it justified to bring in a terrorist here? Would any University in the USA allow a cultural event to hail Osama Bin Laden? Would any UK University allow a cultural event to hail Jihadi John? If not, why should JNU allow such event is a million-dollar question?

There are some more unanswered questions: why did this issue come up when Irshat Jahan was narrated as a terrorist by David Headley? Why did such students need the garb of a cultural event when they are openly vouching for the destruction of India? When these students stand for freedom of speech, why don’t they allow any Israeli or USA Ambassador to speak on JNU campus, why the discrimination and why double standards?    

When in 2003, Vivekananda Vichar Manch planned to organise felicitations of family members of Martyrs of Parliament attack, why was it protested against? 

Are these groups playing to someone’s agenda? Are these people taking political and legal stands as their plea and promoting secessionist views? Who funded these students? Isn’t it a misuse of freedom of speech extended to the people of India by the Constitution?

Students Politics is a sine qua non of democracy and their voices must be heard. But advocating separatism is a different matter altogether. JNU has a history of producing intellectuals and learned politicians. It now seems as if the campus has become a production factory for activists, who for the sake of raising their voices can go to any extent. According to a study conducted in 2012-13 by the Ministry of HRD, there are 642 University campuses in India and 28.56 million students are enrolled there. These students come from diversified ideologies, political differences, and views. Then the question arises why should only JNU be allowed to create such platform for students?

After the incident, many political leaders, including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, left party leaders Sitaram Yechury, D Raja, addressed the students and criticised the steps taken by Police and government and narrated the incident as obstruction of freedom of speech. The question is if there is no anti-nationalism, why was there no slam to Pakistan in the poster and why was it having only anti-India statements? Why are politicians making it a war of ideologies when it is about anti-India rants? Are Politicians missing the real issue about glorifying a terrorist here? If freedom of speech is absolute, then will these politicians back speeches of Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh, Yogi Adityanath and Pravin Togadia.

Amidst the political tussle, all seem to forget the crux of the matter. The JNU Act says that this University is established on certain principles of National integration, amongst others. Isn’t the incident in JNU a kind of promotion of discontent and hatred towards the Indian state?    

Is separatism a National integration? Should it be allowed? During this incident, many students in their TV interview have said that they have been staying in the campus since 7-8 years, but how? What do they do? Are they the real students or do politics staying inside? 

The tax-payers’ money is being spent for students’ education in JNU, not for their politics. The government needs to be firm and investigate such matters and draw a strict line to protect the universities from such unlawful acts in future.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
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