Even as I write this blogpost, I can’t stop thinking about what is transpiring in JNU, one of the greatest institutions in this country, home to some of the best minds the world has ever seen and alma mater of some of the countries greatest leaders. Readers might not be aware of the issue at hand, so the next couple of paragraphs explain the situation, skip them if you know about it (read through if yo u are a Arnab Goswami fan 😛 )
So as it turns out a bunch of students(not the JNU students union) sought permission from the university authorities to organise a cultural event on ‘The Judicial Killing of Afzal Guru”, mastermind of the attack on the Parliament controversially convincted by the Supreme Court ( more of that in a second ). ABVP which is the youth wing of the BJP (has a small little hinstory of vandalism 😛 ), wrote to the Univesity authorities condemning grant of permission for the event, which,they saidand I quote” could create communal tensions in the campus”(look at the irony 😛 ). The VC withdrew permission immediately but the students decided to organise the event elsewhere. Invitees included Kashmiri students studying in various central universities in Delhi. There was to be poetry, speeches and literary grandeur which any humanities student would salivate over 😛 . Halfway through the programme ABVP activists reached the entrance of the venue shouting highly nationalist slogans which I personally admire like
“Tum doodh mangoge hum kheer denge :p, kashmir mangoge cheer denge “( Verghese Kurien would be turning in his grave if he hadn’t been cremated)
Kashimiri students(emphasis) inside shot back
“Kitne Afzal maroge ghar ghar se Afzal niklega” and “Kashmir ki Azadi tak zung rahegi zung rehegi”
This event ended and later next day police stormed the campus and picked up the JNUSU president Kanahiya Kumar and slapped charges of sedition and criminal conspiracy on him. Police said they were looking for one Umar Khalid, who organised the event. Media ran reports which dubbed him as a Jaesh-e- Mohammad supporter and Muslim fanatic. Now the truth.
Afzal Guru and the trial
Afzal Guru was convicted by the Supreme Court, on the basis of circumstansial evidence, his crime was never establised. People think this was because of public demand for action against him. Further there has always been outrage about his hanging in the Kashmir Valley, this opinion is not new. People in Kashmir look upto him as a man who stood for the right of Kashmiri brethren. Infact PDP, a party which allies with BJP in the J ank K govt, resents the hanging, calling it a travesity of Justice. The Kashmir issue is confusing and contrversial in itself
Kashmir is the only state in India to have its own constiution. It acceded to India much after Independence when its Mahraja signed ‘the Instrument of Accession’ with Pt Nehru. Its totally normal for people of Kashmir to ask for Indepenence. A plebiscite which Nehru promised to decide the fate of kashmir never happened. Kashmir houses separists who are open about their ideology of freedom and the govt engages in dialogue with them. Then why this talk of sedition. Besides AFSPA( google it) which is in force in Kashmir puts restrictions on the rights of kashmiri people, subjecting them to millitary tyranny. Haider, starring Shahid Kapoor says the story the best (though things are better now).
Sedition( 124A of the Indian Penal Code) (such a show off I m 😛 ) is defined as any act , speech or word which creates dissatisfication among the people about the government and its policies. It is an inheritance of the British laws in force before independence, which was used to put leaders like MK Gandhi and Lala Lajpat in jail. Going by the literal meaning of the law we all are guilty of sedition :p …. every time you blamed rising prices or cursed the govt for banning porn you did sedition :p . But thankfully for us SC has interpreted this to mean any act, word or action which provokes people to use violent means against the government. And I am sure all of you will agree that a couple of slogans and a night of poetry can’t incite people to do violence ( Unless you are Honey Singh 😛 ).
Freedom of speech and right to dissent
Every body in this country has right to speech and this right cannot be used to hurt others. People argue that this act in the greatest university of the country hurt the people of the nation, but look at it this way. JNU is the opinon capital of the world, people there have leftist views some of them are inclined to the right ideology. These people can disarm you with words. As Shashi Tharoor puts it “Chauvinists create enemies liberals disarm them”. JNU students are liberals of the highest order, they are well read people, you may disagree with their views, but it is imperative to give them the right to dissent.
Umar khalid, the leader of the congregation is an ultra-leftist, staunch believer in radical socialism, an atheist who troubles his father(just like me) with his apathy to religion. Dubbing him as a Muslim fanatic is foolishness. I don’t believe in his socialist ideals( though my Grandpa represented a less radical faction of the party he swears allegiance to in the Rajya Sabha), but that doesn’t mean I want him lynched. We all have right to dissent and right to our own opinion this doesn’t make others any worse or us any better, at best it makes us different. My dad hates Umar Khalid, I can’t help admiring him, he hasn’t thrown me out of the house :p infact he made Biryani for me today that is dissent and that is freedom.
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Sections of the media ran shows after shows assassinating Umar Khalid. Some said he was linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad. Some said he received his training in Pakistan. ‘Allegedly is the word used to talk about crimes that have not been proved. But the media made no such disclaimer and continued showing him laugh goofily baring his teeth with a tagline “Batisi dekhae bandar’ ( is that the best you can come up with 😛 ) . Arnab Goswami invited him to his show only to call him an anti-national, not letting him speak at all. “You will not cut me, when I talk about Hanumanthappa” says he, as if he never cuts people speaking. Then he threatens to cut off his audio. Arnab Goswami the man who is a habitual violator of the restrictions on freedom of speech on national TV. Who can forget that clip where he says “ You fucked up” to a Congress MP whose party lost the elections. This needs to stop.
India houses multiple opinions we are as different from each other as any foreigner can be. Then why this inability to house dissent that too through peaceful means. When Jats take to streets killing policemen and burning vehicles demanding OBC status their demands are met, but when students organize peaceful meetings police invades their hostels. How long will we put up with these police excesses. Even Amnesty Internatonal criticized India’s action.
As Barkha Dutt puts it in her tweet
Minister @smritiirani says JNU insulted Mother India. But what of compassionate, gentler side of Mothers?
And as Rabindranath Tagore with whom Goswami shares his motherland says ( in my pol Science book 😛 )
“Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live. ”
Thank you for reading through
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