BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES

Doesn't JNU know, calling for 'India's barbaadi' is not azaadi?

Freedom of speech is an absolute right, but that will never mean you attack the very fountain of that freedom.

 |  BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES  |  3-minute read |   10-02-2016
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The Right ridicules the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as the last bastion of what is left of the Left. Socialism is still sexy on this campus. Even the haters acknowledge the Left’s heft here. The resurgent Right, now armed with that Modi might, is giving them a fight in the battle of narratives. The Right’s favourite weapon: declare difference anti-national. It literally sucked the life out of Rohith Vemula, the dalit student who broke a billion hearts with his final Facebook note.

Shut Down JNU. This was the war cry on Wednesday as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad launched a protest, fuelling a fire that spread to Twitter, the bipartisan battlefield of partisan polemic. It sounded as spurious as the regular right-wing “anti-national” whine. Or did it? The Left literally handed the Right the rare opportunity to cry "wrong" and be right. ABVP said "JNU is anti-national". JNU doesn’t need to shut down over some seditious sloganeering, but it should give the administration, both on and outside the campus, some serious heebie-jeebies. Because it goes beyond petty politics.

This is what happened. Some students organised a cultural programme that progressed into an event to mark the "martyrdom" of Afzal Guru, who was hanged for his involvement in the December 13, 2001 Parliament attack. This had happened in Vemula’s Hyderabad Central University too. Then too, some called it anti-national. No matter what the Right believes, the India's Constitution gives her citizens an inviolable right to speech and belief. But soon, the slogans became shriller and bordered on being anti-India and quickly ended up crossing that border.

jnu-students-protest_021016102739.jpg JNU students at Afzal Guru's 'martyrdom' meet. 

India, Go Back! This is a slogan we hear in the Kashmir Valley, now a post-Friday-prayers ritual in Srinagar. Not in New Delhi. JNU has never been a "disputed" territory. JNU also does not have a history of demanding Azaadi from India. But the next slogan referred to a war that will go on till Kashmir is freed. “Kashmir ki Azaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi.” This would have been enough to light a furious fire in the hearts of the “proud and patriot” crowd. But the JNU Djangos did not stop at that. They rhymed it with “India ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi”. That means the war will go on till India is destroyed.

Rhyme and reason. Crime and treason. Or in common parlance, asking for it. In a free nation, you can demand freedom from that nation and that, however unpatriotic, will fall within the freedom of speech framework. Calling for a total destruction of that very free nation is misuse of the fundamental right the same nation’s constitution affords us all. This is not bordering on incitement, this is incitement. So, this time when the ABVP called this anti-national, it was right.

Has the Left lost the art of intellectual war? Has the Left been appropriated by to the louts within? This is not progressive or aggressive - this is not the intellectual Left. This is regression into an uncharted territory for student politics in general and, JNU in particular. Universities are the only places where ideas, even pernicious ones, must be allowed to flourish. Since the recent rise of the raucous Right, India is fighting a battle to retain this character of our academic institutions. The Left is leading that battle. The JNU incident has just pulled out a chunk of the intellectual high ground it lays claim to.

Writer

Kamlesh Singh Kamlesh Singh @kamleshksingh

Journalism student. Ed honcho at the India Today Group Mediaplex. God's Loyal Opposition. Useful Warning: Tweets may hurt religious sentiments.

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