JNU row: Why BJP MLA OP Sharma needs an education

This nebulous concept of a glorious country led by macho leaders is based on limited understanding of what it takes to be a great nation.

 |  3-minute read |   17-02-2016
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More than 200 years ago, Napoleon Bonaparte embarrassed United Kingdom by calling it a "nation of shopkeepers". The tiny and once-mighty island has since struggled to shed that tag.

I don't think BJP MLA OP Sharma, given to fisticuff fights backed by his goons, has read much about Napoleon, or anything else for that matter.

When Indian Express profiled him, he threw out such nuggets as "Main goli bhi maar deta agar bandook hoti".

Also read: Patiala House attack is a wake-up call for India's journalists

It was revealed in the sketch that Sharma runs mithai shops and showrooms of a leading shoe brand. While this writer has nothing against shopkeepers, (insha-allah, may they prosper, and do further commerce), I do have a problem when they try to set the political and social discourse in the country.

I have friends who run shops and hold political opinions. That's good. Everyone has a right to an opinion. They gather their political and social knowledge from WhatsApp messages such as Barack Obama declaring Diwali a holiday in the United States, a sign of the growing might of Bharat Mata. That the message is proved patently false with the entire America slaving it out - I get a phone call from a US citizen on Diwali while she is in office and circulate that - as we light crackers does not leave them shame-faced.

Diwali should be a holiday in the US, they say. Yeah, it sure will be soon. Then they show you photos that NASA clicked of India on Diwali night to indicate NASA gives a f*ck about us, a country where children continue to die of malnutrition and the girl child is routinely killed in the womb, no matter how many programmes successive governments launch, be it "Ladli" or "Dhanlaxmi", or #SelfieWithDaughter.

Also read: How 'patriotic' BJP is shaming India and getting away with it

This nebulous concept of a glorious country led by macho leaders is based on limited understanding of what it takes to be a just and great nation and how far we have to go. If one Rohith Vemula reaches a PhD level, there are thousands who do not. For whom higher education and a space to debate and discuss, study and become thinkers, is denied. I do realise that for Vemula also, the space was ultimately taken away, brutally.

I suggest OP Sharma spend one day in a government-run school in Delhi to understand India's constraints and the sheer courage it takes for a tiny girl who woke up at 5 in the morning to cook for her family and get water from them, to stay awake in class. Looking for that elusive education that is denied to so many.

If only Sharma can be torn away from defending "Bharat Mata" while balancing his accounts.

We, after all, are not to become a nation of shopkeepers.

Also read: JNU students, don't forget what you owe to the taxpayer

Writer

Aparna Kalra Aparna Kalra @apkal

The writer is a journalist and Delhi School of Economics alumnus who reports often on education and gender.

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