March 10, 2016

The JNU Controversy: What is Nationalism?

Image Source:- IBNLive
The month of February has been very eventful for Delhi citizens and for the intellectuals all over India. What started just as a university level event supporting Afzal Guru, snowballed into a nationwide controversy! Sedition cases were slapped, Home Minister of India jumped in with conclusion of Hafiz Saeed supporting the JNU students, and the entire country was divided on the issue. Delhi was overwhelmed with protest marches. First a protest march by JNU students, then one by Left parties, after that one by BJP and anti-JNU people and a few days later a protest march by lawyers! It was like a Govt declared protest month!
The issue had started with a pro-AfzalGuru event, which had attracted attention of wide variety of students. By now everybody knows the issue, but the only thing left is where is the basic difference in opinion?
Broadly, there are three issues here:-
  1. Did the students of JNU commit mistake by doing what they did on the day of 9th February?
  2. Were their actions bad enough to term them as "Anti-National"?
  3. Should Police have acted so swiftly? And should a case of sedition have been lodged against them?
I think if we are able to answer these three questions clearly, then we will have better clarity of the event. So here are my thoughts on the above three points
  1. Talking of the students indulgence in the said series of events, I think they were wrong. University is a place of study and intellectual growth, not a place of muscle flexing and provocative sloganeering. While all kinds of debates and discussion (howsoever diverse and flammable) should be allowed in an educational institutions, they must be held in a peaceful and cooperative manner. Provocative speeches, sloganeering, mob marches etc. should not be appreciated. So what happened on that day, certainly feels to be wrong.
  2. Were the actions bad enough, so as to term them as "anti-National"? This is a very difficult question, and a bit confusing too. In my view.there are two things here, first- can their actions said to be motivated from anti-national sentiments? And second- can they be termed "anti-National"? I think the slogans raised were indeed motivated by anti-National sentiments. So those who were raising the slogans, certainly had anti-national sentiments. But can it be used to conclude that they were "anti-national"? I think NO. For determining, whether someone is "anti-National" or not, I think we should make "action" as the determining criteria, keeping in mind at the same time, that there should be "Freedom of Expression". So while they had anti-national sentiments, without any clear anti-national actions, it would be a bit harsh to conclude that they are "anti-national". Its true that thoughts and sentiments only convert into action, but then we can't conclude so quickly!
  3. Police acted very swiftly in this case, which was a bit surprising.But keeping in mind the anti-national slogans raised, I think Police action was obvious. A Police investigation into the incidents was very much needed. But, they shouldn't have kept Kanhaiya under prolonged detention. That was unnecessary and aggravated the situation. The prolonged detention/custody period of Kanhaiya catapulted him into a heroic character (which he is not). It unnecessarily brought him into limelight, bringing him sympathies of people. What had he done by the way? At most, he can be accused to have turned blind to anti-National slogans. He was not even among the main organisers of the event! And well, that sedition case, that is totally unwarranted. The sedition law itself is illogical, and should be scrapped altogether. The case that should have been made against them, was of trying to disrupt peace by spreading hatred and doing provocative actions(I hope such laws exist). Actions should indeed be taken against all those who organised/supported the event, and all those who raised slogans, but not this sedition case. And the police actions should have been proportionate to the crime committed(if any).
That brings me to the end of this blog-post. I hope the situation calms down, guilty people are caught and punished in logical way, and students of JNU starts focusing more on intellectual debates than on provocative, muscle flexing events.