Since the eve of 9th February, the JNU campus has become a battleground of sorts. There’s been a raging debate with the country’s who’s who embroiled on the contentious issues of patriotism and anti-nationalism. My newsfeed overflows with the varied contrasts of views and opinion and it seems like everyone is out to pass a judgement on what’s considered to be national and what’s considered to be anti-national.
Initially when the case came to light, it appeared that a few students had gathered together to protest against the hanging of 2001 Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru. It was reported that there were students who allegedly mouthed slogans like “India Ki Barbadi”, “India Go Back”.
At that point, we too found their actions condemnable and wrote in support of action that should be taken against them. However, as the ugly story and sequence of events unfolded, as it became more and more murky, we found some things to be out of tune with the ideals of democracy.
When students are treated like terrorists, when lawyers act like goons, when teachers are made to sound like perpetrators and when an institution is treated as a haven of terrorists, you know that something is seriously wrong with the system.
Picture this- a group of students, gather together to stage a protest, albeit for the wrong cause, if popular opinion is to be believed. They shout a few disturbing slogans, the whole country loses its head and goes on a rampage to shut down one of the most reputable universities of all time?
On Monday, there were instances of lawyers attacking journalists, students and the JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar himself, who has been in police custody under sedition charges. The people who led the attacks on the reporters, journalists and students were not detained by the police and continued their hooliganism.
Lawyers like Vikram Chauhan, Om Sharma, Yashpal Singh, Surinder Tyagi, so on and so forth were seen attacking students and screaming slogans like “Kanhaiya ko bail do, Hum upar bhej denge”, is this what is expected of the nation’s law enforcers? A direct threat to murder a man who hasn’t even been convicted of the said charges yet? One shudders to think that all this happens right outside the mecca of justice; the Patiala House Court.
The abominable breakdown of law and order at Patiala House raises serious questions of this country’s regard for the principles of justice where the ideals are thwarted to the winds and the law is taken in one’s own hands.
The issue that could have been easily nipped in the bud has now turned into a major political slug fest, with every political party coming in to claim their pound of meat. Like every other thing in our country, it has snowballed and been blown out of proportion, forced to fit in to a political angle and has become a matter of national integrity along with the penultimate acid test of nationalism and patriotism.
It didn’t have to get so ugly, it didn’t need to get as bloodied as it has gotten. There’s always a procedure for everything; the students who indulged in any such activities should have been taken to task and punished accordingly and the matter should have ended right there.
Drama in Patiala house crt ahead of production of JNU prez-lawyers shout – bharat zindabad – send JNU students 2 Pak pic.twitter.com/oDFvpgzPZN
— cheenikum (@ashokbagariya) February 15, 2016
Have we not learnt anything from the Rohith Vermula fiasco, the FTII row, the #OccupyUGC campaign? How can we really expect our students to shut their mouths and open their minds? Isn’t a university supposed to be a safe space to question, debate and engage in dialogue of contrasting views and opinion?
What has happened over the past few days is not only unfortunate but absolutely abysmal. Jawarharlal Nehru University has given this country its finest scholars, professors and leaders; can we really afford to shut it down?
Let it be known that we do not condone any such act that is a threat or insult to the nation, we do not side with those who think Afzal Guru is a martyr, in fact we abhor and condemn those acts.
However, we are against the branding of an entire university as anti-national, we are against people being polarized strictly on political lines, we are against the crushing and throttling of free speech and expression.
It is in troubled times like these that Rabindranath Tagore’s words resonate in my mind-
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Into that heaven of freedom my father, let my country awake!