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“It is not right in God’s sight to obey men rather than God.”

A punch of political patriotism

Samuel Mathai

The Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s economic agenda takes a backseat; and the campus politics is back, once again, reminding only of the days of early 70’s. Is the country drifting towards an emergency like situation?

Though its reply may be disputed, but India has become a boiling cauldron of conflicting and perverted politics, casteism and regionalism. Now, total anarchy and intolerance have pervaded the country. It seems that people at the helm of affairs want upper-hand over others, and for that they may go to any extent. They do not hesitate violating the law of the land; disregard the Supreme Court rulings and the Constitution of India. They are least concerned about real nationalism and patriotism; not bothered about the people who voted them to power and their rights. To grab power they can do anything.

The glaring example of this is the recent Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) row. The Central government, throwing all the rules and regulation to the wind, intruded into the affairs of the University and arrested JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition. And the police, at the behest of Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi, are in search of his companions, who are at large.

The BJP government’s version is that during a protest march held against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on February 9, the students allegedly had raised anti-India slogans. To substantiate their claim, video clippings are being shown in news channels throughout, which are prima facie seemed to be doctored by some vested interests.

The JNU row has drawn world-wide condemnation. A sizeable number of universities, intellectuals, academicians, political leaders and right-thinking people, while deploring the un-thoughtful act, opined that the government should avoid getting trapped in such issues. Expressing solidarity with the students and faculty protesting the government action on campus, they condemned “the culture of authoritarian menace that the present Modi government in India has generated.”

Whereas, some blockheads in the ruling party like BJP MLA from Delhi OP Sharma and some lawyers have become over-enthusiastic and to show off their nationalism and patriotism, taken law into their hands and indulged in fist-fight with the agitating students and the media persons. But the Delhi police stood mute spectators of all these incidents, the reason is best known to them only.

Now this fire, ignited by the “so-called nationalists”, has spread to other universities and educational institutions, like Jadavpur University Kolkata. In fact, JNU row is not an isolated spark. The issue of suicide of Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula, a Dalit research scholar, suspended from Hyderabad Central University over a political dispute, allegedly involved by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, is yet to die down.

Soon after the JNU protests began, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that anyone shouting anti-India slogans “will not be tolerated or spared.” Singh even claimed that the “JNU incident” was supported by Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed.

It is open secret that the BJP government at the Centre wanted to muzzle the voice that contradicts the RSS ideology by slapping sedition charges against them. Recently, the government has issued a circular threatening the striking nurses in Delhi to slap sedition charges against them. It all shows the intellectual bankruptcy of the authorities that be.

Notwithstanding the fact, ‘Mr Intelligent’, the honourable Prime Minister of the country, Narendra Modi, did not utter a word about the JNU row so far. In fact, the ‘Silent Saint’ is not in the habit of reacting on issues that plague the nation. It seems that he only opens his mouth to cast aspersions on the Congress and the Gandhi family, whenever he gets the opportunity, otherwise to laud his words and deeds within and while on foreign tours, as he has become a known globetrotter after becoming prime minister.

On the contrary, the opposition Congress, the grand old political party of the country, has gone bankrupt of able leaders. It has no capable leader to raise the myriads issues the country is facing. If anybody in the party, like Rahul Gandhi, muster courage to shore up any issue, the (al)mighty ruling party throws its weight around to crush them.

According to reliable political sources, Prime Minister Modi wanted to do good things for the country, but his deputies smartly thwart his efforts, consequently, the JNU issue is born. The sources said the BJP was divided in three factions, though it is not apparent. Hence the anti-Modi factions allegedly put hurdles on the works he proposes and the party has to bear the brunt.

Those who are raising the issue of nationalism in regard to the JNU students perhaps are oblivious to the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), an ally of the BJP in Jammu & Kashmir, also protested against the hanging of Afzal Guru.

The Modi government came to power with the economic agenda, but it shifted to implementing the hidden agendas of the RSS and that is detrimental to the democratic structure of the nation. It seems that the BJP government has given unwritten powers to the cadres of the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and scores of other Hindu bodies to crush religious minorities and other political parties.

At first they have started attacking minority communities like Muslims and Christians. The Dadri mob lynching case in Uttar Pradesh, beating up of a Muslim couple on a train in Madhya Pradesh for allegedly carrying beef; attacks on Christian churches, institutions and congregations and assaulting and killing of pastors, nuns and believers in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other states; forcible reconversion of Christians and Muslims to Hindu fold are a few ones to count.

A right-wing activist Rajeshwar Singh, at a mass conversion event organised in Madhunagar near Agra recently has declared that “Hindu wave has just begun. In 10 years we will convert all Christians and Muslims.” (Published in The Times of India).

After FTII in Pune and HCU in Hyderabad, the saffron brigade is now casting its eyes on the campuses to capture the youth power with the tacit approval of the BJP government and the JNU issue is part of that agenda.

While over 500 academics, including JNU alumni, have expressed concern over the JNU affair, a “wider global academic community of friends and comrades” ripped into the incident. They said JNU was “far more than a besieged university campus in India”. JNU stands for a vital imagination of the space of the university – an imagination that embraces critical thinking, democratic dissent, student activism, and the plurality of political beliefs. It is this critical imagination that the current establishment seeks to destroy.

They said, “Patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrels. The current rant against ‘anti-national’ slogans at JNU highlights the abundance of scoundrels among Indian politicians. The notion that there can be only one concept of what constitutes a nation, and that every other view is anti-national, is intellectually empty at best and authoritarian at worst.”

One may disagree with the students raising anti-national slogans. But since when have students been a politically correct crowd mouthing patriotic hosannas? In all free societies, students have espoused all sorts of extreme positions, and must be free to do so. That is why they are called free societies.

Unfree societies are different. Communist China cracked down on Tiananmen Square and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt cracked down on Tahrir Square. The American students were at the very forefront of opposition to the Vietnam War. They rejected the government’s notion of patriotism. Their right to dissent was not questioned even by those who condemned their views.

In 1933, the Oxford Union held a famous debate on the motion, ‘This house will in no circumstances fight for its King and country.’ The Union voted for the motion by 275 votes to 153. This ‘Oxford Pledge’ was later adopted by students at the universities of Manchester and Glasgow. This sent shock waves through Britain. The students were denounced as morons, cowards, anti-nationals and communist sympathisers. But none dreamed of arresting the students for sedition.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) sought to break away from Britain and form a separate Scottish nation. Are SNP leaders jailed for sedition? No. They have an honourable place in society, have been granted one referendum, and may soon get another.

Free societies come down hard on those using or inciting violence, but bestow legitimacy on people advocating revolutionary change — even secession — through peaceful means. Free societies do not jail non-violent secessionists, but India does. And that raises the question whether India wants to be a free society.

India can hang a Maqbool Bhat for murder, but should not jail a student leader for mere alleged sloganeering, which the latter report says he did not.