Common Indian: between the devil and the deep sea

Rohit Dhankar

ABVP, BJP and the Government

The BJP including the government and its wings have only one thing to say to its detractors: anti-nationals. They think that once they utter this pious word from their lips the argument is complete. Period. The soul of the nation for them, of course, is in Nagpur. And it’s truest embodiment is the Sangh.

Even the young ABVP activists who should have a fertile imagination and convictions of a young idealist are totally parrot like, trite, unimaginative and unconvincing; under this stifling notion of the Indian nation. When they want to be forceful all they can do is abuse. Calling people dogs seem to be their most forceful slogans.

The government in arresting Kanhaiya has proved itself to be totally inapt. The Home Minister seems to be losing his depth. It is not totally unbelievable that all this hyper activity might be partly motivated by future elections in JNU. (Do I understand correctly that JNU election are coming in March? I am not sure here.)

Their zeal for demanding worship of their imagination of the nation is fanatical. And their imagination of that nation seems to be empty but for Bharat-Mata. If one takes cue from their imagination of history and ancient India then it seems to be coming right out of Raja Ravi Varma’s calendar paintings and second hand heard puranic stories.

Indian police was never known for its braininess, but by arresting Kanhaiya they seem to have bracken their own record, unless they really have something up their sleeves; which does not seem to be very probable.

This is the devil.

The JNU function

It is hard to deny that there was objectionable sloganeering in JNU. Whether shouting such slogans attracts sedition charges or not is a legal matter, and I do not know much of that. The slogans I consider objectionable can be categorized in two classes.

One, objectionable:

  • कश्मीर कि जनता संघर्ष करो, हम तुम्हारे साथ है.
  • अफज़ल कि हत्या नहीं सहेंगे, नहीं सहेंगे.
  • कितने अफज़ल मरोगे, हर घर से अफज़ल निकलेगा.
  • कितने मकबूल मरोगे, हर घर से मकबूल निकलेगा.

I call them objectionable because they if logically analyzed will lead to disrespect for the constitution (it also encompasses the territorial integrity of India), UN processes (withdrawal of Pakistani troops was a precondition of plebiscite), Indian parliament (it passed a resolution that Kashmir is integral part and it was attacked) and The Supreme Court (it awarded death sentence to Afzal and Makbool Bhat).

I do not consider them ‘seriously objectionable’ because there are Indian citizens who have counter views on the secessionist movement in Kashmir and question the fairness of trial or availability of defense to Afzal. Since many India citizens have these views the students may be considered under their influence and ignorant of the history of Kashmir problem. Youthful idealism even if coming out of ignorance and misguided sense of justice should be considered a subject of dialogue. Idealism is too precious to stifle even if it happens to be somewhat misguided.

Two, seriously objectionable slogans:

  • कश्मीर की आज़ादी तक, जंग रेगी, जंग रहेगी
  • भारत की बर्बादी तक, जंग रहेगी, जंग रहेगी.
  • भारत तेरे टुकड़े होंगे, टुकड़े होंगे.

This seems to be seriously objectionable to me because it directly calls for violence and breaking up India. Ignorance, stupidity and misguided idealism cannot become factors in condoning these kids of slogans. But they need to be dealt with dialogue and social/moral disapproval. Such people do not deserve respect as fellow Indian citizens, and need to be watched. They can be on the verge of becoming a threat to the nation. Their number does not matter, terrorism can function with small numbers.

But people who are shouting these slogans are not recognizable in the videos so far circulating. Still it was happening in our supposed to be the best university in presence of hundreds of students. No one was seen trying to stop them. That is serious, and disheartening.

Who were these people who were shouting these slogans? Kanhaiya could have been in the best position to find that out because of his reach to students; and it is not possible that no students knew them. The police has arrested Kanhaiya who is not seen shouting slogans and there is nothing to show his complicity in this; apart from one single fact that he supported the function even after the administration withdrew permission. But that does not prove that he knew what will happen. The poster itself is objectionable enough but that comes in category one above. Therefore, in this unjustified arrest the police has lost its best chance to identify the people shouting these seriously objectionable slogans.

JNU protest

The students’ and teachers’ protest against Kanhaiya’s arrest is completely justified. The torrent of articles appearing in the press condemning the arrest, the ham-handedness and inaptness of the government is pointing to the right concerns.

But there is also something worrying about this. The focus is completely on attacking the government and BJP and everyone has forgotten the seriously objectionable nature of the last three slogans after a momentary lip-service to condemn them. It seems almost deliberate to distract the people’s attention from the seriousness of the slogans to that of the omissions and commissions of the government. In the zeal for bashing up the government a serious problem is being ignored. Not even that, but is portrayed as too minor an issue to pay attention to.

This attitude will encourage and protect the people who shouted those objectionable slogans. It will communicate to other students that people who shout such slogans are fine, can be part of the student community and enjoy it’s protection.

This is the deep sea, if the BJP agenda is the devil. Mature, serious and responsible democratic academics and intellectuals of a country are so busy fighting their current political battle (right kind of battle) that they are oblivious or are willfully ignoring the dangers their single mindedness may bring about in the long run.


7 Responses to Common Indian: between the devil and the deep sea

  1. Rabi prakash says:

    I will agree with most of the things you have said, especially with your observations on “seriously objectionable” points. It may be agreed that the people who shouted anti-Indian slogans especially those which threatens India’s territorial integrity. But the questions is that a place where most of the students come from different regions and whenever they get chance to express they do so deriving from what they perceive as dominant discourse in their regions, and society. Though, the India’s integrity is rightly precious to the whole of India, it can not be denied that there is a political movement in Kashmir in which most of the Kashmiris people participate with a fairly anti-Indian sentiments even to the extent where they perceive as if they are at war with Indian establishment. These slogans are possibly part of all major political eruptions there. It can be simply understood that Kashmiri students coming to Delhi bring and carry that sentiments and given the chance express them in the same language. If the Indian establishment/ state engages with separatists of Kashmir through dialogues hoping that they would succeed in persuading them one day to renounce their hard line positions, why is it that these students should not be given chance for engaging through dialogues. In a sense it is good that they are bringing the Kashmiri perspective in open public for a better and informed dialogues with Indian perspective.

    From Indian perspective, they are in fact objectionable, but I doubt if the students’ statements/slogans amount to sedition, I am not sure.


    • Dolashree Mysoor says:

      I don’t think what the students (I mean JNU students) did is seditious. Besides sedition laws require that there is a proximity to the violence or a close possibility of violence. Not sure if these will stand the test, we will have to wait and watch. Of course, this leaves us with the question – are sedition laws required? I understand this is not where the post is going.

      I have a bigger problem with what happened after the situation. The BJP MP’s actions, the lawyers’ behaviour is more threatening in my opinion. I also think that the fact that there is a systematic intrusion into the higher education space in ways in which we have not witnessed before needs further questioning. Again, this is probably a question that this specific post doesn’t seek to respond to.

      Most importantly, if the RSS and the BJP are going to parade Bharat Mata in some religious light, which they are, I’m not sure I want to associate with that identity. I would much rather be Indian than Bharatiya, and this language matters to me!


  2. Biswa Ranjan Patnaik says:

    Written with sensitivity and poignancy. However, I strongly feel that, if the charges are proven, these people must be taught a lesson for life.


  3. Abhinav kumar says:

    I agree with most of your points apart from your point about them not deserving respect. It becomes imperative that we debate with them but lack of respect will only result in further trust deficit. This will in turn fuel their separatism. One of the central problem with BJP is the amount of trust it is able to inspire in groups which have different idea of a nation from theirs. We stop seeing them as potential threat to nations and engage with them with open mind to reach solution to such problems.


  4. Thank you for pointing out the somewhat skewed response to the situation at JNU and also for bringing out the ineptness of police and politicians. Hopefully evidence will count for something when the matter comes up in the courts. However there is one sentence in the blog post that I feel compelled to disagree with – namely this one “Such people do not deserve respect as fellow Indian citizens, and need to be watched.” I am compelled to disagree with this sentence because in this sentence the citizenship rights of a person are conflated with her opinion. Opinions are opinions and need to be argued over and contested and may be even treated with contempt. However, treating the holders of stupid opinions with disrespect and contempt is far more problematic and violates principles of universal human rights.


  5. rdhankar says:

    Thanks Abhinav and Indira. You have expressed disagreement with this sentence: “Such people do not deserve respect as fellow Indian citizens, and need to be watched.”

    The point is well-taken. It was somewhat badly formulates sentence. if you notice the blog what I suggest for such people is not some legal remedy or withholding of rights etc. my suggestions is that they should be engaged in dialogue; and moral disapproval of the acts should be communicated.

    actually I am talking of not deserving respect as a worthy citizen of the country which has territorial integrity as part of its constitution. One can argue against that in a sane manner; but declaration of ‘jung’ till it is destroyed can not be respected or condoned. someone who declares that has already forfeited the moral grounds for citizenship. AND STILL I AM NOT AT ALL ARGUING FOR NOT RESPECTING THIS PERSON’S LEGAL CITIZENSHIP RIGHTS. But find my self unable to bring about to respect him/her as a concerned citizen of the county. as human being he is as good as me, and enjoys all human rights within legal framework of the nation.


  6. Cp says:

    Hope our police/intelligence find out those guys, who were shouting seriously objectionable words, before IS find them…


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