JNU issue again: A response to a friend

Rohit Dhankar

[It seems people have lost interest in the JNU debate, and have moved on. But a friend commented on one of my blogs on this issue. This is a response to that comment. You may find it repetitive, old issue and uninteresting.]

Thanks Anjali, for reading and commenting on my blog post “Welcoming Umar Khalid”.

I have written many blogs on this issue and have answered all these questions in them. Some of these blogs are:

1.   Common Indian: between the devil and the deep sea

2.   Spreading confusion through JNU issue

3.   The point and the counter point: JNU slogans

  1. Kashmir: Illegal occupation by India?

5.   Indoctrination in JNU?

6.   Freedom of speech and slogan shouting: A rejoinder to Professor Partha Chatterjee

All are available on the same site in the months of February and March. However, rather than referring you to this material I am responding briefly to the issues you have raised in your comment.

You have raised several questions, some of them are numbered separately some are not, so the numbering below does not match exactly with numbering in your comment.

  1. Glossed over facts: according to you Umar says that they (JNU) stopped Indira Gandhi but protested against others, and they had the right to protest. My question is why protest freedom of speech? Protest the content if you like, through your own statements. How can one champion as well as protest against the same thing? If their protest was right why are they so angry about others protesting their kind of freedom of speech? My point remains valid with taking pride in one instance of ‘stopping’ and several others protested by disruption and hackling. What I am saying is that JNU (Umar Khalid included) brand of freedom of speech is ‘freedom of speech when I use it’ and ‘victimisation and canard when others use it against me’. This is double standard.
  2. He did not shout Kashmir ki azadi tak jang rahegi: I have videos where he is seen shouting many slogans, and ‘jang rahegi’ comes without disruption in the flow and in the same voice. The JNU lobby says that 2 of 7 videos are doctored; but no one ever told which two and what portions in them are doctored. This is deliberate obfuscation. He shouted this slogan.
  3. What is the problem in saying kitne Afzal maroge?: you have raised several issues to support this line of argument.

(a) Yes, many people says that Afzal trial had problems. But the problems they cite are connected with Afzal not getting a good defence in the trial court. I have not heard/read any of the lawyers etc. who says that he was not involved. If you have any argument of this nature please enlighten me.

(b) “The judgement itself said that there was no incontrovertible proof” you claim: I have read the judgment, and would like to know where it says that? What the judgment says is: “Short of participating in the actual attack, he did everything to set in motion the diabolic mission. As is the case with most of the conspiracies, there is and could be no direct evidence of the agreement amounting to criminal conspiracy. However, the circumstances cumulatively considered and weighed, could unerringly point to the collaboration of the accused Afzal with the slain ‘Fidayeen’ terrorists. The circumstances, if considered together, as it ought to be, establish beyond reasonable doubt that Afzal was a party to the conspiracy and had played an active part in various acts done in furtherance of the conspiracy. These circumstances cannot be viewed in isolation and by no standards of common sense, be regarded as innocuous acts.” You may agree or disagree with the Supreme Court’s view, but can hardly make it say what you want.

(c) The “hanging was given as a punishment to assuage the collective consciousness”: This is a canard spread against the Supreme Court for many years now, and gullible Indians are swallowing it. The judgment writes on page 77: “The net result of the above discussion is that the conspiracy to commit terrorist acts attracts punishment under sub-Section (3) of Section 3. The accused Afzal who is found to be a party to the conspiracy is therefore liable to be punished under that provision. Having regard to the nature, potential and magnitude of the conspiracy with all the attendant consequences and the disastrous events that followed, the maximum sentence of life imprisonment is the appropriate punishment to be given to Mohd. Afzal under Section 3(3) of POTA for conspiring to commit the terrorist act. Accordingly, we convict and sentence him.” This conviction comes under Section 3(3) of POTA. In the lengthy discussion, and before this there is no mention of “collective conscience”.

Then the court goes on to consider Sections 3(2) and 3(5) of POTA, sets aside the conviction under them.  Then it goes on to consider Section 120(B) read with section 302 of IPC. And the mention of “collective conscience” occurs in this discussion when the gravity of the crime and rarest of rare nature of the crime is under consideration.

Thinking people who consider themselves the custodians and guardians of the truth and justice in the country should read the judgment carefully and should not take their comrades and politicians pronouncements at their face value.

(d) “[S]o if there is a slogan with the purpose that if injustice is done more and more people will rise against it, what is wrong with it?”: Afzal’s involvement in terrorist acts and the parliament attack conspiracy is not doubted, not even by his supporters. Whether he got good defence at the trial court is doubted. Whether capital punishment could be given on the basis of circumstantial evidence is debated. Challenging the nation by a pledge (slogan shouted in public is a pledge, not a discussion) to create more and more terrorists because of these doubts and debates is not justified to my mind. Making a martyr out of him on this basis is not justified. I might be wrong. I am not advocating any punishment for such acts, I am advocating only condemnation from thinking people and asking for clarification from the sloganeers. Please allow me at the least that much. If you want to support these acts this is your choice, go ahead.

  1. “It is now clear that the Bharat ki Barbadi slogans were morphed onto the original videos”: No, this is a wrong statement. I have videos that clearly show people shouting these slogans. Umar Khalid and co. are not shouting these slogans, but slogans were shouted. And Umar Khalid is on record says that the “only problem” he has with these slogans is that the ‘population of India’ with which they want to interact gets agitated by these. Other than that he has no problem; he does not say this last phrase, but it is very clear from the context. And his explanation (I did not know of this before writing the blog you are commenting on) is not satisfactory.
  2. My reminding of security forces dying “is quite similar to the Sangh propaganda”: I am not a card carrying party person; therefore, have the freedom to accept or deny various ideas based on my own reason. Some thing said by Sangh parivar does not become anathema to me if stands reason independently. And I don’t care about name calling at all. It seems to me that upholding the territorial integrity of the country is important for its secularism, democracy and caring for justice to all. If you let it go, all this will collapse. The security personal are dying in this process; they are rendering a useful service to the country. And deserve sympathy from all who enjoy the fruits of this security; in spite of this being their ‘naukari’ and they being paid for it.

That however does not justify the excesses committed by the security forces, and such excesses should be investigated and punished. Umar Khalid in one of a video mentions that “three Kashmiri youths are killed”. This is a reference to the terrorists who were holed up in Pampore. His sympathies are with the three terrorists and not with the security forces in that incident.

Yes, we need to study Kashmir; but not after 90s as you say. Rather after Shekh Abdulla started the people’s self-determination movement before freedom. And if you study carefully you will find that the Indian state in spite of having committed mistakes is justified in keeping Kashmir as an integral part of itself and fighting the terrorism. I cannot go into details of this; but you can read part of it in one of my blogs titled “Kashmir: Illegal occupation by India?”. Khalid thinks, he is on record saying this, that it is illegal occupation by India at par with Pakistan; he is wrong in this; misguided by his professors who mistakenly take the same line disregarding or being ignorant of facts.

  1. “Bogey of border nationalism”: I do not know what you mean by it. I have argued in one of the blogs that territorial integrity is a necessity at this moment from constitutional, moral, and pragmatic reasons. Humans have not evolved to keep themselves organised and maintain social life without some organisational principle which necessarily involves regional arrangements; and therefore, territorial integrity. May be some have evolved; but they have to wait till the majority reaches their level of evolution.
  2. Azadi slogans were for azadi from casteism, poverty, etc.: There were two groups even in the JNU-lobby-supported larger group. There was a more than 2 minute chant where the azadi was azadi for Kashmir and “banduk ke dam par”. Other group was chanting what you say, azadi from poverty, sanghvad, for women, etc. This again an obfuscation to deceive the public.
  3. All these students have sworn by the constitution”: I am not sure whom do you include in all these students. It is good if they have realised it and sworn by the constitution. Umar Khalid, on whom this blog was written, is on record saying that Kashmir’s occupation by India is at par with Pakistan. This is not constitution. More importantly, in one of the videos he addresses his comrades and clearly rejects the Indian state (not present day government, the state), says he does not believe in any nationality, including Indian. And wants to communicate directly to the ‘Indian population’, disregarding the state. This is a different matter that later on he seeks protection from the same rejected state against a section of that very same Indian population he wants to directly communicate with. That only shows duplicity in propounding such theories.

To my mind the original issue was shouting objectionable slogans. Whether that attracted sedition or not is not my point. But many of those slogans attract some legal action and many more condemnation from thinking Indian citizens. The JNU-lobby turned the issue into a freedom of speech issue, and obfuscated on the slogans shouting versus debate on issues. In the process they twisted and fabricated truth just like the BJP and its cohorts. There was no substantial difference as far as regard for truth and reason goes; both used lies, fabrications and disregard for logic. No democracy can survive and progress if the public thinking and reason is deliberately obscured; whether your immediate purpose be justified or unjustified. The nation pays for dimmed rational capability of the people. JNU-lobby at this moment is attacking the public capability of clear thinking with more force than the BJP-RSS lobby. Simply because the JNU-lobby is still thought to be better at thinking through and fairer on the issues of justice and equality. But they have not acted responsibly and have damaged the democracy.


8 Responses to JNU issue again: A response to a friend

  1. Anjali Noronha says:

    Thanks Rohit. I watched the said videos again both umars speech before he surrendered and the slogan shouting ones . Yes Umar was there shouting slogans on 9th Feb. The slogans were Kashmir tum sang harsh karo ham tumhara Saath hain and the azadi ones . The tukde tukde ones and the Barbadi ones come in two videos – one where it is dark and there are voices shouting the slogans – the voices that shout these is clearly not umars voice – if you like we can listen to them together in Bangalore if you like. Thes to me are clearly the morphed ones.
    The other where there are face covered people shouting these slogans. Where again it is not Umar.
    Umar not believing in nationalism does not make him anti national , I don’t, John Lennon doesn’t, Rabindranath Tagore didn’t – none of us are anti nationals.,
    I have read the whole Afzal case – but do not have the texts at hand – will have to look for them – but through the whole case there is very flimsy evidence of his connection to the parliament case – so that’s the first fundamental difference between you and me my reading of the facts say it is not beyond doubt that he was connected to the parliament attack, not the way Kasab was connected to the Bombay ones. We will have to place both our evidences .
    But that is perhaps not so relevant here as the case for hanging which is what the Jnu students , the pdp and many others are protesting along with protesting the death sentence. The argument about illegal occupation hinges on the non fulfilment of the promise of plebiscite. It is an interpretation – and reasonable discourse would allow for both interpretation , not label one criminal.
    Secondly there is nothing sacrosanct about borders and protecting them – if the right kind of politics not right wing politics but politics of the right kind can bring people and parties to agreements for less armed borders, so much the better.
    I treat the army jawans as oppressed humans who in their frustration become inhuman enough to rape and kill, and not as people to be idolised.
    Armies are also used for terrorism – I would definitely rate the American and Israeli army greater terrorists than even the Isis. Similarly the death toll in the north east and inkashmir of both army and terrorists is about equal and some times may be more by the army – so nothing to pick and chose. All State power and other power that depends on violence to me is equally criminal.
    And lastly, in Jnu there is a culture of protest not prevention. To me those who work for the well being of the marginalised and deprived are more national than army – army people are mostly there for a job as are others in road building, transport etc. Many risk their lives in perilous circumstances.


  2. Anjali Noronha says:

    By the way , did you know that Kashmir has its own constitution which predates the Indian constitution and which is recognised by the Indian state as a constitution, whereby a Kashmiri in any court in India has to say I so and so, citizen of kashmir. No resident of any other says citizen of that state. Would be good to study the Kashmir constitution as well. Perhaps you have already studied it, Rohit.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Anjali.

    All I am claiming is that Umar shouted “kitane Afzal maroge …” and “Kashmit ki azaadi tak jang rahegi”. The second I find seriously objectionable and the first condemnable. That’s all. It could be proved that he did shout these two slogans. I will prove it to you or any one who has doubt. I am not saying that he shouted other slogans. So please don’t tell me about them.

    In none of my blogs I call them ‘antinational’. So why tell me about it? I am talking of Umar Khalid’s rejection of legitimacy of Indian state; and bringing his statement about nationality in this regard. He is not talking of not believing in ‘nationalism’; he is talking of not believing in ‘nationality’. If you also reject the legitimacy of Indian state, and don’t believe in ‘nationality’; well, good for you. But then don’t file an FIR if someone kicks you out of your house and captures it by force.

    Many people these days say that Tagore ‘did not believe in nationalism’. But when I read his essays on nationalism it seems to me that he is defining his nationalism in a different manner. He says that it will come from Nanak, Kabir and Dadu. When one reads his ‘The centre of Indian culture’, his rejoinder to Gandhi’s charkha and some educational writings he seems to be in search of a definition of Indian nationality. He may give very strong statements against a kind of nationalism that worships power and wants to dominate others; but is constantly is in search of Indianness and also tries to define it in his own way. About John Lennon I need to say anything.

    You say that the argument about illegal occupation hinges on non-fulfilment of plebiscite promise. I have written in my earlier blog on this. In very brief: 1. Legality cannot be defined as JNU professors and students like. 2. Hari Singh at the time of signing instrument of accession had all the legal power to do so. 3. Plebiscite depended on Pakistan’s withdrawal of forces. Which never happened. 4. Right to self-determination is a right to process and not of outcome. 5. Self-determination is defend in many ways—within a nation state as well as completely independent national state. The first one is available to Kashmiris. And still I say that it could be debated. What am objecting is supporting violent jang till the Kashmir gets ‘freedom’.

    I am not concerned about American and Israeli armies. If you claim that Indian army is used for terrorism I would like to know (i) your definition of terrorism, and (ii) instances that fit your definition. Bald claims don’t help me.

    I don’t know what to do about your statement about death toll of terrorists and army being similar. This is not a matter of numbers alone. It is also a matter of legitimacy of action, and grounds for that.

    The constitution of India includes territorial integrity of the nation, and defines ways of changing it. It also makes it a duty of a citizen to protect it. The only way to change it is through appropriate constitutional procedures. In that sense there is nothing sacrosanct. But breaking India by force of violence is not part of that procedure. So I oppose it. If someone wants to have a seminar on it, an Indian citizen should have no objection and should participate. But if someone give a call to break it by force, then I think it is duty of every Indian citizen to stand against it, and oppose you tooth and nail.

    I don’t think the evidence to (i) connect Afzal with terrorism, and (ii) with parliament attack conspiracy is flimsy. However, am ready to think is some arguments are available.

    Who is more nationalist and who is less so is not my point. Please read my original blog on which you commented again, also read my response. You are arguing on many things I said nothing about.



    • rdhankar says:

      Sorry, I made a factual mistake in my above comment in quoting Umar that he says “nationality” and does not say “nationalism”. actually he says other way round. His term is “nationalism”. NOT “nationality”. But the argument actually is about the acceptance of Indian state, that stands.


  4. Kamlesh Narwana says:

    In this highly politicised environment, i really appreciate clarity and rationality of ur writing. thanks


  5. Anjali Noronha says:

    The arguments rest on a) which slogans Umar shouted and can they be interpreted only as instigation to violence and break up of India – by the way all protests till now have been non violent – no beating up or burning of public property – unlike the Jat and Gurjar protests which no one including all the pacifists have termed anti national. . B) whether a citizen of a nation can profess faith in supranationalality ie. Belief in only humanism across all borders, while abiding by all laws of the country. C) whether when armed forces charged with the duty of protecting the citizens of the nation commit heinous crimes – we can equate it to terror in uniform. D) whether keeping Kashmir with us amounts to illegal occupation.
    A) I don’t think the slogan – kitne Afzal maroge is anti national because it does not incite anyone to violence but is a slogan bringing attention to the fact that if you oppress and kill ( this is about the hurried death sentence and not the punishment of life imprisonment which may or may not be contentious) more will rise and rebel – the language is not a call for rebellion. Please give a link to the video which you feel is unambiguous in showing Umar shouting the second slogan – I could not find such a video.
    B) here let us agree to disagree – there can be people who swear by the indian state, others who engage in the redefinition of the basis of nation – and yet others who reject the idea of nation itself but yet do their job diligently, work towards improving health or education of common people in India and may be abroad too and remain law abiding indian citizens. The present Indian state and nation allows peaceful means of protest. So that is law abiding.
    C) there is ample evidence of rape and murder by armed forces in Kashmir, the north east ( the Supreme Court has also admitted this) and chhattisgarh – to me this rape , murder, false encounters are as illegitimate and illegal and more inhuman as they are an illegitimate use of power, as those done by terrorists or Maoists. If you feel that their uniform legitimises these rapes, murders and encounters (which I sincerely hope you don’t) – then let us agree to disagree here as well. I have ample evidence of atrocities by people in uniform and I rate them as even more criminal than that of terrorists as apart from the heinous mess of their crimes, they break the faith of the common man in the duty they are supposed to perform. I do not however, label the whole armed forces criminal and respect – not idolise the sacrifices that many jawans particularly – not that many officers, make and suffer for. I would equally demand punishment such as life terms for those officers and men in uniform who commit such crimes, and stand with people like irom Sharmila in their demand for justice.
    D) on this people can have their opinions and logic and these are to my mind as legitimate as those of legal experts, if well researched and based on evidence and logic. My own opinion is that the Kashmir issue has remained unresolved – a section believing that they would like independence from both India and Pakistan – for them both occupations would be similarly illegal, a section may want to go with Pakistan and a section with India. Whatever the case may be, the situation allows for all interpretations of legitimacy and illegitimacy and for the moment I treat them as equal.


  6. Anjali Noronha says:

    About Afzal case – have you read afzals letter to his lawyer? + the gaps in the circumstantial evidence – viz. phone from which phone calls supposed to have been made recovered without sim, sim supposed to have been sold on 4th December, but calls made from 21st November, laptop not sealed when confiscated, identification by witnesses not done in the proper way of person parade but only Afzal taken and asked directly – all these as well as the confession taken in wrong manner, point to doubt as to whether he was really involved. Do go through.


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