Common Indian: between the devil and the deep sea

February 16, 2016

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.