JNU issue again: A response to a friend

March 27, 2016

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.