By Vikas Khanna
New Delhi, Feb.23 (ANI): Where are we hurtling towards? Our constitutional forefathers must be turning in their graves as we are introduced to a new culture where difference of opinion is being seen as an act of anti-nationalism. Dissent, we are made to understand, is a three-letter word SIN. The concept of new one India means everybody will have to toe a particular ideology. That is NATIONALISM. And if one does not kowtow to that ideology which defines rabid form of nationalism, he or she may even be branded a TRAITOR. Till now, India was seen as the epitome of the world because of its fundamental diversity. Right to freedom of speech as enshrined in our constitution, thus far, had been the essence of free society that India represented. But not, any more! Welcome to the new India!
What happened in the country’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) can’t be condoned. Every right-thinking person will condemn the behavior of a few misguided youths who allegedly shouted anti-India slogans and gave inflammatory speeches. But the government crackdown on JNU is equally reprehensible. The university should have been left to handle the issue, rather than the State taking the matter into its hand.
But as it appears now, a deliberate and diabolic attempt was made to create a controversy out of an issue, which is questionable. A sinister campaign was unleashed to brand the students of JNU as anti-nationalists on the basis of a controversial video, which was alleged to be doctored. And if it is proved that the video was indeed tampered with, will the political establishment and the so-called intelligentsia, which went on an overdrive in running down students and all those who stood up to lend their voice for them, stand up and apologize? Should they not be tried for attempting to polarize the society through their unabashed venomous campaigns? The so-called self-proclaimed nationalists should hang their heads in shame because they are equal partners in the crime.
The issue has singed several universities across India after Delhi police arrested JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar and slapped sedition charges against him. Police have yet to find any credible and irrefutable evidence against Kumar, who has claimed that he was not part of an event commemorating the death anniversary of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The outcry against police action is growing since then and the students have been joined by politicians cutting across party lines inviting tag of “traitors” by the practitioners of nationalism. What essentially was a fight between two ideologies has been escalated to “US AND THEM” represented by jingoist nationalists and “anti-nationalists”.
Wear your heart on your sleeve and become a champion of nationalism and you will get away with anything, even if you attack journalists, including women, bully students, that too, in the precincts of temple of justice! And the police will not do anything! The Men in Black pounced on students and journalists, but our Police Commissioner Mr. Bhim Sain Bassi, eyeing a lucrative government job post retirement, did not see any merit in arresting that bunch of hooligans! Even before a court could pronounce judgment, those lawyers purportedly linked to Hindu groups declared Kumar and his supporters guilty and took law into their hands. Was that not a crime that necessitated police action, Mr. Bassi? Encouraged by the police inaction or collusion, whatever it may be, the same bunch of lawyers repeated the offence and later took out a rally. But no action, again! Oh! They were NATIONALISTS. Holding high the national flag, they were chanting “BHARAT MATA KI JAI”. So, how could they be held responsible? Right, Mr. Bassi?
A six-member committee of senior lawyers appointed by the Supreme Court following the Patiala courts violence commented that that the attackers were shielded by the police. Not taking action against lawyers owing allegiance to the ruling establishment is your definition of maintaining law and order situation, Mr. Bassi? Sir, you have failed the nation by abdicating your responsibility as police commissioner. And rightly, you have been denied the post of information commissioner that you were eyeing to please your political masters.
Is JNU incident an aberration? Certainly not! Attacks on minorities by spreading rumours have increased in the past 20 months since the new government assumed office. Last September, a poor Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri district was mercilessly beaten to death by a rampaging mob infuriated by rumours that he and his family consumed beef. An inquiry revealed that the meat over which Akhlaq was lynched was, in fact, mutton.
What happened to rationalists Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi? They were violently silenced forever for believing and practicing in freedom of speech.
The writers and scholars have been hounded and punished for believing that they could practice free speech in the independent India. How foolish were they? In 2013, Narendra Dabhokar had to pay a heavy price for campaigning against religious superstitions. He was murdered. In February last year, communist leader Govind Pansare was killed. And months later, the 77-year-old M. M. Kalburgi, who was against Hindu idol worship, was gunned down in broad day-light. Where are we headed to? Why can’t there be room for different viewpoints in a pluralistic society? Sadly, the State has failed in its responsibility to protect the society from these fundamentalist forces who want to implement their own agenda. The increasing Talibanisation of Indian culture is very worrisome.
A systematic effort is being made to infiltrate educational and cultural institutions with people having roots with a particular ideology. Foisting a not-so-qualified Gajendra Chauhan on the students of the premier Film and Television Institute of India is one among a few examples. His appointment was opposed by all and sundry, but the government of the day was unmoved forcing students to abandon their classes and take to streets.
At stake is the very democratic quintessence in our institutions and education system. Any attempt to impose a particular ideology and values in educational institutions and universities will not only weaken but lead to the complete collapse of the system. It is a dangerous trend which should best be avoided.
The people are anguished over the complete silence by Narendra Modi, who recently told parliamentarians during an all-party meeting that he is not the prime minister of BJP, but the prime minister of the country. Why does not his soul stir as some of his cabinet ministers and his party members continue to make stinking comments? It is high time the “Pradhan Sevak” of the country reins in such fringe elements which are bent to destroy the social fabric of the country.
Vikas Khanna is a senior journalist and the views expressed by him are personal (ANI)