Left Right Left- A layman’s opinion on the JNU issue

Nationalism(n): Nationalism is a belief, creed or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with, or becoming attached to, one’s nation

A quick search of the term nationalism, that is used a bit too casually these days gave me this definition. I think it would be prudent to declare at the outset, that I am not an intellectual. I haven’t read Tagore’s take on Nationalism nor have I attended the nation’s premier Arts college. I do however have a decent college education and a fair bit of understanding of the world. And that combined with a dash of common sense should enable me to provide a fairly balanced picture of the whole issue.

It all began around a week back, when a bunch of students from JNU were seen protesting on the streets of Delhi shouting quotes that glorified a convicted terrorist and spoke about a war that would continue till the destruction of the country.( Afzal Guru, was tried and convicted by the nation’s apex court. If you had evidence that proved his innocence, that you acquired now, not at the time of his conviction, that would have been unfortunate, but still would not make him a martyr. Let us also keep in mind that this is the same judiciary that gave a fair trial to a monster who was caught on camera with a gun in his hand killing innocent civilians in Mumbai, so it is highly unlikely that it will give out a death sentence unless there is concrete proof for the same)  An event was also organized to remember the “martyr” Afzal Guru. (I wouldn’t like to bring an emotional angle into this, but as they celebrated the “martyrdom” of a man who had planned the attacked on India’s lower house, a man who had served the nation at the world’s most hostile war zone lay dying. But I guess talking about his sacrifice wasn’t intellectually challenging enough for our fellow friends at JNU.) While the freedom of speech is a fundamental right of every citizen of this democracy, using it for slander, sedition or the propagation of violence would be rightfully opposed by any democracy in the world. In a country which desperately tried to give its citizens a peaceful and safe life in the wake of a proxy war from Pakistan, internal tensions as well as new threats like ISIS recruitments, taking strict action against anyone who openly talks about breaking the country to pieces is the most rational way to go. While the actions by these students is deplorable, the attack on Kanhaiya,while he was taken to court was not at all excusable. I wouldn’t like to go into the debate of which of the two crimes was worse, but the parties guilty in both cases should be tried as per the law of the country.

[A few people (whom I respect) had questioned BJP’s double standards with the PDP(which is also a supporter of the man in question.) I would like to mention here that I am not(nor have I ever been) a supporter of the BJP. The fact that they would go against their principles for a political upper hand is contemptible, and their two-faced nature should be brought to the attention of the people of this country. That being said, two wrongs do not make a right, and the swift action should be taken against people who threaten the integrity of this country through words or actions.]

The popular press, including senior journalists, have lashed out against the “atrocities” of our government. These people for reasons untold believe that there is some great poetic beauty in letting people walk down our streets and talk ill about it. It is important to note here that that was being done was not a constructive(or for that matter any sort of) criticism of the state. People have called the PM of the country a psychopath on a social media platform, and our brand ambassador has spoken about the country’s growing intolerance- All of which were allowed.) This, however, was a direct attack on the security and stability of the country(For those who believe that it was  only a verbal attack, and doesn’t count for much will do well to note the people with ISIS flags in Kashmir who came out in support of JNU.)

Our freedom of speech, along with our other freedoms, is a result of a long fight with the British. This is the freedom that our men on the border fight to protect even today. So before you speak about breaking this country apart, or about your wretched dream of having a terrorist in every home, take a moment to treasure the freedom you have. And exercise it with caution. I want the “Azaadi” that you want too- from casteism, poverty and discrimination. And in that fight, the people of the country will always be by your side. But if you threaten to break apart the very nation that feeds you and makes you who you are, there will be action taken, and the people of the country will support that action.

If that makes me a nationalist, then be it. I see nothing wrong with the word.

Thank you. Jai Hind.







3 thoughts on “Left Right Left- A layman’s opinion on the JNU issue

  1. Hey man!

    Well written and I have a few comments:-

    1. Another more popularly identified definition of Nationalism is identified with the belief that one’s country is superior without question or doubt. In this definition, the debate changes a bit. It isn’t as innocent or patriotic as the definition you quote. The right wing of this country practices the statement I have mentioned.

    2. Afzal Guru – I have no qualms with the punishment meted out to him. I have full faith in the justice system of the Supreme Court. However, the argument raised against his death sentence was Supreme Court’s statement about circumstantial evidence and a need to satisfy the collective conscience of the country. That was what made the judgement dangerous. It is a far deeper debate about how Courts must treat the law and whether public opinion should affect an outcome so deeply. Again, I would definitely mention that not all people supporting Afzal Guru would take such a pragmatic view of the issue so most there are wrong in raising the issue. However, most of the “common people” on their side raise this issue because – and this is the most critical difference – they don’t support Afzal Guru because they think he is a terrorist but still deserves pardon, they think he is innocent.

    Your martyrdom example is misplaced. It has no relation at all.

    3. Protest – I completely agree with your statement on the freedom of speech and how it shouldn’t be misused. However, everyone has the right to protest and we cannot allow protest based on the issues that seem constructive or otherwise. Ofcourse, in this particular case, certainly, police action was fine but the charge of sedition wasn’t. This group of students was engaged in a verbal duel with another group – it wasn’t inciting a mob to overthrow the state. Very crucial difference.

    4. The comparison to ISIS black flags is again misplaced. Just because a vested interest finds resonance in a particular interpretation of the issue is no reflection of the issue itself. Just like the intolerance debate was allowed and Kejriwal got away with name-calling, this is also given space. Each of these actions except the intolerance debate can be complained against and there is law to handle that. You cannot take action contrary to the scale of the problem. It is not justified just as those who are saying no action should be taken aren’t justified.

    1. Hey Vivek,

      Thanks for the feedback! A few points that I think would explain my stand further:
      1. The far right may agree with the definition, most regular folk don’t. The action taken against people who talk ill about the country will also perhaps fall under the definition I have quoted here, not the second one.
      2. I am aware of the statement that led to most of the noise about the hanging. I have no qualms about people raising their concerns about a verdict, or even about people who are against the death penalty. However calling a convicted terrorist a martyr is perhaps taking it a bit too far?
      The example was for context, which I believe it provides perfectly. You may believe it was misplaced. I don’t.
      3&4. A verbal duel with another group generally doesn’t include slogans like “Bharat ki berbaadi tak jung rahegi.” which has a clear and explicit threat to the country. The vested interest groups in question didn’t have to take up any INTERPRETATION of the JNU slogans to defend their cause. They screamed it loud and clear. You cannot scream anti-national messages and then dissociate yourself from people who support the cause who have a similar aim-to break apart the country.

      I realize our need to protect an ideal sometimes takes us a bit too far. Perhaps you did the same while defending the freedom of speech of the group at JNU. A line was clearly crossed, and I believe the people who crossed it should be given their due punishment.


  2. I agree with your belief. Just not the ambit of issues you are taking into account.

    Firstly, action taken by the state cannot be based on the “larger understanding of common people”. There are misunderstandings everywhere. We use terms everyday which are not well placed. It does not justify the usage of those terms. Anyway, in your context I will understand it as patriotism because I understand your intention.

    Like I said, it was JUST a verbal duel. Things went too far and those kids must be punished. The verbal duel is important because that context ensures this is not a threat to the country. It is a cause for hurting sentiments of many many people and should be tried as such. Where I digress is sedition because I am not just defending the freedom of speech of those people, this is a much larger debate.

    Why I differed with your example of vested interests was that just because those people are supporting these students who raised such slogans does not justify a sedition charge.

    Certainly, those supporting Afzal Guru are taking it too far and we have complete rights to protest against them too. Sorry, maybe I did not get the context of your example.

    Good conversation though!

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