Let’s sift fact from fiction.
The Delhi University students who marched peacefully, singing ‘Hum honge kamyaab, ek din’ and chanting ‘azaadi’ from fear and violence are not ‘anti-national.’ Nor are they ‘pawns’ as was alleged about 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur who dared to say, “I am a student. I am not afraid of the ABVP.”
I’ve spoken with several students who are crystal clear about why they are on the streets. For them, it is not Left versus Right. It’s about right versus wrong. It is about the fundamental right to debate and dissent -- minus violence, minus intimidation and minus the threat of misogyny that saw Kaur exit.
They point you to where it all started: at the seminar room in Delhi’s Ramjas College where stones and chairs were hurled by the ABVP at unsuspecting students and teachers because they wanted to discuss ‘cultures of protest.’
‘The Ramjas college union did not want Umar Khalid to speak,’ is the reason the ABVP is citing for disrupting the seminar but what they do not tell us is that the union comprises members of the ABVP. Instead of articulating their views, the RSS affiliate did what it does best: flex its muscle, smug in the knowledge that it would be protected by its parent organisation. It didn’t matter that Khalid, a Kashmiri student from JNU, has not been charge-sheeted for ‘sedition’ in over a year.
Many from the ruling political firmament, including minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, immediately jumped into the fray. Instead of offering to provide protection to the young Gurmehar Kaur for the rape and death threats – which fall under the purview of his ministry – he chose to ask her who had ‘polluted’ her mind. Why, because she had, in an earlier post on social media, held a placard that read, “Pakistan did not kill my father. War killed him.”
If Rijiju had done his homework, he would have seen that the young girl, struggling to come to terms with her father’s death, had sequentially said, “When I was six years old, I tried to stab a lady in a burkha. Because for some strange reason I thought she was responsible for my father’s death. My mother held me back and made me understand…Pakistan did not kill my father. War killed him.’’
For Rijiju and many of his ilk, ‘Pakistan’ is a word that is often flung as an expletive, as is ‘anti-national.’ Or ‘pseudo-secularist’ and ‘liberal.’
Pursuing peace with Pakistan is a tricky affair but Rijiju would do well to remember that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was feted – both in India and Pakistan – when he made a surprise halt in Lahore to wish his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. Of course, Rijiju would not have posed any questions on that visit.
Young students are fair game, or so our netas and celebs think. So many of them thought nothing of wading in. Batsman Virendra Sehwag mocked. Actor Randeep Hooda chuckled. A wrestler invoked Osama bin Laden and a Member of Parliament even roped in underworld don and global terrorist Dawood Ibrahim. Rijiju didn’t let go. A day later, he actually went to the extent of telling Kaur – her father died in militant action in Kashmir – that her ‘father’s soul must be weeping to see daughter misguided.’
The media went a long distance to point to the fact that Kaur’s father was a ‘martyr’ but frankly that doesn’t matter and she didn’t call attention to the fact, either. What matters is that she stood up and said she wasn’t afraid of the ABVP. What matters too is that thousands of DU students marched peacefully, singing, ‘hum honge kamyaab, ek din…’
The students are the real winners. Unafraid. Unbending. They’ve held the mirror up for those willing to look into it. They are happy being left alone. They neither need the vile from the Rijijus nor the support of the Left politicians and other leaders who are trying to hitch their wagons onto their protest march.