JNU: The nation cannot sit out this episode
Standing up for anti-nationals is not in the best interests of India, which can ignore them at its own peril
Developments on the ground have provided a point-by-point rebuttal to Rajesh Mahapatra’s article India Inc. must speak out after the JNU row (February 26).
While the piece saw the JNU row as a social and cultural crisis generated around the narrow idea of the ‘nation’, the voices on the ground spoke otherwise.
The article underestimates the gravity of the row, in which the crowd shouting anti-national slogans comprised Maoists, Naxalites and Kashmiri separatist elements, and a section of students acted as a front of the secessionist elements. They were not protesting against any student-related issue such as fee hike, hostel accommodation or security on the campus.
In the name of freedom of expression, which is subject to public order, morality and the law of the land, a person can criticise the policies of the government in a civilised manner but nobody has the right to call for India’s destruction and make a martyr out of Afzal Guru, whose execution followed the due process of law.
Hate speeches and calls for India’s destruction cannot be freedom of expression in the wildest imagination. The author has mixed up issues by bringing in beef, the suicide of Hyderabad University student Rohith Vemula and love jihad into the picture but none of these figured in JNU. The article does not condemn the anti-Indian slogans of this ‘hate India brigade’ but the lawyers of Patiala House have been vilified.
The piece says for the Indian middle class and India Inc, the sanctity of courts, the neutrality of the police, a robust education system, etc are critical ingredients in progress. Every person agrees with this. But in the piece there is no passing reference to the fact that this anti-Indian brigade of JNU termed our courts ‘killers’ and questioned the action of the police, who acted in accordance with the law against those who were in breach of the law. There is no analysis of what has gone wrong with the education system, which is producing people who hate India and hail terrorists as martyrs. The Indian middle class and India Inc can fulfil their aspirations in a nation that is governed by the rule of law.
The piece did not mention that the Hurriyat Conference had given a call for a Kashmir bandh on February 27 and held a protest march in support of the accused student Kanhaiya Kumar. Posters demanding Kashmir’s liberation were seen in JNU. The piece did not mention that the JNU row led to protest marches at Jadavpur University, demanding freedom for Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland, and supporting Afzal Guru, the Hurriyat Conference and the extremist SAR Geelani. In Kashmir people were seen carrying ‘Thank You, JNU’ banners.
The Supreme Court, in the Kedarnath Singh vs. State of Bihar case, held the law on sedition to be valid. It has expanded the definition of sedition, stating that any act that has the intention, tendency or incitement to violence, disorder, lawlessness, and contempt, hatred and disaffection against a duly elected government is sedition.
The author sees it as a university-level issue. He can ignore it at his own peril. But the nation cannot.
(Monika Arora is a Supreme Court lawyer.The views expressed are personal.)