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I have been like this only: Why India cannot afford an OP Sharma

Delhi BJP legislator Om Prakash Sharma has a short riposte to anyone accusing him of thrashing lawyers, teachers and students out of a local court: He thought they were anti-national.

JNU protests Updated: Feb 16, 2016 19:05 IST
JNU protests,Kanhaiya Kumar,OP Sharma
BJP MLA OP Sharma allegedly thrashing one of the JNU students who were protesting against the arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar.(PTI)

Delhi BJP legislator Om Prakash Sharma has a short riposte to anyone accusing him of thrashing lawyers, teachers and students out of a local court: He thought they were anti-national.

“I have been like this since childhood,” he tells HT, sporting a bandage on his head not there the day before.

The government has already shown it is not backing down in its mission to defend Bharat Mata’s honour: Slapping sedition charges, ministers talking about Saraswati and Bharat Mata, and now, beating up anyone who dares to not toe the nationalist line.

Nationalism in India is not new, we’re taught a sober version of patriotism in schools and colleges where even the more violent freedom fighters – the BJP’s idol Bhagat Singh for example – didn’t thrash his fellow countrymen if they didn’t join in.

Neither did Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the Jana Sangh founder, or Vivekananda – both men the BJP loves to quote.

The thrust of our freedom movement lay in vigorous debates, even with ideas one found reprehensible.

Read: Journalists and teachers join JNU protests, govt tries to douse fire

Our constitution’s maker BR Ambedkar included a hostile response by Gandhi to his book Annihilation of Caste in subsequent editions despite holding a dim view of the Mahatma’s commitment to end the caste system. In current times, the

father of the nation would probably be accused of insulting the Bharat Mata and locked up.

The things Sharma has been since childhood are not particularly comforting for the Mata he is defending.

He called Aam Aadmi Party’s Alka Lamba a ‘bazaaru aurat’ inside the Delhi assembly – a slur that shows his detachment with minor points such as respect for women in his patriotism rubric. He has also been repeatedly accused of brawling in the assembly.

Whether Mother India wants such unruly children defending her is a serious question, especially when these defenders don’t respect free speech, fundamental rights or women.

In the six decades of independence, the collective ego of the country appears to have ballooned and grown more fragile.

It can no longer brook dissent, difference of opinion or criticism. It cannot believe that its actions can be questioned or that it is capable of wronging entire populations. It cannot digest that not everyone in the country is absolutely happy with every single action of their masters.

Read: ‘Kick them out’: HT reporter recounts mob attack outside Delhi court

Except that, such nations remind one of North Korea or Zimbabwe – countries that bank on physical violence of men for whom it is ‘natural reaction’ to suppress any voice of dissent.

OP Sharma won’t understand that terrorists commit anti-national or seditious acts, not students at a public university hosting an open event.

He won’t understand that thrashing dissent breeds insurgency and resentment towards a nation and makes it splinter – helping achieve the target of JNU’s slogan makers even while arresting them.

He won’t understand that our country is failing many, many millions of people – women, adivasi, lower caste, transpeople, people from Kashmir and the Northeast – and the best response as a democracy is to listen to them.

To give aggrieved populations the right to speak out and complain is the only way any country improves and becomes capable of fulfilling the promise a mature republic holds for its people.

OP Sharma may explain away his violence but if India has to survive, we can’t all be “like this since childhood”. Let’s grow up.

(Views expressed are personal. The author tweets as @dhrubo127) Read: Will JNU row help NSUI regain space in campus politics?

First Published: Feb 16, 2016 18:43 IST