Diabolical Attempt to Muzzle Voices
Earlier it used to be on communal lines. Those that practiced this kind of exclusion used to be on the fringes. Now more binaries are being imported. The latest ones are national vs. anti-national and dalits vs. the privileged castes and communities. The nation is following a dangerous trajectory. A Union Minister asks vice chancellor to take action against a Dalit scholar. He is suspended, his stipend is cancelled leading to extreme dejection and suicide. Nothing happens to the Minister even as the University undergoes ferment.
Next stage of action is the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University. Students are booked for ‘sedition’ because some anti-national slogans were heard from behind. Doctored clips from a TV channel footage are flaunted in proof while there is no attempt to detect and arrest the ones wearing masks and raising anti-India slogans. Students who organized the programme to observe Afzal Guru’s death anniversary—an annual event at the JNU—dissociate themselves from the rebellious slogans, yet are put behind bars. They are seen being beaten (while being produced) in the court premises by advocates loyal to the ruling party, but no action follows. The assaulters are even allowed to lead a march by advocates to the iconic India Gate. Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister alleges foreign links of the students by referring to a Twitter handle falsely attributed to a known rogue in Pakistan. The truth comes unstuck. But no apologies. Prior to this, an academic with known Marxist proclivities is summarily dismissed from the Banaras Hindu University. No one comes to his aid.
Expression of dissent is now sought to be projected as unpatriotic, nay seditious act. This is a sinister, preposterous and diabolical attempt to muzzle voices that sustain democracy. Academic freedom is after all the very life and blood of campuses where geniuses are nurtured. Without these, they will be rendered barren of life and will turn into bastions of conformism. Mere economic growth does not take a nation forward. It requires equal initiative, encouragement, effort, and incentives for promotion of equality, freedom, dignity and justice for all. All voices should be heard.
Nationalism is not a category for inclusion and exclusion. But it is being used for the purpose. People should be proud to declare themselves as national of a country without inhibitions and encumbrances. Dissent over a hanging should neither be the occasion for raising anti-national slogans nor being charged for sedition. If indeed the students of the JNU did what they are being charged with, it is unfortunate and deplorable. Nor there should be attempts to paint the University—from whose hallowed portals have come out brilliant minds—in unpatriotic colours.