As news poured in about the JNU protests, I too was driven towards the protest site. But didn’t I had to prepare for my IIM interviews scheduled for 22?
Perhaps it was a sense of wonder that brought me to be there. Or perhaps an anticipation of witnessing something historic, to be part of history when it was being made was my true motivation.
But a suspicion also lurked underneath the excitement -should i not be dreading these “anti nationals” against whom many of India’s greatest self certified patriots like Arnab Goswamy have ranted relentlessly?
Alas, as I reached the protest, my fear were put to rest,they were not the monsters the government painted them to be, they were ordinary concerned citizens like you and me.
Why were they here I asked many? Why did they forsake the safety of their rooms for someone they may have barely known?
As more and more of them answered- fraternity, empathy, solidarity and a bit of looking out for the other fellow, didn’t seem mere textbook ideals but beliefs which deeply drive many even today.
There was fear, but the courage was greater, they came despite knowing what happened to their colleagues before them.
They came despite knowing that those who had staged the attack on previous two days where still at large to attack them again.But these ordinary faceless activist were too possessed by a dream, to be held back by such fears.
They have not yet surrendered a dream for a more just world to the pervasive cynicism that prevails in the society. Now that I reflect upon it, I too was infected by that hope, at-least for the time being.
Apart from a cross-section of India society, the protest also witnessed a healthy turnout from different students of different nationalities.
I asked a few of them about their perception of JNU, India and the protest. And a realisation struck me how important JNU’s contribution to India has been. It is not limited to domestic life of India but its alumni and famed culture of plurality, debate and dissent have also boosted India’s image abroad.
The protest was also one of the most lively displays of Indian democracy in action.
Democracy in its true sense is about people’s participation and concern about issues that affect them. We see such awareness and active interest in politics less often in India, than we should.
JNU is an important exception and the massive protest once again brought out that spirit of struggle for democratic values of dissent and discussion.
And as the march neared its end, I found myself wishing for more of it. After the march I interviewed the VP of JNUSU Shehla Rashid.
An eloquent speaker, her eyes shined with idealism. A clear understanding of complex socio political issues underpinned her answers to tricky questions which she negotiated with ease and conviction. Again I couldn’t help but be impressed and fall in awe of her and many others like her in the protest.
As I returned from the protest, I realised that these very awakened sections of civil society were our greatest bulwark against tyranny.
It is in institutes like JNU with their culture of looking out for others, that keep the dream of an egalitarian India alive. It is an activism which is priceless, which Indian democracy must never forego. And perhaps their conscience and awareness is what frightens the government.
As I sign off, the memories of the protest still fill my mind. They walked fully aware that if they were attacked like their comrades before, the police deployed there will only remain a mute spectator like before.
Let’s be clear the march was not just about Kanhaiya or even JNU. It was about each of us.
Our collective freedom has been jeopardised by the government of the day. We must remember that only when we stand for the freedom of others, is our freedom secured. For the good of society and our own, we must makes our voices heard.
And yes long live JNU.
Apoorv Pathak has studied at IIT-Roorkee