Adherence to principles of democracy more important than unquestioning obedience for a rigid, inflexible system


Vishesh Guru

I’ve been seeing this very disturbing hashtag all day, and I don’t think it should be taken lying down.

Dissent is integral to the practice of democracy, and sedition provisions have immense potential for overreach and misuse. The students in the eye of the controversy sure did cross a line, calling for India’s destruction and the like, but I think it’s important to make a distinction between the causes they were supporting and the language they used to express that support. Firstly, by no means are they justified in calling for attacks on Parliament, or for “Bharat Ki Barbaadi Tak Jung Rahegi”. That is definitely a matter for concern, but what I’d like to address is the larger context in which the backlash has begun.

For one, I really don’t find anything anti-national about advocating freedom for Kashmir or talking about Afzal Guru in itself. Adherence to the principles of democracy is far more important than unquestioning obedience for a rigid, inflexible system that refuses to understand or incorporate dissent.

Who is anti-national?

People who cheer on while a possibly innocent man is convicted and sent to the gallows over a shocking attack whose antecedents that are, at best, hazy today, and point blank refuse to even try and explore alternative possibilities, after a sham of a trial where the evidence wouldn’t pass muster if the man had stolen an apple, or people who have consistently stood by the cause of the truth and advocated the sanctity of the rule of law?

Much of the Left protests Guru’s hanging not because he was guilty, but because he was most likely not.

It was a botched trial, with enough evidence to point in other, far more sinister directions, all of which were promptly ignored and drowned in ignorant jingoism.

Who is anti-national?

Governments whose agencies have run amok turning life into hell for three generations of Kashmiris, scarred entire populations after murders, disappearances, rapes and suppression, continually downplayed the damage with manipulative propaganda, steadfastly, defiantly marched on with the blood of tens of thousands of innocents on their hands, or the teenagers who’ve taken to the streets with sticks and stones to fight for the last shred of dignity the state seeks to deny them?

What’s happened in Kashmir is something that deserves brutally honest introspection, and can’t so quickly or easily swept under the carpet with that pathetic excuse some people would like to call patriotism.

As Zinn once said, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

Arnab Goswami sanctimoniously talks of ‘Maoist terrorists’ when he’s been sitting in his damn newsroom and yelling at people all his life, while the policemen and tribals fighting a war of attrition on the ground know they’re both victims of the same enemy.

Big business out to mine Chattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkand to hell and back, buying out governments that have committed their forces against the very people they are supposed to protect, and a corporate-owned media feeding a gullible, largely upper-class audience half-truths and hogwash. Today’s war is just a sneak peek into what that hell promises to look like. The Maoist movement has its fair share of mistakes and wrongdoings, but what prompted some of the most isolated tribal peoples on the subcontinent to take to armed rebellion against the state?

Simple. They were pushed to the wall, denied what they were entitled to by the very state entrusted with protecting their rights. The fact remains that we’re tacitly supporting a concerted campaign to flush out and ‘exterminate’ as one home minister helpfully put it, some of the poorest and most wronged of our people.

I’m not justifying Maoist violence, but what I do know is the current response will achieve little more than further bloodshed. Especially since most of us seem determined to shut our eyes tight and promptly brand them all anti-national.

Too many people have been dragging Lance Naik Hanumantappa into this, but I think it’s more important for them to understand what led to the tragedy. Hollow assertions of pride about the army go hand in hand with not giving two hoots about demilitarizing or even exploring the possibility of doing so in Siachen. Most of these chaps won’t lift a finger or raise their voices for justice for these soldiers as human beings, but are all too willing to wave around plastic flags and proclaim their patriotism from the rooftops when another life is needlessly lost.

You can feel all the pride you want to when someone else is doing the dying for you.

Dragging in the army here is just the old attempt to project someone to idolize and someone else to demonize. People who see the world in black and white have gone hammer and tongs at the ‘left’ , ‘intellectuals’ ‘pseudo seculars’ after reading little more than the headlines from the very newspapers which on the first signs of inconvenience they don’t hesitate to call ‘Presstitutes’.

#ShutDownJNU is rubbish.

Resistance is more relevant to the intellectual tradition than it perhaps ever has been in the history of modern India, for the simple reason that it’s pitted against forces that threaten to overtake and drown our democracy in the politics of ignorance, communalism and parochialism with a pervasive influence and vengeance like never before.

The students had no business saying some of the things they did, but they’ve unwittingly provided an opening for painting all of the left with the same brush and only given a fillip to the right-wing effort to relegate a very, very relevant section of Indian intelligentsia to the rubbish-heap of history.

The content above first appeared on the author’s Facebook. Views expressed here are the author’s own page

(Photo: Indian Express)