Abhishek G Bhaya
The ongoing JNU row is indicative of how the national debate on tolerance-intolerance has swiftly metamorphosed into one about pseudo-nationalists targeting every dissenting voice in the country as anti-national.
While the Modi government has reacted in a hurry and manner that continues to expose its prejudices, a large section of mainstream media joined the jingoistic chorus, prodded by the RSS and its front organisations.
It was nauseating to see the likes of Arnab Goswami, Deepak Chaurasia and Rohit Sardana screaming from the top of their voices to label young critical minds as ‘anti-nationals’ on prime time television debates.
When news anchors drop their garb of journalism to don the role of judges, at the same time wearing the worst form of patriotism on their sleeves, it’s not surprising that the outcome is always ‘murder of objectivity.’
I agree with Rajdeep Sardesai, when he tweets: “Pseudo patriots who are impostor journalists doing more damage to profession and nation.”
At a time when student leaders are being arrested on sedition charges, simply because of their Left-leaning ideology and Right-wingers are baying for shutting down of a reputed university describing it as a ‘den of terrorists’, one needs to look beyond the hyperboles and understand some basic facts.
Pseudo-nationalism = Fascism
While nationalism at its best could be inspirational, the aggressive authoritarian variant being displayed by the incumbent BJP government and the larger Sangh Parivar increasingly looks like pseudo-nationalism manifesting into Fascism.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi wasn’t off the mark at the protest meet in JNU on Saturday, when he said: “There was a person in Germany named Hitler who had destroyed millions and millions of people. If only that man had listened to other people, may be that country would not have gone through that much of pain.”
Those who heard him at the meeting held to protest the arrest of JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar a day earlier on sedition charges must have sensed the uncanny resemblance with the current state of affairs in India.
I am neither a Leftist nor a Rightist; I would rather be Rationalist. I, therefore, find it rather rich for people who have idolised Nathuram Godse and built temples in his name while condoning Gandhi’s assassination to accuse those who question Afzal Guru’s hanging of sedition and anti-nationalism.
Propaganda vs counter-propaganda
While it appears true, prima facie, that some individuals indulged in anti-India sloganeering at an event organised by the ultra-Leftist Democratic Students Union (DSU), it is equally true that nearly all the Left organisations such as AISF (of which Kanhaiya Kumar is a member), SFI and AISA have publicly condemned the sloganeering. These Left student bodies have also distanced themselves from the students who were involved in such sloganeering.
Strangely, despite ample visual ‘evidence’, the identity of these individuals still remains unknown. Some media reports suggest they weren’t JNU students but outsiders, while others say they might be Kashmiris who had gathered for the event. Another theory, mooted mainly in the social media, suggests that the anti-India sloganeering was orchestrated and recorded by ABVP members in a pre-planned manner as part of a conspiracy to defame the Left groups in the campus.
We can’t be sure of either version. At a time of propaganda and counter-propaganda, it is extremely difficult to ascertain the truth. So the need of the hour is an independent and an impartial probe to identify those involved in anti-India sloganeering and prosecute them.
However, the high-handed manner in which the Modi government, through Delhi Police, has gone targeting students affiliated with Left organisations give more credence to the ‘conspiracy theory’.
It is for the first time since the Emergency (a black spot in India’s democratic history) that a JNUSU President has been arrested. That too, under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (sedition) – a colonial-era law formulated by the British to crush dissent/protests by Indian freedom fighters. (It is pertinent to mention that Britain has abolished Sedition Law in 2009, holding it as opposed to the idea of Right to Freedom of Expression in a Democracy.)
Rajnath’s claim tarnishes India’s credibility
To bolster the Centre’s charge of sedition against the JNU students, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday went ahead to claim that the ‘JNU incident’ was supported by Laskar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed.
Singh’s statement came a day after the Delhi Police tweeted an ‘alert’ quoting a purported tweet from a fake handle @HafizSaeedJUD that supported the JNU protests, raising questions about the authenticity of his claim.
(A video from another same press conference exposes Singh’s lack of awareness about Hafiz Saeed and his organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa. When asked by a reporter, whether India considers JuD as a terrorist organisation, Singh checks with his advisor and says ‘yes’. Asked further then why is JuD not included in Home Ministry’s dossier of terrorist organisation, Singh laughingly admits his ignorance.)
This frivolous claim has done the country more harm than the alleged ‘anti-national’ sloganeering in JNU campus, as my senior colleague Prashant Tandon aptly sums up in his Facebook post:
“Rajnath Singh has done a great disservice to India by relying on a fake twitter handle while making sweeping allegation against the student community that it is acting at behest of some terrorist organisation across the border. Such goof up by a person of a level of Home Minister blunts the credibility and seriousness of government of India at the global level on fight against terror originating from a foreign soil. Now with this Rajnath Singh has provided a defence to Pakistan against the dossiers given by his own government.”
A biased government that doesn’t hesitate from using fake propaganda and archaic laws to target dissent and opposing views, that too against its own youth, exposes its opposition to democratic principles itself.
It goes on to prove that the Modi government is already taking sides, therefore it can’t be seen as an impartial and objective adjudicator in the current JNU row. The situation calls for a court-monitored investigation.
The attempts to silence dissent in educational institutions such as FTII, Hyderabad University, IITs and now the JNU and the Centre’s constant anti-constitutional interventions against the elected governments in non-BJP ruled states like Delhi, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Mizoram, Kerala, West Bengal etc, leave no doubts that Fascism is raising its ugly head willy-nilly under the patronage of the incumbent government.
Add to that the controversies on beef, love jihad and the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance and hatred in the country, and it would be clear that it’s not the JNU students but the Modi Government that is a threat not only to the federal structure of Indian democracy but also to the idea of a free-thinking society.
Do not forget, Hitler also came to power through democracy.
(The author is a Gulf-based Indian journalist and a keen observer of Indian politics)
(Photo credit: Indian Resistence website)