“Government is taking away the right to disagree”, “This is attack on free speech”, “Innocents students are being targeted” – similar rhetoric on these lines are being offered to the police action against JNU students, who had shouted anti-India slogans during an event to commemorate “martyrdom” of Afzal Guru, who had attacked Indian parliament in 2001.
Since obfuscation of issues is an art well mastered and perfected by the media and the so-called intelligentsia of India who imagine themselves to be liberal, we have to ignore the rhetoric being offered and look at the facts.
A bunch of JNU students had organized a pro-Afzal Guru event on the campus where they shouted anti-India slogans. There is video proof of the incident, which has not been disputed by those on campus, although those outside are trying their best. Earlier today, a propaganda video, claiming that the original JNU video could be misleading, was spread by controversial journalist Mihir Sharma, but his lies were called out even by journalists of his own disposition.
Coming back to what actually happened; among the slogans shouted on campus were calls for Kashmir’s independence from “Indian occupation” and that struggle for Kashmir’s independence (aazaadi) will continue till “India is destroyed” (bhaarat ki barbaadi tak).
Apparently, these are words and thoughts of “innocent students” and these are not “anti-national” sentiments. Yearning for a fight that will destroy the nation is not anti-national. Okay.
Maybe those innocent students have not read the Indian constitution, which is the foundation of the nation. The Indian constitution asks its citizens to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India as a fundamental duty. And therefore, acts that threaten the sovereignty, unity or integrity of the nation are deemed serious criminal offenses.
One can argue that there was no act, but just a speech.
Ideally, no speech should be seen as a criminal offense – that is our broad right-liberal stand on the issue. However, the police and the courts won’t function based on what is “ideal”, but based on what is prescribed in the constitution.
And our constitution criminalizes certain types of speech, which include punishment for speech that is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India and the security of the State.
Ironically, this “criminalization of speech” is the fallout of the first amendment of the constitution moved by the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, after whom JNU is named.
So while we may stand for ‘no criminalization of speech’, the fact is that our constitution and laws allow it. Police had a prima facie evidence (the video and the news reports) and a formal complaint (by a Member of the Parliament) in this regard, and thus they had the right and a duty to act. Rest is upon the courts to decide.
At this point, it is important to note that the same bleeding heart liberals, who today are calling upon the state to be magnanimous and ignore the constitutional and legal provisions (thanks to Nehru) that criminalize speech, prefer to keep stony silence when certain other types of speech is punished for being criminal.
Only a few weeks back the Uttar Pradesh government imposed the National Security Act – a law that has been called draconian by the same set of bleeding heart liberals – was imposed upon one Kamlesh Tiwari, who had abused Prophet Muhammad.
No liberal was outraged. No op-ed was written. No tweets were composed.
Essentially, arrest and jail for abusing a community’s prophet goes down well, but an arrest for abusing the nation is seen as “reminder of Emergency” to our liberals. Only in India those who give more importance to religion than to the nation are deemed as “liberals”!
Just like they are saying “Don’t support anti-national sentiments, but sedition charges are over-reaction” now, they could have said “Don’t support abusive language, but slapping NSA is over-reaction” then.
They didn’t say that, because to say that, the primary commitment has to be towards the idea of free speech. Looks like their primary commitment is to hypocrisy.
The other rhetoric being offered is that of sanctity of educational institutes, and that all kinds of views should be allowed on campuses; that an educational institute should become a battleground of ideas where all views, however unpleasant, are allowed and debated.
And this is being told weeks after some JNU students belonging to the left ideology vehemently opposed a talk by Baba Ramdev on their campus. And the same set of bleeding heart liberals had then supported the students blocking Ramdev.
The truth is that our liberals are not concerned about dissent or free speech or plurality of views. That was never their concern; else this glaring hypocrisy would never come to the fore.
Indian liberals want free speech only for themselves. It’s a monopoly that they hanker for. JNU epitomizes this monopoly, where freedom to shout anti-India slogans are demanded but freedom of Baba Ramdev to express his views is curtailed.
This is why they are shouting so much for JNU.