What has happened or has been happening at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi during the past week or so is deeply upsetting. I fail to understand why any logical and free thinking individuals would take part in a rally or a march in favour of the convicted terrorist Afzal Guru. Also, many of us fail to understand why the students of a university would chant slogans calling for “free Kashmir”, and “azaadi”. Exactly what type of azaadi would the people of Kashmir get with this sort of a campaign? Have Kashmiris demanded “azaadi” or freedom, or are we just speaking on their behalf? Do we have the right to speak on their behalf? Isn’t that going against the very principle of freedom of speech? I believe those chanting such slogans are out of touch with the reality of Kashmir and what people there want. Kashmiris want an end to violence, they want their children to have access to jobs and not be looked down upon with suspicion just because they are from Kashmir.
To speak of “azaadi” and freedom of speech seems to have become fashionable, with some students of Jadavpur University in West Bengal too talking in similar voices. But as a student I am pained about the fact that a prestigious institution has been dragged into this mess just because of the actions of a few.
The conflicting reports in the media are making us dizzy. The standard of reporting is such that it looks like a circus. News anchors need to practice restraint because nothing can be achieved with mindless shouting and screaming and vile accusations.
The problem that the media seems to be facing today is that it has forgotten its main purpose. They are here to report news, put out facts and let the public decide on the basis of evidence. Rather than doing that, some journalists and some news anchors are hell bent on telling us that it is “they” who will decide what the nation actually wants to see and know. Ironically, they believe that by doing this they are upholding free speech apart from telling us what nationalism actually means. It’s time they realised that they need to stop.
The question here is: why do Kashmir and its people have to be dragged into every other issue? Why should we support Afzal Guru when the highest court of the country has convicted and hanged him over his role in the 2001 Parliament attacks? What other proof are we waiting for? Why be selective in questioning the decisions of the court? If we want to question the decision on Afzal Guru, then we should do so on other cases as well. This would be the true meaning of democracy. Freedom of speech is an important pillar of our democracy, but have some of us crossed the line?
What is the definition of anti-national? The recent events at JNU and Jadavpur have left us confused. But all those demanding the shutdown of JNU, need to realise that an institution cannot be shut down just because some of us want it to. The demand itself stinks of arrogance and is laughable.
How many institutions are we going to shut down? How many students and journalists are going to be beaten till the lawyers at the Patiala House court complex manage to prove their manhood and nationalism to the world?
On the other hand, why should the university campus be used for campaigns in support of Afzal Guru or Ishrat Jahan or a political party or an individual? Why are political parties making capital out of everything that has been going on? It is not only disgusting but disturbing as well. Those who referred to Ishrat Jahan as the daughter of Bihar need to do some rethinking, for there is no doubt that she was a part of a terrorist organization.
Azaadi today has become one of the most abused words just as nationalism or secularism have.
If you speak of religious equality, then you are branded as pseudo secular, if you describe yourself as a Hindu, then you are branded as a fundamentalist, if you support Afzal Guru then it means you are upholding freedom of speech. In reality, we are all fooling ourselves. The entire world is watching us and laughing at us because as a nation we don’t seem to make sense of our nationalism or what that entails. We are all confused. We would rather have the country regress or the economy suffer, than let Parliament function. Some of us support Afzal Guru in the name of freedom of speech. Some of us have demonstrated our loyalty to this country by beating up Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU president, outside the courtroom and have already branded him a terrorist, a closet Maoist and highly dangerous for society.
It needs to be understood that we don’t need a lessons on nationalism or free speech. In fact, we need to stop abusing these words. What we actually need is an end to being constantly told what to do and the media should start this right now. We need not be told to prove our loyalty to the nation every other day.
Along with this, we need to understand that everyone has a right to formulate their own definitions of nationalism and secularism.
Let us be forgiving and accept diversity. It’s the only way forward.