Mainstream, VOL LIV No 19 New Delhi April 30, 2016
Beyond JNU : Rising Above Scandalous Chauvinism and Fake Secularism
Saturday 30 April 2016
by Diptendra Raychaudhuri
Many years ago, I went to Punjab to cover an election held in the backdrop of terrorism tearing apart peace and prosperity of the State. That was in 1992. I was young, still not 30, and my perceptions about the world and India, about politics, about different developments, were mostly in black and white. The Khalistan movement was bad and anti-national, and I assumed anyone having sympathy either for the movement or for those who joined it were all anti-national people. But in Amritsar, when I was discussing the problem with a group of elderly citizens, I received a shock. They said the kharkus were their children, and they could think of only one way to defuse the tension: bringing back their children to the mainstream by continuous persuasion. And then they started talking about the reasons behind the desperation of the young generation and the ways to address those.
All this was so far away from the image of a patriot I had in my mind! Later, I rebuked myself for my dullness: Why it did not occur to me that the terrorists had not fallen from the skies! How could the parents let their children—there were thousands of them—wiped out from the face of the earth because they had been misled? Only a satanic mind could think of such a purge. Isn’t it?
From that day onwards, gradually, the world began to turn grey in my eyes. And now, after twentyfour years, as I remember the words of those Punjabi parents (some of whom were then of the age that I am of now), one sentence resonates in my mind: “They are our children.” I know for sure, and all sane and sensitive people will agree, those men were not anti-nationals, not non-patriots.
I recall those days now as I believe India’s liberal democratic structure is now facing early threats from an anarchic Hindu ‘Taliban’ force. The BJP-RSS combination, in its desperation to switch over to a secular agenda like ‘nationa-lism’, has unleashed this diabolical force. They played with fire by stoking up the nationalism jihad after a condemnable incident at JNU where supposedly some anti-national slogans were raised by till-this-date unidentified persons, and the fire is refusing to die down (as evident from the attack on Kanhaiya in the Mumbai-Pune flight as late as on April 24, two-and-a-half months after the ‘nationalism’ polemics exploded).
The RSS leadership has tried to distance itself from the bizarre attempt to make chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ mandatory, but it has come too late. The anarchic forces are now on the prowl. Unfortunately, this is not for what a new section of people of this country voted for the BJP and its allies in 2014, jacking up the vote percentage of the BJP by about twelve per cent. They voted for Narendra Modi to get rid of the so-called ‘secular forces’ that have exploited the people of this land for many decades. But by inviting the Hindu chauvinists the BJP-RSS combination has let down those voters and spoiled a great opportunity of becoming a real nationalist force (perhaps with a tinge of soft Hindutva that does not exhibit teeth and nails).
The anarchic forces can be contained still, if only there is genuine introspection in all the three major camps of our polity—the political ‘Hindutva’ force (BJP, Shiv Sena etc.), the pro-minority ‘secular’ force (Congress, CPM, RJD and SP) and the opportunistic fence-sitters (who swing between the two camps mentioned earlier). Otherwise, the Frankenstein the Sangh has created and Narendra Modi is giving indulgence to by staying mum may smudge the image of a resurgent India and create chaos in the coming years.
Imminent Danger: Hindu Chauvinistic Aggression
Young boys and girls are easily peeved with the deficiencies of a system. They have less patience for they have seen little. Because of their immaturity they are often inclined to think of adopting radical means to solve the problems. And, like all of us who are fifty-plus now, they too will become more rational and flexible as they experience life. They too will realise the futility of fundamentalism of any sort. Only a handful of morons do not grow up, others do. But below-thirty is not a mature age. That is why we do not see a High Court judge aged below thirtyfive, or a Supreme Court judge aged below fortyfive, or a Prime Minister below about fifty (Rajiv Gandhi, the only exception, got the throne as a gift at a younger age thanks to his lineage and his mother’s tragic assassi-nation). Kanhaiya or their friends, all below thirty, are still immature people, and can easily be weaned away from misguided influence. Persuasion and mild punishment is enough to deal with 99.99 per cent of them. The rest may still go astray, and it is not only JNU or JU or Hyderabad University where it happens. It happens everywhere.
Not only Rohith Venula or Kanhaiya, the young ones in Kashmir, in the North-East, or those who have joined the Maoists are our children too. When they take up arms, the boys in the armed forces have to retaliate. That creates the most unfortunate situation where our children, be that a paramilitary jawan or a young extre-mist, die. But we have time upto the point they have gone too far. Use of force, bigotry, and hysteric reaction aggravate any problem. Violence begets violence, and it bears the seed of ruination. The only way to solve a problem is too address the root cause, which can be underdevelopment, could be a sense of depri-vation and alienation, or a sense of empathy for the ‘brutalised’ others. Seven decades of independence, emerging out of the Emergency days, and demolishing the era of absolute dominance of the Congress (with all its undemocratic evils)—all these have injected in us the courage to speak up, and it is the most valuable asset of a liberal democracy. An open, egalitarian, and liberal system appreciates free initiatives in the economic sphere, freedom of speech in the political sphere, and the right to be treated equal with any other citizen. The young ones have grown up in this atmosphere (except in a State like Bengal where the three-decades-long communist rule thrived in an atmosphere of fear, a pattern later followed in Gujarat) and they may often go overenthusiastic on it. These students are not a threat to the nation, the adult ones ravishing the sanctity of a court premise are. Does it call for a mind of Einstein to understand this?
Like those Punjabi parents I alluded to at the beginning, civilised nations propose to persuade back their children from going astray. According to the PTI, on February 24 a judicial magistrate in Usilampatti (Tamilnadu) granted bail to an 18-year old involved in a group clash with the condition that he had to memorise 100 couplets from a Tamil treatise ‘Thirukkural’. The Magistrate, Vivekanandar, did not want to hand him over to the police because he was of ‘tender age’. This is the true voice of justice. The correctional system aims at reformation, not for scratching and mauling an offender. It is not so that Narendra Modi does not believe in making efforts to wean away people from wrong influences. He does, and that was evident by his signing a draft treaty with those Nagas whose aim is to make Nagaland a free nation. He is planning to sign another treaty with the surrendered and arrested ULFA leaders who fought for long years for a sovereign Assam.
It is, therefore, strange that aged BJP leaders can be so insensitive about the young boys and girls of JNU or JU, or Rohith Vemula and his friends. All of them, including the ABVP boys and girls, are our children. If they are misled, or some of them are, they have to be weaned away from bad influences, and if someone goes too far some legal measures should be taken. But, why was there an organised attempt to stir up hysteria with fake videos, prejudiced investigation and an irate lie-campaign after a meeting at JNU where unsavoury slogans were raised? More importantly, how can the court premises turn into akhadas of hooligans in black robes who act with impunity? How can older people attack them physically in the name of patriotism? It brings to mind something Samuel Johnson stated in 1775: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
A mindset that does not allow space for rational thoughts, does not care for justice or truth, and is swayed by emotional tinkering (like Islam is in danger, Hindustan is in danger) is a mindset akin to that of the Taliban. We knew of this mindset dominating our social sphere—manifested in communal attacks, caste bigotry and honour killings—and the elite that governed independent India never even made any attempt to fight it in a meaningful way. They were sensitive about their prospect in the polls, not about the welfare of their voters. And now, it is spilling over to the political arena. This anarchic force is still weak, but it has the potential of spelling doom for the process of all-round progress India is making in this new millennium.
Unfortunately, Team Modi has encouraged hooliganism and relished what happened over the month of February. This is evident from what is being said and written in the papers by persons like Venkaiah Naidu. Ironically, in his article in The Times of India, published on March 17, Naidu talked of ‘harassment by the authority’ and ‘insensitivity of the system’ towards the Dalits and the need for ‘initiating corrective measures’ in respect of Hyderabad University, and yet supported those measures that led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide! Now, if we see all these together—action against Rohith after being prodded by Smriti Irani, patriotism jihad in respect of JNU, an overenthusiastic Police Commissioner’s overzealous acts to nab Kanhaiya while making no real effort to nab those who chanted anti-India slogans, and Team Modi’s effort to spread the untruth that Kanhaiya and his friends chanted anti-national slogans—a grand picture emerges. It seems Team Modi has lost confidence in themselves on their development agenda, and is now trying to live on falsehood and hysteria. True, after huge criticism Team the Modi has retracted for the time being, but it seems the Modi-RSS combine is keeping open an alternative easy way out of their failure on the economic front.
This option of inciting frenzy to bring in a narrow, Brahminical version of Hinduism through the ‘Bharat Mata’ has the potential of ruining India. The Hindu chauvinists not only betray antagonism towards people of other faith, but are also opposed to change through the assertion of the OBCs, Dalits and tribal folks. Traditionally, these forces were for Hindu Hindi Hindustan, and now apparently they are trying to create unrest to invoke distorted versions of certain high ideals. The attempt has shocking similarity with the efforts to propagate politically-packaged Wahabi Islam exported from the Arab world to India and other countries. The present version of Wahabi Islam teaches how to wage war against not only the non-Muslims but also other sects of Muslims.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s speeches in Parliament are clearly indicative of this game-plan. Madam Irani has many talents—a good actor, an eloquent speaker, a fighter—but certainly education is not her forte. It is not my point that she would saffronise education. For long years, the ‘secularists’ and Leftists have tinkered with our education system, and that is why we have educated people who are ignorant of the glorious points of our past. M. M. Joshi, the erstwhile NDA’s HRD Minister, was a ‘Hindutva’ face too; but the scholarly politician was neither out-of-sync with the happenings and developments in modern education and research, nor unfamiliar with various facets of Indian culture. But Madam Irani is a different proposition. Her overzealous acts, followed up by the Hyderabad University bosses, culminated in the death of Rohith Vemula. But, even a tragic death of a budding talent from the deprived section evoked no sense of sympathy in her mind (even Modi said a mother lost her son, though it now sounds hollow as he failed to follow it up with any meaningful action). She again evoked ‘Bharat Mata’ as soon as the JNU incident came to the fore. And then, she betrayed her real intention by poking her nose in the Durga-Mahishasur controversy. To show how bad the JNU students were, Ms Irani read out a pamphlet that reflected the faith of Asura and some other tribes who believe King Mahishasur was treacherously killed by Durga, a form of the Mother-god in Brahminical Hinduism. Now, does not Madam Irani know that our land, the ancient cauldron of civilisations, has different versions of the same stories on almost all gods and goddesses? The indigenous ‘Asura’ population (almost extinct, the present count is of about ten thousand) still mourns the death of Mahishasur during the same period when Durga and Basanti are worshipped in early autumn and spring. It is said that Mahishur, now Mysuru, derived its name from Mahi-shasur. In Bengal, when Durga is worshipped, Mahishasur is worshiped alongside the Mother god.
So, evidently, Smriti Irani and her mentors wanted to invoke a blasphemy wagon against those who do not abide by Brahminical Hinduism. But, in a liberal democracy like ours, Madam Irani has no business deciding who will worship Durga and who will worship Asura. The way Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi hailed her speech smacks of a bigger plan: of a Taliban-style attack on the diversity of Indian culture and civilisation. Modiji tweeted after Iran’s speech ‘satyameva jayate’. We are all sure truth will prevail, be it today or tomorrow (like the truth about Ishrat Jahan now after more than a decade), be it the truth of 1984, or 2002, or 2015-16. History will judge whether there was a concerted attempt to create social unrest by the killing of an innocent Muslim man on the pretext that he was eating beef and an ensuing attempt to create a ruckus on eating beef in general, thus striking terror in the minds of the Muslims and Christians. History will judge whether attacks on the freedom of universities and then attempts to cause terror in the court premises of the Capital city of India were an orchestrated attempt to weed out dissent. History will also judge the Prime Minister’s role in it, no doubt.
It seems an attempt to polarise, to vitiate the atmosphere in every household, in every locality, in every college and university, in every club, and every other assembly and institution, was made deliberately, and that is why this bogey of patriotism was raised.
If what some extreme elements said in JNU is not checked, according to Naidu, the “nation’s sovereignity and integrity will stand imperiled”. Let us, for a while, agree with that. Then, what about Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the man who roams freely though he regularly incites people with his anti-India rants? He gave an ‘Azaadi—the only way speech’ in Delhi along with Arundhati Roy. He still gives consultancy to Pak leaders on how to break up India. Or, what about Asiya Andrabi? Will Mr Naidu explain? Does he not know that the party (PDP) with whom they have formed a government in J&K tacitly supports these people? After Afzal Guru’s hanging this party said: ‘The PDP is disappo-inted at the hanging of Afzal Guru.’ Even after that the BJP had no qualms in forming a government with the PDP. And the BJP-supported CM released Masarat Alam, a prominent separatist leader, from jail. So, what is the logic behind branding JNU students as unpatriotic because they criticised the hanging while sticking with the PDP? Does Mr Naidu agree that Kashmir is a special State and that is why, as argued by Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha, they adopt a different strategy there? Is it not defeatism, not an unpatriotic act by the yardstick they are using against young boys and girls?
Come over to Punjab. Let us check some facts on the Akali Dal with whom the BJP has aligned in the State. The SGPC, that manages the Golden Temple, observes October 31 as the Martyrdom Day of Bhai Beant Singh, the killer of Indira Gandhi. Anyone interested to know more about it may check with The Times of India of November 1, 2012 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/SGPC-pays-homage-to-Indiras-killer/articleshow/17040056. cms). The same report also mentions that the SGPC performed bhog of Akhand Path in memory of Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha (names of former Army Chief Arun Vaidya’s assassins) inside the Golden Temple on October 9. For young readers, it needs to be mentioned, the SGPC and Akali Dal have a more symbiotic relationship than the RSS and BJP. So will Mr Naidu explain why the JNU students organising a programme to protest the ‘judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat’ is an unpatriotic act while the SGPC honouring those who killed Indira Gandhi and General Vaidya is patriotic? Or what about releasing the 1993 Delhi blast convict Devinder Pal Bhullar on a 21-day parole? Will Mr Naidu explain all these logically so that no one can allege that the BJP lives on sheer double-standard?
For a somewhat neutral observer, the whole thing is clear. The BJP and RSS were playing a political game. They were trying to polarise people because they got with them only one-fourth of the adult population in 2014 (of the total adult population only 66.4 per cent cared to vote, and those who voted for the NDA were 40 per cent of them). To trap some innocent minds they are raising the bogey of patriotism. The question is whether intelligent and intellectual minds in the BJP or RSS will reconsider this mean, callous way to garner votes at the cost of the nation. We all know what is taking place is a product of the RSS’ thoughts. However, I refuse to believe that the RSS is a club of homogenous backward-looking people. Atal Behari Vajpayee too was in the RSS. Govindacharya, an RSS pracharak, started ‘social engineering’ in UP and put Kalyan Singh on the saddle. And in the beginning of March, while answering questions on JNU, the second-in-command of the RSS, Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi told the PTI something that is heartening. He said: “However, the greatness of Hindu culture is that our society, unlike others where fatwas and commandments govern social codes, works on the basis of the ideals shown by visionaries.” And so, I believe, the RSS is amenable to change.
The RSS is free to propagate its ideas peacefully. Everything can be debated. Even whether India will become a Hindu Rashtra can be debated, though a large section may think it is anti-national. In the same way whether the right to self-determination is applicable to Kashmir can also be debated. No harm in a debate. The RSS must understand this and try its best to control the anarchic forces (those who talk of beating and killing people) within its ranks. The problem is: this section within the parivaar and outside it is trying to divide the Hindus by propagating a form of Hinduism that thrives only by undermining the backward castes (Dalits and OBCs), by dividing the society and by destroying India’s progress which is possible only under a liberal democratic system. The RSS or BJP is losing control over this force who they do not want to antagonise for some cheap votes. It is not for nothing that Anupam Kher, a staunch Modi-supporter, said Sadhvi Prachi and Yogi Adityanath should be jailed. (Telegraph debate, 2016) Unfortunately, Modi himself does not have the courage to spell out what he thinks: does he agree with Anupam Kher, or does he endorse Yogi Adityanath who has said Kher is a real-life villain?
I am confident the RSS-BJP leadership does not think violence, chaos and anarchy is the best way forward. It is time they realise their duties and try to rein in the chauvinistic and anarchic forces. In their bid to fight it out with Rahul Gandhi and the so-called secular brigade, they should not make the young ones their pawns. They must not play with the future of the country.
Other side of the Coin: Dark ‘Secular’ Politics
What the RSS and BJP bosses are failing to understand is that people have voted them to power not for what they have traditionally stood for. A large segment of the one-fourth of the adult population that voted for them voted for an India free of corruption, nepotism, appeasement of the minorities, and empty supercilious rants of the fake seculars.
Before the 2014 general elections I was sure that the BJP might secure about 30 per cent votes and 200-220 seats. The NDA, I thought, would get something like 230-250, and the margin of error could be five per cent. In reality, the BJP got 31 per cent of the votes polled. But they succeeded, unprecedentedly, to strike the magic number with so small a percentage while the Congress got only eight per cent of the seats after securing 19.3 per cent of the votes. Never before did any party securing less than 40 per cent votes enjoy absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. It simply means the BJP has reaped an unimaginable benefit of a fractured polity.
It shows the hollowness of the so-called secular camp. In 2014, it was known that the NDA could make it, and still the ‘secularists’ failed to stop the “communal” Modi from wresting power. A simple seat-sharing arrange-ment in UP and Bihar among the so-called secularists could have stopped the BJP at 200. The figures are a burning example of the deceit, hollowness and insincerity of the so-called secularists. Their failure to unite against Modi’s BJP shows they are power-hungry people who cover their hunger with a coating of secularism to pull the wool over the ordinary people’s eyes.
For long years, the ‘secularists’ are displaying their utter insincerity in dealing with politics. Many of these secularist leaders are corrupt to the core. This camp boasts of clusters of leaders whose only point of relevance is the ‘family’. While the Gandhis pass on the baton to a single person of the next generation, someone like Laloo Yadav gets in all his family members in the ring to corner the maximum. Again, most of the people in this camp take to secularism for appeasing the minority communities, often at the cost of the minorities themselves (for instance, bypassing the Shah Bano verdict by enacting a law in Parliament through brute majority). Most amusingly, they forget that they have in the past repeatedly attacked freedom of expression. From imposing Emergency to banning of The Satanic Verses and banishing Taslima Nasreen from Bengal—all these are glowing examples of their misdeeds. Their police force brutalised the students, smashing one’s knee-cap, just to break a gherao and then arrested hundreds of students of JNU in 1983. It is also to be noted that if Modi is condemned for 2002, in the same breath Rajiv Gandhi has to be castigated for 1984. A conscientious observer has no means to differentiate between 1984 and 2002.
For long, people have suffered at the hands of these ‘seculaists’. Every party (the offshoots of which are now ruling different States) in this camp, except the Congress, has in the past joined hands with the BJP at some point of time, directly or indirectly. Someone allies with the BJP, and then, after coming out due to political expediency, starts abusing the BJP as ‘communal’! For decades, people have seen the treacherous stands and unprincipled politics of these parties. During their regimes, the leaders of this camp have allowed loot and given indulgence to the people amassing huge black money while the people rotted in poverty and ignominy. These parties turned democracy into rule by the elite and for the elite. The last UPA Government was the most corrupt one in the history of free India.
Thanks to the Congress rule spread over 56 out of 69 years of free India, the society got divided into three segments: the ‘elite’ (who have flourished immensely), the ‘common man’ (the middle class, who got a small pie of benefit), and the ‘invisible man’ (half of the population who suffered the ignominy of poverty, lack of facilities of treatment and education, and absence of social security). Still now 29.5 per cent of people live below the poverty line which is a euphemism for subsistence line. (Rangarajan report, 2011-12 estimate) The present Prime Minister, accused of being pro-rich, was bang on point when he stated in Parliament that the need to provide work under the MGNREGA even now is shameful. We should have solved the problem of poverty long ago instead of organising an insignificant event called the Commonwealth Games. While about one-third of the people remained below the subsistence line, these people merrily spent billions of dollars for organising the Commonwealth Games and made way for a huge loot. According to Business Today, an estimated Rs 60 thousand crores were spent for the Games and beautification of Delhi. And all these happened under a very honest Prime Minister who stalled for years implemen-tation of the nationwide NREGA claiming that he had no money to allot.
How could a modern nation go on supporting these insensitive regimes full of deceit, conceit and greed that sometimes bordered on vulgarity? Again, these are the people who forgot to condemn the dastardly killing of karsevaks in a train at Godhra. Later, even attempts were made to concoct facts that the attackers were not Muslims! These secularists remained mum about the Hindu exodus, out of fear of persecution, from Kashmir. In the recent past, tens of thousands of a minority community went on a rampage including burning down a police station in Maldah district of Bengal. No meaningful action was taken. In the case of the Muslim man killed for eating beef in Dadri, the secular Samajwadi Party Government sent the meat for testing, as though if it turned out to be beef the action would have been justified. While M.M. Kalburgi, an eminent author, was killed in Karnataka, a Congress-ruled State, people started shouting against Modi! Again, we may appreciate Nayantara Sahgal’s (an eminent author related to the Gandhi family) protest against intolerance by returning the Sahitya Akademi award, but a question remains unanswered. If the Sahitya Akademi award has something to do with the Central Government’s policy, one wonders how she accepted it in 1986, just two years after the genocide of Sikhs in 1984? The question arises, because all of us are sure that none of the icons who have returned awards believe the Sikh genocide was an instance of tolerance.
The darkest deed of the secularists, apart from imposing the Emergency and organising the 1984 killings, is reversing the Supreme Court verdict on the Shah Bano case through the legislative process. This single act blocked the path of modernisation of the Muslim community. The Muslim fundamentalists of the community got further strengthened with the banning of The Satanic Verses. As the Congress followed a process of grand appeasement, regional ‘secular’ leaders rose to bask in the glory of being called a Mollah.
Finally, one wonders, if there ever existed a single secular party why did it not uphold the Constitution and demand implementation of a Uniform Civil Code. How can we become truly secular if the legal system delivers justice on the basis of religious laws framed thousands of years ago? Those who have failed to demand a uniform legal system have harmed the future of the nation. Those against the uniform civil code simply believe in the perpetuity of injustice against women. And they try to describe themselves as progressive! In reality, opposition to the Uniform Civil Code is itself a manifestation of intolerance to the rights of women.
The secularists have given us a reservation system which is being increasingly usurped by people who have a lot while the poorer sections of all the backward castes (both SC/STs and OBCs) are being deprived of the facilities. When Mohan Bhagwat talks of a review, he wants to dilute it by the people of the dominant castes like the Patels or Jats. While that cannot be accepted, exclusion of the elite from the present beneficiaries is a crying need. Ironically, it is the same RSS that has appealed to the creamy layer to forsake the facilities of reservation. The young generation will not tolerate for long students coming to college in posh cars snatching away seats from them by flaunting a caste certificate. It is sheer injustice to the others. The secularists have done a great disservice to the nation by not reviewing the system from time to time out of fear of losing votes.
People of this country have become fed up with these fake secularists. It will not be surprising if the votes for the NDA increase in percentage in the coming years (though the alliance may get lesser number of seats due to an improved OUI or Opposition Unity Index). A Rahul Gandhi fighting for freedom of expression is welcome, but he must also explain the Shah Bano case, the banning of The Satanic Verses, banishing of Taslima Nasreen, and, of course, the brutalisation of JNU in 1983. While blaming the BJP for Vijay Mallya’s escape, Rahul Gandhi should also explain how Mallya got so much loan during their regimes despite defaulting, and why their Prime Minister offered his Airlines a bailout package though it was known that this was an extravagant man prone to lavish spending. They should explain their conducts on the Commonwealth Games, on the 2G and coal scams.
If the so-called secular camp cannot purge corruption and aggrandisement from its ranks, cannot give up the appeasement trends, cannot stand for a secular liberal welfare system, it cannot hope to attract votes on a positive note.
On the Misguided Students and our Education System
Unfortunately, a section of students of some elite institutions have stepped into the trap of the fake secularists. They are influenced particularly by the Communists of the parliamentary brand or the Maoists, though all Communists all over the world are known for stifling dissent.
While we must stand for freedom of expression, there should be no hesitation in stating that trying to harm India, if even by speech only, is not a healthy trend. Pointing out the deficiencies of the system is always welcome, for it helps in making the future better. But demands of independence of Kashmir, Manipur and so on are abominable, to say the least. Mass graves of those killed by the security forces do dot the Kashmir Valley, true, but do not such mass graves dot Balochistan, the Hazara-dominated areas of Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions of Iraq and all the places the IS rules? Do we know what is happening inside the so-called Azad Kashmir in Pakistan? If the Kashmiri militants and their mentors attack our civilians and our soldiers, are they supposed to hurl flowers at the attackers?
This whole thing should make us, the elders, introspect. If the students who admire Afzal Guru do not realise that Guru (even if we agree, for the sake of argument, he was a freedom-fighter) had to die because of the situation Pakistan created, whose fault is that? We have failed to build up an education system that explains, in the proper perspective, the nature and depth of the problems we face. We must overhaul the system to present undistorted facts before our children. When told that history has not begun from the hanging of Maqbool Bhat or Afzal Guru, probably they will be able to see a broader picture. Our children should be told that Kashmir could have lived as an independent state had it not been invaded by the Pakistanis who looted and raped their way through just after our Independence. The accession to India was a reaction to that invasion.
Kashmiris never considered themselves as Indians or Pakistanis, but till the mid-1980s there did not exist gun-totting terrorists, and consequently there was no AFSPA and no mass graves. Pak machinations based on radical Islam vitiated the minds of the Kashmiris. It all started after the Congress rigged one election after another in the State for its petty interest (particularly the infamous one of 1987 after which Shabbir Shah and others decided to take up arms). We must shout for a better life free from terror (of the radical jihadis and the Indian Army) for our Kashmiri brothers, but can we succumb before the nefarious Pak designs? The students who proclaim to be atheists should be told that the demand of freedom for Kashmir is tantamount to surrendering before the ugliest Islamist propaganda being carried on by Pakistan backed by Saudi Arabia. They should be told how much money Pakistan injected to feed some of the so-called separatists. Independence of Kashmir, even when argued in the name of the right to self-determination, is not substantial for two reasons. First, why should Kashmir go to Pakistan? Because they are Muslims? That is continuation of the logic of partition of India. It endangers the whole Muslim population of India. Secondly, what about the right to self-determination of all the Hindus and Buddhists who are living there, as well as those who lived there before they were forcibly evicted (against which the students do not utter a word)? Surely the non-Muslim population of the State called Jammu and Kashmir cannot be thrown to the wolves called the ISI, LeT, Jaish and so on. And the Hindus and Buddhists living there too have the right to self-determination. So then you have enclaves, even enclaves within enclaves, hundreds of those, within Muslim areas and Hindu areas. It will be the most tragic development in human history.
India is at a juncture when nefarious tendencies are raising heads all over the world and the effects of those are threatening our people. The IS, for example. A war between civilisation and barbarism has already begun. India is vulnerable because it is situated in the midst of the Islamic world. Again, within India, a medieval caste-community war is threatening to stage a comeback. A movement for reservation is culminating in the rape of people of other communities. The ugly caste rivalry and assertion of dominant castes, fundamentalism, Maoist guerrilla war—all these are indicative of a dark future, no less dark than the takeover of the country by the Hindu chauvinists. All these dent, quite severely, everything that India is respected for: liberal democracy, progress, and a secular polity.
The situation is too complex to be understood by young students of JNU or JU or other universities because of our educational system. The system must be overhauled in an honest way.
Before concluding this section, a word for Kanhaiya Kumar. His rant after getting bail may sound sweet for a while to young minds and seasoned Leftists, but actually what he says is just a load of cliché. Ask anyone in Kerala or Bengal, and he will bail me out. Almost hundred years ago the Indian Communists started saying all these things. Their rule in Bengal for uninterrupted 34 years came to an end after Nandigram and Netai killings. In Nandigram, the police killed 14 and wounded 70 farmers who were not willing to give up their land. In Netai, the comrades of Kanhaiya Kumar fired upon unarmed villagers and killed nine of them. Kanhaiya should know that at the backdrop of these dark deeds (except for 2002 genocide in Gujarat, no BJP Government has gone so far till now) his words sound like a new trapping for deception. He belongs to a party that was a constituent of the Left Front in Bengal when all these were happening, and his party did not leave the Front in protest. The Left ruled Bengal for 34 years (1977-2011), and still, the credit of being the first State in India to fix wages for the domestic worker goes to the BJP-ruled Rajasthan. Kanhaiya must know another fact. When the Supreme Court ordered to make the Mid-day Meal Scheme mandatory, only a few States opposed it, and one of those States was the Left-ruled Bengal. If he shouts his azaadi slogans (from hunger etc.), at the same go he should also disclose what his mentors had done in the past. Otherwise he would be treated as a hypocrite. He should tell the people that after the regime changed skeletons were dug out from deep under the soil in Bengal, skeletons of those who dissented. They were killed by his comrades, and Kanhaiya should explain it.
Conclusion: A Note on the Way Forward
Intolerance and efforts to curb freedom of expression did not start with Narendra Modi. It has resurfaced during Modiji’s regime.
Last time, being fed up with the fake seculars, a sizable chunk of the population voted against them. It brought the Hindu chauvinists to power. But they have reneged from their promise of building a modern India, and are taking recourse to dangerous, regressive ideas.
If we want a system that is politically tolerant, socially egalitarian, and on the economic front striving to establish a real welfare economy, we have to put pressure on the rulers belonging to different parties. Democracy flourishes in a liberal environment, and liberalism stands for freedom of individuals in every walk of life: freedom to dissent, freedom to make money, and freedom to get justice from the legal system. Justice here includes, among other things, right to food, right to education, and right to a minimum decent living. When all these are achieved, we will have a Welfare Democracy. I do not think people, in general, can have any objection to the establishment of a welfare democracy, except for those who believe in different forms of dictatorship (be that of the proletariat, of chauvinists, of theologists and so on). We have to rise and bring sanity without taking sides in the political fight between the Hindu Chauvinists and Fake Seculars. We must tell both the camps that they should realise the no Indian is their enemy, and should try for establishing a welfare democracy. We have to impress on them that reign of terror of any sort or insensitivity to criticism is anathema to all those wedded to democratic values.
Reign of terror cripples the mind and sucks the vitality of a nation. After the Kanhaiya controversy the authorities of Presidency University (formerly the prestigious Presidency College of Calcutta), a famous liberal institution in a city famous for its liberal thinking, withdrew permission for a seminar on film-making, freedom of expression and the role of the students. Anuradha Lohia, the Vice-Chancellor, was seen on TV screen telling a correspondent: “Why here? There are many places to do these things.” This is, apart from being a telling example of Bengal’s cultural decadence, an instance of how the reign of terror cripples the minds of the best intellectuals. This is how the doom of a nation starts. This is what the Taliban did in Afghanistan. We must ask the RSS bosses whether this is what they want.
We must also ask the secular camp whether they are ready to shun the corrupt, the family-rulers (at least those like Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad who bring the full family in politics to grab the facilities), and the insensitive people like those who organise a Commonwealth Games.
Along with it we should build an education system that gives the students a proper perspective of our past and present without, as much as possible, any bias. While it is true that our history precedes the advent of Muslims by thousands of years, we must not thrust any Hindu religious idea or identity on them. But for every Indian, at the macro level, India must come first, and everything later. And as adults, we must learn to empathise with those poor parents whose sons or daughters have been misled. That is what Narendra Modi has done when his government signed the draft Naga Treaty.
It is time for the civil society to take the lead.
Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a freelance journalist and author. He can be contacted at dip10dra[at]gmail.com