It is my considered opinion that students should not be arrested for sedition unless they join an armed revolution against the State. Having got that out of the way, I would like to go back to what happened in JNU on February 9. And specifically to the slogans that arose from the commemoration of Afzal Guru’s hanging. This disturbing event has got lost in the noise and fury over lawless lawyers assaulting students and journalists outside the Patiala House court. If we ignore slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde honge, Inshallah, Inshallah’ (India you will be broken into pieces, Inshallah) we ignore the most important threat to national security. The jihad.
Frankly I was appalled by the videos I saw. I am no hyper-nationalist but object totally to students demanding that India be broken into pieces. I was even more appalled that political leaders rolled up at the JNU campus to show solidarity. Would they have gone if they had seen those videos demanding freedom for Kashmir? And does this mean they support this demand? Will they now go to Jadavpur University where the same slogans were heard? Do they support these jihadi ideas spreading across university campuses? The commemoration of Afzal Guru’s hanging seems to have been an excuse to launch a very alarming movement. If this were not true, then why have we seen no commemorative ceremonies in the past two years? He was hanged in 2013.
As a natural conspiracy theorist and as someone who believes the jihadists in Pakistan when they say they would like to see India destroyed, I follow chatter in our friendly neighbourhood Islamic Republic closely. So I have detected since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister, unease about the possibility that he might transform India with his economic policies. On Pakistani TV chat shows I have heard pundits and economists bemoan the inability of their own leaders to come up with economic policies that would transform their own shabby, stagnant economy.
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It is bad luck for Modi that his magnificent Make in India Week in Mumbai has hardly made the news because his Home Minister chose this week to drag Kanhaiya Kumar off to Tihar jail. The arrest of the president of the JNU students’ union was not just needless and ugly, it set off a chain of dramatic events. When journalists were beaten up outside the Patiala House court, they took to the streets to protest. This was the first time (I think) since the protests against Rajiv Gandhi’s defamation Bill 30 years ago, that journalists have felt the need to take to the streets. Mofussil journalists are routinely killed in the boonies, but who cares about these lowly creatures. It is national journalists who are the real pillars of the free press. Right?
To come back though to JNU. What worried me most about the slogans were not just their tone, but that they seemed to have been copied from slogans I have heard in Pakistani cities at different times. In Karachi after Benazir Bhutto won her first election, I remember standing on a high balcony and watching huge crowds of Pakistan Peoples Party supporters in the streets below shouting ‘Bhutto hum sharminda hain, tere kaatil zinda hain.’ The same slogan was used by JNU students for Guru without noticing that his ‘killers’ were the Indian judicial process and the Indian State. After Benazir was killed, the slogan I heard most in Lahore was ‘Har ghar se Bhutto niklega, tum kitne Bhutto maaroge’.
Reused by JNU students to say in every house dwelled an Afzal so how many will you kill. I was pondering over the mystery of this cross-border sloganeering when Jadavpur University students started demanding ‘azaadi’. From whom?
What is going on? Is it true that the mysterious Umar Khalid had plans to spread this jihadi agitation across 18 university campuses in the name of remembering a man found guilty of trying to blow up India’s Parliament? The ill-advised arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar has brought every leftist politician suddenly out of the woodwork. They are supported by leftist historians who compare Islamism with Hindutva and who have suddenly discovered that the sedition law should have been changed long ago. These historians exhibit a self-loathing that in part explains the Hindu rage we saw in play outside the Patiala House court.
I am neither Hindu nor a hyper-nationalist, but I have noticed in long years of political column writing that for most of these years I have heard the word Hindu used only in a derogatory context. The men who shout Vande Mataram every five minutes these days are reflecting a rage created over decades by the inclination of our public intellectuals and most of our politicians to treat Hinduism as an inferior religion. The more JNU-type slogans we hear, the more Hindu rage we will see.