‘Yes, we are witches, and we forewarn… like in Macbeth, lion of kings will come’
Sitaram Yechury, CPM
You see an effort, in the field of higher education and education in general, of what I would describe as an effort to replace Indian history, the synchronic evolution of Indian history, what all of us are products of and what we have gained, with Hindu mythology. To replace history with mythology, to replace the rich Indian philosophy with Hindu theology, is the larger project at work and this project actually dovetails with the project which this government is patronising, the project of metamorphising India’s Secular, Democratic, Republic into what they call the Hindu Rashtra.
Now, I come to JNU, Sir. We have been products of JNU. The ministers in this cabinet have been products of JNU… I can name the officers today in this government who are products of JNU… There is no field where these students have not excelled. And, today, you castigate the entire university as being anti-national! You said that these students are the enemies of our country. What is happening, Sir? Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, will be national hero and Sitaram Yechury and the deputy chairman will be anti-national! Is this the nationalism we have to see? You are saying, to instill nationalism in students, there will be a huge national flag in every central university. It is about 207 feet. Very good. You put it all over the country. But, remember, the tricolour in our hearts… is much larger than all the national flags that they can put together and you don’t have to teach us desh bhakti. We don’t want certificates of patriotism by these sorts of double standards that they practice.
We have been, what you call, saying that the Left like witches. But remember, this is the 400th year of the birth of a genius; I don’t know there is one man who wrote all that, William Shakespeare. He was one individual who wrote all the corpus that he wrote. Remember his play Macbeth, where there is a song of the witches. If you are comparing us with witches, then, listen to this song. What does the song say? “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble”. And what does he say that is being produced? “For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble”… This is the song of the witches, and this is what is happening for a charm of powerful trouble… Yes, we are witches; we forewarn. We are witches, Sir, and we forewarn what is going to happen. Like in Macbeth, the witches forewarn. Macbeth can be the king, but the lion of kings will come from Banquo. You may be the king today; the lion of kings in India will come from another Banquo, not from you. So, if you call us witches, then, also understand the prophecy of the witches, which comes out to be true. And being forewarned is being forearmed. That is why we are saying this. We are calling upon the people to be forearmed against this attack that is happening in the name of nationalism that is basically a certain brand of religiosity.
‘Can hate speech ever be free speech? It can’t be’
Sir, I must confess that initially… I had no intention of intervening or speaking in this debate. My colleague, the HRD Minister, would reply to the debate at the end. But, after hearing Mr Sitaram Yechury and the Leader of the Opposition, I think this debate, which has been taking place, is somewhere missing or sidetracking the real issue…
The core question is… are we going to give respectability to those whose primary ideology is that they want to break this country? You had the Bombay case of 1993… The system went out of the way to accommodate a person against whom a grave charge was that he had blasted the city of Bombay and killed hundreds of people. Can anybody say that his martyrdom should be celebrated?…
What was the programme in JNU?… Here is a group of people who call for this cultural programme on February 9… The pamphlets which they have circulated, which nobody is denying, just bear complete evidence. What are the police supposed to do?… Of course, what happened in Patiala House is condemnable. But vandalism is condemnable and sedition is free speech! Nobody can subscribe to this ideology and least of all should ever the Congress party subscribe to it. Of course, vandalism should be condemned… But, at the same time, what is the factual matrix? In one university, it is the alleged martyrdom of Yakub Memon, and in the other university, it is the martyrdom day of Afzal Guru…
Now, let us concentrate on vandalism, which is terrible, but, at the same time, in the name of academic freedom, sedition must become a part of free speech! Can hate speech ever be free speech? Obviously, it can’t be. Can you have free speech to say, “I have arrived to break this country into pieces?”