Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) English Professor Makarand Paranjape on Monday questioned if JNU was a “democratic space”, as was being projected, or a “Left hegemonic space”. He also questioned why Leftists had trouble accepting the “legitimacy of the Indian state”.
Delivering the 15th nationalism lecture, “India’s Uncivil Wars. Tagore, Gandhi — JNU and what is ‘Left’ of the nation”, Paranjape also targeted JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar and the speech he made on the day of his return to campus. Paranjape had earlier said the February 9 event on Afzal Guru in JNU was held under a “false pretext”.
“Why is it so difficult to accept the legitimacy of the Indian state for many people in the established Left? Forget about the Maoists. They believe in armed revolution and we know that DSU (Democratic Students’ Union) is an offshoot of this Maoist party,” he said, even as the crowd shook heads in disagreement.
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“Look at the letter of resignation that Umar Khalid and Anirban wrote from DSU. You know what they said? We are resigning because there is no scope for dissent, there is no democracy in DSU. Look at the irony of these situations,” he added.
Paranjape also questioned the democracy within the Left in general, and in JNU in particular.
“When we consider ourselves to be a democratic space, we should ask ourselves if this is entirely true. Isn’t it possible that it is a Left hegemonic space, where if you disagree you are silenced, you are boycotted, you are browbeaten, or sometimes you’re brainwashed,” he said.
He also said Kanhaiya’s speech had factual errors, “You said M S Golwalkar met Mussolini; but did you check your facts? It was B S Moonje who met Mussolini… I am not saying they were not impressed with the fascists, they were. They thought it was very good to have an authoritarian system. But please let us agree on what is factual and what is not,” he said.
Paranjape also questioned why there were no solidarity statements from China or North Korea. “We have so many statements from everywhere. Can you show me a statement from North Korea or even from China? I have met many Chinese intellectuals… they will tell you how bad things are but ask them to take out a morcha, they can’t,” he said. However, a Chinese student countered him saying there were protests in China, just like in any other country.