Author- Maanvi Agarwal
Sedition- conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch
Anti-nationalist: Opposed to national interests or nationalism
Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
When I went to the JNU campus, my first thought was, “This is a place I want to study at.” Now every time I look at the news, my thoughts are assailed, not by the doubts of whether the place is harbouring terrorists or not but by simple things like, “would I be able to survive here?” To all those out there who support or protest against the whole concept of JNU, I will make a small clarification. JNU is NOT JUST an intellectual space for ideas to be ‘discussed’ in a healthy way, it has been from the very beginning a political space, which exposes it to the similar corruption and biases that any structure at macrocosm faces.
This whole matter is filled with conspiracy theories, protecting whom? Just as easily we shun down the media houses and spokesperson like Zee News and Times Now, how is that we can’t keep the same stand for NDTV and Aaj Tak? Did someone make them drink a truth serum? Why is it that Kanhaiya Kumar is soliciting empathy and ABVP scorn? If we are protesting against intolerance, how come one side is still made into a villain?
A neutral stand is hard to maintain and there is no guarantee that at this platform we will be able to keep an account of all individuals involved, directly or indirectly. What we are trying here is to raise some questions that need to be pondered upon by every person.
The beginning of the story
We will find exactly two sources, giving out two different accounts of what happened on the day of 10th February 2016.
- A group of individuals verify that the students of Democratic Student’s Union (DSU) had hosted a cultural event questioning the working of the Supreme Court by holding a protest march against the “judicial killings of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat and in solidarity with the ‘struggle’ of Kashmiri migrants for their democratic right to self-determination” through poetry, art and music.
The ABVP members requested the authorities to withdraw the event since it was against the principles of the nation, but the request
was denied. According to a student of JNU who calls himself a ‘true witness’, “DSU, JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru Student’s Union) and other student organisations decided they would not let the administration and the ABVP scuttle their hard-earned democratic space to debate and discuss, and decided to go ahead with the meeting.”
However the ABVP started a protest asking for the expulsion of organizers. There was a battle of wits where slogans flew like,
“Yeh Kashmir hamara hai, saara ka saara hai”
(This Kasmir is ours, whole of it).
“Hum kya chaahte, Azaadi”
(What do we desire, Freedom!)
The student claims that a group of students, who belonged to Kashmir and had especially come for the event, and had faced the wrath of the AFSPA (Armed Forces [Special Powers] Acts, are Acts of the Parliament of India that grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what each act terms ‘disturbed areas’) for decades, were angered to see ABVP disrupt the meeting and shad started shouting slogans against India, like:
“Bharat ki barbaadi tak, jung rahegi, jung rahegi!”
(Till India is destroyed, there will be war!)
- Another group of individual says that students from JNU (including the members of JNUSU) were raising anti-national slogans against the country, leading to a row with the members of the ABVP. They also say that even if the student union president Kanhaiya Kumar didn’t actively engage by shouting the ‘anti-nationalist’ slogans, he also made no attempts to either stop or control the students involved.
Result and questions raised:
1) The entire debacle started with a video from the event showing students shouting anti-India and Pro-Pakistan slogans. Is the video authentic or doctored? Who are the people in the video? Are they from ABVP or from Leftist parties?
2) How is the student who is calling himself a ‘true witness’, aware of the entire debacle? Is it possible that his entire story is also filled with some direct and word-of-mouth observations? How are we supposed to believe that his account is factual, and not a result of party politics? Is he really unbiased?
3) Why is ABVP termed with terms like ‘hooligans’, ‘bullies’, and ‘extremists’? How that is there is no other point of view in regards to how we observe them? Are they really against debate, if it involves questions raised against nation?
- A case of sedition against several unknown students was lodged at Vasant Kunj public station under IPC Sections 124A (sedition), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (acts done by several persons with a common intention). (Sedition- conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch)
- Eight students of JNU were barred from any academic activity pending an enquiry.
- Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on sedition charges after the allegations of ‘anti-national sloganeering’.
- Students as well as teachers of JNU (and other campuses, including some foreign universities) show their solidarity by refusing to allow classes to be held until Kanhaiya is released. Political parties and ABVP and BJP are facing a lot of steam on the social media for their purported intrusion in an academic space and thus exposing it to a circus of misguided, and biased political propaganda.
- A fake twitter account under @HafeezSaeedJUD posted comments (maybe, in parody) saying that Jamaat-ud-Dawah’s chief backed the JNU
- On the two days of trial of Kanhaiya, the lawyers and the students and journalists (of Times, Firstpost, NDTV among others) engaged in a violent fight with lawyers showing ‘gundaraaj’ and hurting a lot of innocent people (including women) since they spoke against the nation.
- The Bar Council of India apologized for the misbehaviour of their fraternity and a three-member committee was set-up in order to investigate the incident and submit its report.
- The divided stand of the government over the issue. While Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi support the citizens of JNU, calling it a plot by BJP, other party leaders are divided on whom to support. While most of the BJP stands against the ‘anti-terrorists’, many have called JNU a hub of terrorists and are demanding for its shut down.
“Why should Indian taxpayers fund enemies of the state? Why shouldn’t these #JNUseparatists be booked for sedition?” – Abhijit Majumder
“Why is the Govt. not winding up JNU which has become Nursery for Paki Terrorists? #ShutDownJNU” – India under Siege
There are mistakes on both sides. Just as the unlawful actions of the violent lawyers can be judged, so can the insult of the dignity of the court which was marred by some individuals, raising threatening slogans.
Political maneuverings and the need for open-mindedness
- The five students who were on the run from the JNU campus including Umar Khalid have returned. Ashutosh, Anant Prakash Narayan, Rama Naga, Anirban Bhattachrya and Umar Khalid are back on campus and have again raised the temperature by giving powerful speeches on the campus. Umar Khalid said that he was not an anti-nationalist, just because he belonged to a leftist party, “My name is Umar Khalid but I’m not a terrorist.”
- M Narendra Modi spoke about how no side has the right to foist its views on others. He said that he would listen to both sides,
“You have as much claim on me as my party even though I am a representative of the BJP”.
- While the opposition speaks of the ‘sacrifices’ of its past icons, they are again brought to earth by their recent interference in the proper functioning of the Parliament.
Instead of showing our intellect and wisdom by keeping in mind both sides of the opposition; we are swayed to one side by the politics of India, of which we have minimal grasp. We are still a herd of animals following one leader, who for his/her benefits is feeding us fodder. While every party is seeking some form of benefit or another from the JNU dispute, we are blindly following words of these passionate men, who might be just words, and no truth.
Presentation is an important tactic. While the JNU students have become heroes, a lot of the truth is being buried under the guise of freedom and liberty. There is a difference between attitudes. If the attitude of the students on 10th February 2016, led to arguments, then people have a right to question their actions and statements.
The Sedition Law- Section 124A
Whoever, by words, either spoken, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection¹ towards the government established by law² in India shall be punished with³ [imprisonment for life], to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added or with fine.
- The expression ‘disaffection’ includes disloyalty and all feelings of enmity.
- Comments expressing disapprobation or the measures of the Government with a view to obtain their alteration by lawful means, without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, don’t constitute an offence under this section.
- Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting hatred, contempt, or disaffection do not constitute an offence under this section.</Agarwal
Are we not aware whether some actions are arising from dissent or hatred? Are we the seers while others dumb? Do they not see the differences between debate and uprisings? Our judicial system is filled with its flaws, but we should trust it to give us an ordered and transparent trial.
We are again following a media trial, who despite their ‘sincere actions’ have no regards for the society and its citizens. The ‘truth’ of the matter doesn’t exist, since our perception in viewing the truth and the medium delivering this truth to us can be opposing and biased, sometimes even false. However, the morality of the case and how we as students are used not to create a change but a dispute is appalling. The whole tiff-off of how our system gives no space to dissent and is becoming more intolerant is half-assed. Just as some of us can come ahead and say that the happenings at JNU was a case of healthy, democratic debate, others can look at it differently and call it a violation of liberty (not freedom, which is different). Why, because there is no objective truth.
If Kanhaiya Kumar and the other 6 individuals, evicted in the case are innocent, then they would be freed with proper dignity.
If Kanhaiya Kumar and the 6 other individuals, evicted in the case aren’t innocent, then they would be punished according to the law system, no matter how much we protest.
What doesn’t go against India as well as what do go against India aren’t two sides of a coin, but they go together and need to be pondered over simultaneously.
One last question: Is it easy, calling oneself anti-nationalist even in the face of dissent?