By Ishaq Begh
Police raids in India’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University are an attempt to silence intellectuals who stand with humanity. This is an institution which has guaranteed India’s pride due to its academic achievements. Not only this, JNU served India by producing many renowned politicians, intellectuals, journalists and civil servants. So why has the varsity been branded an anti-national center? JNU’s academic and other activities are being besieged in the name of national integration and national interest which is a reprehensible act.
It is a well known fact that the voice of intellectuals can’t be suppressed even with the tools of tyranny and terror. Students of a university do not lack civic knowledge but are scholars and intellectuals who shape the internal and foreign policies of a nation. Amid the fiasco of national integration, applicability of a fascist approach is inhumane and undemocratic. A university is a place where ideas and thoughts are produced, it is a place of debate and dissent, ideas generated should be countered by ideas and not with force and violence. So, it is idiotic to target scholars with serious charges like sedition.
On 9th February 2013, India hanged the alleged parliament attack convict Muhammad Afzal Guru after a long spell of imprisonment, but contrary to constitutional rights his body was buried in the jail campus and still remains ‘imprisoned’. And now if someone demands his body and other belongings, how can he be convicted under sedition charges? In the past, from 1947 to 1950, it was India that approached the United Nations and succeeded in getting Kashmir declared a conflict zone. So, anyone who calls Kashmir an unresolved issue cannot be punished or suppressed, and if the contractors of nationalism want to, then they should charge Nehru, posthumously. Keeping the Nehruvian legacy and nature of the Kashmir issue in mind, Kashmiri prisoners are political prisoners and sending them to the gallows is totally against international laws.
Now, when (after Maqbool Bhat) Afzal Guru was hanged and both their bodies were not handed over to their legal heirs, it has meant a debate among intellectuals of India. If Guru’s execution has served the ‘collective conscience’ of India, is the incarceration of Afzal Guru’s body still serving the collective conscience? Denying democratic rights always proves harmful for a state and even becomes a menace for generations. Questions are being raised in all corners of India that if Afzal Guru’s execution served the collective conscience, is Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest also according to the collective conscience of India? The Indian constitution guarantees its citizens fundamental rights, including the ‘freedom to speech’, then isn’t Kanhaiya Kumar’s detention unconstitutional?
Authorities blame him for raising anti-national slogans, but his colleagues deny these charges and demand a thorough probe of videos in which anti-India slogans were raised. Eyewitnesses on some television channels said that cadres of ABVP raised these slogans. They even said Kumar’s victory in the University elections over right wing groups was the main cause behind his detention. Why is the BJP government becoming a loser in the battle of ideas?
Undoubtedly, there have been changes in Indian society and the political spectrum, leaving space for intolerance. Being a large democracy, India should give space to those who talk about humanity. Intellectuals and philosophers should not get any threats. The Modi government has to answer why it detained Kanhaiya Kumar and others under sedition charges. If raising questions over Afzal Guru’s execution and demanding his dead body is anti-national then how is the BJP allied with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, since the PDP also demanded Afzal’s body?
The dual attitude of the Indian government, of nourishing right wing Hindutva forces and penalising the intelligentsia, might prove fatal for it.
—The writer calls himself a political analyst