JNU and mass frenzy: when common sense took a day off!

Akash Arora

Akash Arora is ournalism graduate works as a theater-actor and anchor for NDTV goodtimes.

If irony was a cat, it would have died nine times yesterday when many ‘lawyers’ and ‘unidentified suspects’, decided to prove their superior nationalism and teach the seditionists a lesson by thrashing anyone who was or “looked like” a JNU student, because identification and fact-checking are inconvenient. What a spectacle it must have been. Proud lovers of our country, desecrating its constitution in full public view, right outside a court of justice and in presence of the police force. Who needed proof? What good a trial would do? Nothing can be as satisfying as having the power to deliver ‘justice’ with the fist, and it only makes it more fun if a member of the ruling party is in cahoots with you. If only someone could have played Beethoven in the background, since it was the only thing missing from making it the ultimate tableu of what our democracy has come to. If there was any moment which was apt for a display of celebratory fireworks in Pakistan, it was this.

So a bunch of misinformed wannabe activists shout some idiotic slogans and the next thing you know is that everybody’s crapping their pants talking about how “taxpayers’ money is being used to fund terrorists”? Like really? You’re saying a group of 10 students expressing their opinion in a non-violent manner on campus is terrorist material? Sure, what they said was in a bad taste and clearly their education on issues like Kashmir is incomplete, but if we send all half-informed rabble-rousers to jail, then half the parliament house would be empty, ABVP offices in the entire country would be evacuated and most of the BJP meetings would then be held in jail. So why can’t we just brush these people off as ‘fringe elements’ as well? And if we’re that worried about our money being wasted then let me tell you that all the policemen that were sent by our peaceful and not-at-all self-serving government are paid for by our money. Every minute a politician spends on making sure that this issue is blown out of proportion is also paid for by our money, in fact, not to sound petty, all the people who have been employed for the task of dispensing images, clips, texts and all other kinds of propaganda for this nationwide smear campaign of a university is also paid for by our money. So to cut the long story short, a lot of our money is being used to terrorize us into believing how some of our money might have been wasted, in order to distract us from noticing the motherload of money that we have already wasted on funding lavish foreign tours, fancy suits, installing incompetent people in educational institutions and filling the coffers of ministers with food taken straight out of a kid’s mid-day meal.

My proud nationalists, I understand your outrage at the fact that you feel hurt when someone hailed a man like Afzal Guru as a hero and suggested the secession of Kashmir, which is of course an integral part of India, although more than half of you haven’t been there and wouldn’t encourage your children to go there and you know next to nothing about its history and tradition and culture, I still sympathize with your statement. But here’s a thing, a university is a place for dialogue wherein all perspectives and points of view are addressed and debated, and the general response of “I don’t agree with you therefore I shall beat the hell out of you or term you an anti-national or both” might seem to work well for many of our political leaders, it is not an advisable solution to any disagreement. And by the way, the idea of an independent Kashmir is not as impossible and blasphemous. There is a document called the UN resolution on Kashmir (available on their website), wherein one of the suggested probabilities is that of a Kashmir away from India. So if one day Pakistan becomes a secular democracy which doesn’t want any conflict with India (I know it’s hilarious but just, hypothetically) and they decide to let go of POK , and India holds a plebiscite, the people of Kashmir (including the now hypothetically rehabilitated Kashmiri Pandits), in that situation, will have the option of not choosing India. So you might want to wrap your head around that possibility, however steep the odds might be. Also, if you continue to yell sedition every time someone suggests this line of thought, you’re basically handing them more reasons to be afraid of you and not choose India (how much worse off the other option might be). And as far as calling a terrorist a hero is concerned, I stand with you in saying that it was wrong and utterly moronic of them to do so and I would love to have been there to tell them that on their faces, because you know, that’s what you do when you disagree with someone. You debate, you argue, you present facts and some of you might even use the tools of sarcasm and ridicule (but only if you’re good it, unlike this guy right here). What you don’t do is resort to violence and name-calling. What you definitely don’t do is use your contacts in the government to curb the “Anti-national elements”.

Calling student activists a terrorist is an insult to all the victims of terrorism. And why just the victims? It’s an insult to terrorists as well. I mean it’s not easy being a terrorist. You have to constantly believe that anyone who doesn’t believe in your ideologies is a threat to your culture/religion. You have to forego any sort of room for dialogue and should have no hang-ups about killing anyone who you consider as ‘the enemy’. You also need the constant validation that your cause is just and superior. And if those qualities sound vaguely familiar to a group of people you might know, then you shouldn’t shy away from calling them terrorists as well.

Subsequently, if your idea of an anti-national person is anyone who calls an enemy of the state as their hero, then there is an organization called “Hindu Mahasabha” that celebrates the death of Mahatma Gandhi and considers his killer Nathuram Godse to be a, what’s the word, a “martyr”. Yes, a martyr who died for the important cause of eliminating the most anti-national element to walk on this land, and that too with a cane.

Now, as far as the reaction of the government is concerned, it isn’t surprising to see them using everything in their power to curb this dissent. Isn’t it more convenient to just suppress the voices in your own country to show your power when you have recently been proven powerless in dealing with actual outside threats? Isn’t it just less fussy to term people as terrorists and prosecute them, rather than look for the real terrorists who managed to wreak havoc in Pathankot and Gurdaspur? And isn’t it much more glamorous to be seen as the party who took immediate action against “enemies of the state” rather than dealing with this issue by just a phone call to the vice-chancellor to check the situation? Because that would have been too boring, too civil and frankly a little too logical and a little less patriotic.

Patriotism, in 2016, has become much like smart-phones. Everybody’s got their own brand of it; everyone thinks theirs is the best. And in justifying their superiority, they resort to propagating plain lies and exaggerated stereotypes. And then there are the extremely insensitive ones as well who don’t shy away from comparing the students of JNU with Lance Naik Hanuman Thapa. A man who gave his life serving his country, was dragged out of his grave and made to stand guard for providing one last service, the one he never signed up for, the one that involved using him as the brand ambassador of right wing patriotism. He wasn’t asked, he wasn’t paid, he was just used (similar to the Kashmiri Pandits), to prove the nationalist credentials of some people.

The situation is grave, but the reactions of the people are more disturbing. Funny how the “barbadi” that those sloganeers talked about was set in motion in a small scale by the very people that were so opposed to it. Seems like hanging Afzal Guru didn’t really kill him after all.