We were students, too. Nothing extraordinary or magical about it. These JNU kids are not some new, improved product. We also were anti-establishment and happily loathed the system. We also protested and had rallies and sang songs from Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and had huge posters of Che Guevera on the walls of our rooms and batted for Fidel Castro. We knew what it was to be blowin’ in the wind and we believed fervently a change would come. We read Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, it was our almanac, and from Berkeley to Woodstock to the fight against corruption in Bihar, we also swayed in solidarity.
We thought the government was the pits and was there only to ruin our happiness and be the boot on the neck. But never the country. There was a difference, always a difference.
We marched against Enoch Powell and his anti-coloureds rant in Britain. We screamed ourselves hoarse over apartheid in South Africa. At the height of our adolescent rage we backed the Naxalites in West Bengal and found it also romantic to have candle light vigils. We had our share of sit ins and walk outs and waving of banners. And we came back home with Jimi Hendrix in our hearts.
It was the age of protest and the flower children. We cried with the world, were less insular, more global, heard the voices in the night Bobby. We heard them but we never slagged off the country. The authorities, the police, the bureaucrats, the venal and the evil politician, but never equated them with the country. We did not become pro-China in 1962 after it won the war against us. We did not have pro-Pakistani rallies in 1965 and 1971, that would have been unthinkable.
We had great issues. The feminine mystique. The Vietnam war. Racism. Corruption on the home front. We also were not open to any discussion because we were 18 and our parents were ignorant and teachers tools of the system, which itself was insufferable, and the cops were fuzz and we were victims of this conspiracy called governance and we would fight it. We were invincible.
But we were never anti-India and we did not give comfort and succour to those who did not wish us well.
So let’s not include such conduct as we see in the JNU case as a reflection of the students ‘we are forever and a day’ exuberance. That is a cop out for rank bad behaviour. Either they are carrying on this anti-national activity of their own volition or they are being used as pawns by leftist groups. Whatever, they have to lie on the bed they have made. Also, let's not downplay the seriousness of their intent. Slogans like “destruction of India” are raised and it is wished that India is carved up into sixteen pieces (‘solah tukde’), they don’t become less serious because they are raised within JNU or that those raising them are students.
It was not just a bunch of students in experiment and those who are now saying, kids will be kids, should wake up to the reality and Mommy and Daddy should have more than just a little chat with them.
That’s the difference. Don’t touch my country and if you don’t like being Indian the door is wide open, bug off.