A letter to Arun Jaitley: Aren’t attacks on JNU a return to Emergency? - Firstpost
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A letter to Arun Jaitley: Aren’t attacks on JNU a return to Emergency?

Respected Sir,

In your noted speech at Rajya Sabha in November 2015, you compared the emergency imposed during Indira Gandhi’s regime to that of Hitler’s Germany. You stated, “Those who talk about intolerance snatched the right to life and liberty.” You also remarked that the Constitution should be strengthened and democracy should not be subverted again. During emergency, you were under preventive detention for a period of 19 months. You have been noted for your active role in student politics and Jan Sangh, where you audaciously mustered up the courage to challenge the system, question it.

Talking of emergency, the arrest of JNUSU President and the police patrolling on campus is highly condemned by us. Videos by a few media houses have manipulated the freedom (azaadi) concept that JNUSU President Kanhiya had talked about. He did not endorse any secessionist ideology — he was supporting azaadi from fear, azaadi of conscience, azaadi to choose and the azaadi to express.
Don’t you think that charging students with the draconian laws of criminal conspiracy and sedition on the basis of few video clippings is highly obnoxious? Don’t you think that every individual in India, owing to our democratic status, has the ‘Right to Dissent?’ Why was the decision to arrest Kanhaiya taken in such a hurry, escalated to a degree that is highly repulsive and odious? V. Sujatha, a JNU Professor rightly questions — ‘our government is tolerant of people who celebrate the birthday of the assassin of the father of the nation?’

Is being mindlessly hostile and vindictive towards students of JNU, the ‘educational capital of India’, the right approach? Isn’t it replaying the times of Emergency when such rampant arrests took place and the Freedom of Speech and Expression were snatched away? These students were and are defenseless. When the same Afzal Guru exhibition took place last year, why was there no hullabaloo created then? It was almost as if the government was restlessly waiting for such an incident to occur, to escalate its intensity with the aid of ABVP supporters in the campus and launch a massive attack on the personal ‘Right to Dissent.’
Aren’t the students allowed to proscribe to a point of view, but be brow-beaten and called ‘anti-national’, without being endowed the chance to explain? Media commentators like Arnab Goswami have already egregiously rebuked the JNU student leaders, called them ‘more dangerous than Maoists’ and portrayed the image that JNU, in itself, it completely antithetical to the ‘Idea of India?’.

If that’s the case Sir, then what is this ‘Idea of India’ anyway?

Tagore had stated that nationalism is “collective egoism of the people” and a “machinery of destruction and profit-making”. It is “the most powerful anesthetics that the man has ever invented” and an artificial product of human ingenuity manufactured to satiate man’s need for power. The irony is that in nation “the individual worships with all sacrifices a god which is morally inferior to him”. Then sir, would you too call him anti-national and an insult to Mother India?

Right from FTII, Hyderabad University and now JNU, what we are witnessing now is extreme dictatorial and authoritarian reaction towards radical student politics. Our educational institutions are marred with several loopholes and caveats, but rather than addressing those, focusing on such small events and escalating them to an atrocious degree will not endow any solution. Rather, it would just radicalize the student politics even more, as it’s doing right now, against the government, creating dialectics of hatred and mistrust. Is that what the government wants, especially from the youth who are the pillars of tomorrow?

JNU has always been recognized for its left politics and democratic space. So, is asking for freedom from a nation, against the usage of Freedom of Expression? Why is the government so keen on creating the ‘other’ — intertwined with the identity of students, reflecting upon them a horrendous image without proper judicial or procedural enquiry? Who draws the line, and who has the final say? Is it the system which is so radically against students?

It seems as if the social conservatives are ideal for the government rather than informed, argumentative Indians? Is it because of creating this national project of Greater India, which is so utterly and scandalously nationalist that it can attack defenseless students? DP Tripathi (Ex. President JNUSU arrested during the emergency) in a press release rightly stated, "We condemn in the strongest possible words the high-handed police action in JNU. This is reminiscent of the dark days of the emergency when the state had swooped down on the campus and had arrested many on false and trumped up charges. While we hold no brief for those who raised objectionable slogans, the arrested students have been charged with anti-national activities, precisely the charges on which we were also arrested during the draconian emergency."

Sir, are we then turning into a fascist nation because for sure, our democracy is grasping for breath. Isn’t the ‘Right to Live’ being snatched away with what has happened in JNU? If yes, how is it different from Emergency? Just because it has not been officially declared, but its clandestine practice makes students like us, worry, and worry a lot.

The democracy is being subverted Sir, and this is Emergency for us. Students from JNU.


Shubhda Chaudhary

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