There is a fine line between dissent and disintegration. Societies that are aware of this maxim prosper and those societies that dilute it inevitably disintegrate. Freedom of thought and expression has once again become a focal point due to recent events at the Ramjas College of Delhi University where students on both sides of ideological spectrum confronted each other over withdrawing Umar Khalid’s name from a lecture.
Two years ago, when All India Bakchod (AIB) was criticised and faced legal action for organising AIB Roast event where filthy jokes and expletives were made at the expense of offending the participants, I strongly supported their freedom of creative expression despite me not endorsing it. I must reiterate that freedom of thought and expression is an immensely valuable gift bestowed upon us by our Constitution and it must be protected from a lunatic fringe at any cost.
As I had mentioned in the beginning of this post, there is a fine line between dissent and disintegration. When somebody utters words such as "Kashmir demands azaadi", or "Bharat tere tukde honge", we need to ask them a very pointed question that how are they going to achieve this goal of theirs?
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. In 1947, our motherland was partitioned into two dominions — India and Pakistan. More than 15 million people were uprooted and between one and two million were dead. Rape (75,000 women), forced conversions and mass abductions defined the birth of our nation. This is what happens when societies disintegrate. The aforementioned casualties are a horrific reminder of manifestations of some people who have exhibited such extremist tendencies. And it doesn’t end there.
Furthermore, in 1974 Pakistan amended the Constitution declaring members of the Ahmadi sect as non-Muslims thereby restricting their religious freedom. In fact, Pakistan’s first ever Nobel Laureate, Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi whose remarkable contributions in Physics were erased from Pakistan’s collective memory. In addition to this, Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations deleted a tweet that noted that Mahershala Ali (House of Cards fame who is actually an Ahmadi) was the first Muslim actor to win an Academy Award.
Let us look at another example. In 1971, the Pakistani Army killed lakhs of Bengalis in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and forced 10 million to flee to India. It is a forgotten genocide. Moreover, in the contemporary times, since the year 2015 bloggers from Bangladesh who espoused the values of secularism, pluralism and spoke in favour of atheism were hacked to death by Islamist extremists.
Every country has to define and decide its non-negotiables. The topmost priority amongst those non-negotiables are the territorial sovereignty of our nation. It does not matter which caste, creed, religion or political affiliation we belong to; maintaining the territorial integrity is absolutely necessary.
A society like us which has a horrific past has to be very careful when it utters words like "Bharat tere tukde honge". Everybody agrees that a speech that unashamedly incites violence is objectionable. Hence my question to everybody is what will be the consequences of such utterances? Who will take responsibility if lives are lost when some misguided youth accepts this slogan literally and goes on a violent killing spree? How can "Bharat tere tukde honge" be a part of national discourse? Isn’t this inciting violence towards citizens of India?
We are a young and vibrant democracy. Sixty-five percent of India’s population are under the age group of 15-35 years. We are undergoing an exciting era of harnessing the dividend of that demographic. A country as young as ours should focus its energies on debating issues such as endemic poverty, employment growth, income inequality, gender inequality, environmental degradation, poor educational and indicators, etc. These issues will be resolved when the collective conscience of our country is focused in the right direction instead of thinking about India’s Balkanisation.
The solution to each and every problem that exists in our country is more democracy and steadfast adherence to the Constitution of India. What is happening in certain campuses across India does not help us in moving forward towards this positive goal. Let us work towards strengthening our democracy rather than weakening it, which could well be the case if these "break India forces — the tukde gang" of few campuses have their way.
The author is a member of parliament from Mumbai North and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 16:06 PM