JNU row: Don’t use soldiers’ sacrifices to whip up nationalism

By Ashok K Singh

Dear nationalists and ultra-nationalists!

You will do a super job of fighting ‘anti-nationals’, like JNU students, and all those real and imagined nation’s enemies by keeping out soldiers from the increasingly poisonous and divisive discourse. Fortifying arguments by playing on sentiments of ex-servicemen and forces in the debate over conduct of some students and wider discourse over nationalism is ridiculous and even insidious.

For instance, what’s the connection between the death of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppadand the students who raised ‘anti-national’, pro-Afzal Guru slogans at JNU? True, Afzal was convicted in the parliament attack case. And he was hanged, and eulogising him in any manner may even constitute anti-national behavior.

JNU row: Don’t use soldiers’ sacrifices to whip up nationalism

Representational image. AFP

True, soldiers have been dying at the border in Kashmir with bullets from Pakistan and Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. The government has to stop it through all means at its disposal. The entire nation stands behind the forces.

Hanumanthappa’s death coincided with the JNU incident. But linking his tragic death and soldiers’ sacrifices to the conduct of students, even if anti-national, are extraneous to what constitutes the crux the matter.

It’s an attempt to whip up emotions for narrow political gains. No political party- from the Left to the Right, can be accused of having said or done anything to lower the morale of the forces or compromise the nation’s interests on the border.

One can even understand the reasons why some television networks have been using forces’ sacrifice at the border to justify and propagate a brand of nationalist politics that helps grab eyeballs at prime time and might help the ruling party advance its political agenda.

But Amit Shah? One fails to understand the twisted logic of the BJP president who has questioned the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the JNU and his anti-government statements and linked them to the death of Hanumanthappa and soloders’ sacrifice on the border.

Shah wrote in a blog, unusual as he rarely writes a blog, on his website: “ Is this Rahul Gandhi’s example of nationalism and patriotism where he defends those, who raise slogans in favour of Parliament attack mastermind Afzal Guru and support separatism in Kashmir? I want to ask Rahul Gandhi if this is how he has offered his tribute to the 10 soldiers including Lance Naik Hanumanthappa, who lost their lives while defending the nation on the icy heights of Siachen Glacier, by openly supporting anti national activities at JNU.”

Amit Shah’s no-holds-barred attack on Rahul Gandhi points to the opportunity the BJP has smelt in taking up the JNU issue to pin down the opposition and take political mileage out of it. It shows how well planned was the BJP’s strategy in raking up the spectre of anti-nationalism.

Shah would have been delighted to see some ex-servicemen, alumni of JNU, jumped into the cesspool of current political debate. They have threatened to return their degrees to the JNU Vice Chancellor in protest against “anti-national” activities on the campus. The ex-servicemen of June 1978 batch of the National Defence Academy (NDA) wrote a letter to the VC stating that they “consider it an affront to be equated with the present student fraternity of the university which is indulging in such anti-national activities."
Ex-servicemen are free to participate in politics and they do.

Two of them, Gen V K Singh and Rajyabardhan Rathore, hold ministerial positions in the current government. They are free to return degrees and awards to express their anger and frustration over what happened at the JNU meet.

However, as JNU alumni they also must be aware that the university has not fallen into some sort of irreversible decline. It was and is one of the finest post-graduate universities in the country. The current crisis will blow over unless the ruling party gets tempted to stretch its agenda to ‘defang’ the university of its academic and ideological edge.

Television cameras have been visiting widows and family members of the security forces who died during the attack on the Parliament. It’s not surprising for family members to express anger over the conduct of those who raised pro-Afzal Guru, anti-India slogans.

India is lucky to have a defence force that is professional and apolitical. For reasons good or bad (more good I suppose) defence forces have also been treated as holy cows. Let them be as one.

To attempt to involve ex-servicemen to whip up emotions is bad politics. To attempt to make soldiers party to divisive debate over shrill nationalism is a disturbing trend in politics.

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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2016 18:04:46 IST

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