Saturday, February 20, 2016

Kanhaiya and Kans - Act II

I had no clue about what really happened when I first heard of the JNU issue. Why are students of an elite university called anti-national?

Our own students. Our children. our future. What are they doing?

One of the first things I heard was a 20 minute speech by the arrested JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar before his arrest on serious charges of sedition - charges of waging a war against the country. I heard an idealistic, honest and patriotic voice in that speech that was clear on its first principles. Faith in constitution, against the communal and caste system, against division of people etc. A voice that was articulate, convincing and presented a clear line of his thinking which is that he believes in the constitution as envisioned by Ambedkar and that he is against all that is undemocratic, unconstitutional and anti-national. Kanhaiya's speech (that was thankfully recorded by someone on the steps at JNU) however questions the methods and intent of the BJP and the RSS and he clearly says he has no faith in their methods - in their views on education, women, Muslims. He questions what equality really means. He says he wants to destroy communal culture, Manuvaad culture. The speech is worth a watch.

(Here is the text of the speech in case you do not understand Kanhaiya's Hindi that appeared in the Telegraph.)

I wondered if it was possible for any person who speaks with such clarity and idealism and even maturity - because he speaks of going to the root of the problem which not many senior or elderly leaders are able to do - to ask the pertinent questions. Why are 'they' doing this? Why is terror existing? Who are these terrorists? What drives them to do these suicidal acts?

Kanhaiya Kumar hails from a poor family from a village near Begusarai, Bihar. He is a bright young man full of ideals. Is there any proof yet that he has done anything anti-national?

So far, nothing.

Then - Why is he in jail on charges of sedition? Where is the evidence? More importantly, if he has not, then who are the sloganeers who shouted those anti-national slogans?

Power, Position and Responsibility
In such situations all one expects is that justice is done by those who are vested with the power. That constitutional procedures are followed. Tact and patience and maturity take precedence and all voices heard. Instead we read reports from the media - from the Home Minister himself who said something as serious as saying that these students were backed by LeT.

But so far no further substantiation happened on that. Now after so many days I am wondering if such a case exists at all and why the Minister remains quiet on that statement. Or why the police chief of Delhi who earlier said he had adequate evidence to convict Kanhaiya of sedition now says he will let his bail plea go unopposed.

Is KK anti-national or not? (I have another question from the recent past - is Rohith Vemula a dalit or not?)

What if KK is not?
If in case Kanhaiya Kumar, is not guilty of shouting anti-national slogans or of any other such acts, and instead is found to be a true patriot and 'national' (whatever that means and which looks like the case form the latest developments), what would the government do to undo the damage done to him? In case he is innocent, why has he been made the face of this anti-national university? Who are the sloganeers then and what must be done with them? What does it make of those who tried to implicate a patriot in an anti-national case and who beat him up?

Left alone KK's acts or non-acts would have died. The excessive force used here has made the issue what is. Just as it did with Rohith Vemula. A student meeting has now become a debate on everyone's nationalism and patriotism. It has divided many people on what they believe is nationalism and how it should be practiced - whether the constitution agrees with those views or not.

Why are students now part of 'them'?
If his speech is any indication, Kanhaiya is someone with clear views and greater clarity on the concept of patriotism (he is bound by the Constitution he says) than most political leaders I have heard. If he is innocent of these charges, Kanhaiya Kumar, appears more patriotic than many others - he is talking of inclusivity, of the true meaning of democracy, of equality, of justice, of the law of the land and of the oppressed or the 80% he wishes to represent. He appears to have come this far despite ordinary circumstances, much like Rohith Vemula. Why then, we should ask ourselves, are students from such ordinary backgrounds, those who seem to have high calibre, in the limelight for the wrong reasons? Why are they fighting an entire system filled with powerful Ministers, police, VCs? If they are guilty of asking questions, why can we not give them answers? Why should be die? Why should they be thrown in jail for asking questions?

All progress comes from asking questions. If we beat people who ask questions it only means we don't have the answers. Be patient with our children. They are also our own. If they are straying, sit back and wonder how to counsel them, how to address their questions and insecurities. But do not disown them and malign them because they ask questions or have a point of view.

There are many voices in a society. In a country. You must represent the voices, not your own group. As elected representatives you are leading the country and not those who speak your language only.

But they are anti-national
Will we excuse anti-nationals? No. They must face the due course of the law.

Is a debate or a dissenting thought or view anti-national? Not in my book.

Will we excuse injustice? No. It is injustice and it cannot be condoned. Either give evidence of the boy's complicity and proceed against him or accept that you made a mistake and hold those responsible accountable.

Justice must be equal for all. In this case it is not. There is one rule for those who beat up people in the court premises and one rule for those who speak their views on campuses.

As we go beyond ministers, lawyers, police, and as we see the Delhi police commissioner now saying he will not oppose KK's bail plea, one wonders what changed. Who will now be hanged for all this polarisation and misinformation?

Questions - always questions, aid progress
And then I saw again videos of speeches from the JNU teachers and professors. I like their idealism, their right to dissent. It does appear that the JNU has a culture of questioning everything - which is fine. We owe answers to our youth. If we cannot give answers to the youth, is we cannot sit across the table and discuss their fears and apprehensions, what future are we building for them?

What I found interesting in those speeches by the Professors is the rapt attention on the faces of the students, of all participants. I always wished that the youth of the country are more politically conscious - and in these days of the Internet they can easily access information and form opinions better. I am even more happier when these bright sparks come out of nowhere. From Guntur. From Begusarai.

If, in the end the system does find these students anti-national, what then becomes our responsibility? Why have we made them so? That is the next question.

A JNU student's view of it all.

The witch hunting against Umar Khalid is also interesting. He is a Muslim. He was branded a Kashmiri and a JeM sympathiser and a terrorist when it appears that he is in fact from Aurangabad, an atheist and has views on Kashmir.

Is there any law that says that the media cannot give out any story they wish without proof? Or like the Minister who avers without giving the basis that Rohith Vemula was not a Dalit? Or another minister who calls a student anti-national and casteist? Or another minister who says its not a Dalit versus non-Dalit issue when clearly it is? Or a minister who says student politics in an elite university are backed by a terror group? Or a police chief saying he has adequate evidence one day to convict the young man of sedition and on another days says he will not oppose bail?

If he is anti-national and guilty of sedition why are you not opposing bail? If he is not, why have you slapped such serious charges against him without proper evidence?

What can the leadership do? Use power with responsibility. Use it, like the Taoists says, gently. Lead everyone, not just some. Be kind to your children whether they speak your language or another. Make those harsh eyes and voices gentler. Show love in your hearts. Show more tolerance and patience with your children. Include the bright sparks in the marginalised sectors who are struggling to find the equality that they have been promised on paper - don't marginalise them further by pushing them to suicides and to jail on charges of sedition.

The story unfolds yet and much information is not out there but from what is coming, one can guess where it is heading. At this point my respect for our leadership is not high. All has not been said yet, so I will still wait to see what the government has to say about all that it has said and done so far. The final act of the play is yet to play out. But so far, it does not look too good for us and our leaders if we treat our dissenting youth with suspicion and anger. Such an attitude will only distance them further.

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