Why JNU arrests should trouble us?

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The government’s full frontal assault on JawaharlalNehruUniversity following Afzal Guru event has generated a political furore in the country. It has decisively drawn battle-lines between the right and the rest. The event, in many ways, symbolizes the India of today. The students had gathered at the Press Club of India to observe the third death anniversary of Guru. And during the event some students had raised anti-India slogans. And since then even the identity of those shouting these slogans has run into controversy. A video doing the rounds on social sites shows some ABVP activists raising these slogans and later holding placards which foisted this sloganeering on to the Leftist student union. But the government was not to be distracted by this alleged fraud and the other complexities of the event.  Without losing any time, the police was asked to crackdown on the organizers. Home minister Rajnath Singh said there will be strict action against the offenders. “If anyone raises anti-India slogans and tries to raise questions on the nation’s unity and integrity, they will not be spared,” Singh told media.

 Similarly, union human resource development minister Smriti Irani told media: “nation can never tolerate any insult to Mother India”. In no time, the police raided the campus and the hostels, including even those of the girls,  The JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar was hauled away to lock-up and slapped with seditious charges. The students were branded anti-national. Rajnath went a step further by stating that the JNU event was backed by Lashker chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. His evidence was a tweet attributed to a fake Twitter handle.

 If anything, this raid on JNU is one more example of the dangerous turn India is taking. It is now the BJP government at the centre which now decides what the nationalism is and imposes the same on the country. Disturbingly enough, it is now Hindutva that has become synonymous with nationalism and anybody who breaches its narrow ideological straitjacket is anti-national. In fact, all who don’t subscribe to Hindutva are branded anti-nationals. And what is this Hindutva? It is a brute majoritarianism cloaked in an ideology steeped in  Hindu religiosity. This idea of India has little place for minorities. The old Indian secularism that Modi has replaced with what he was keen to rebrand as an all-encompassing and inclusive Hindutva wasn’t what it professed to be. It was more about form and curtsey than substance and action. More an election season slogan than a policy of governance. More symbolism than deed. More politics than a political philosophy.  As Rajnath explicitly stated it, the patriotism that India has to subscribe to is the Hindutva patriotism. There is no other definition for it: no scope for alternative thinking. Worse, there can’t even ber an alternative way of life. Sections of people in the country are not permitted to have grievances and alternative political aspirations.

 India is, therefore, at a fork in the road: we could either have a country where the BJP creed becomes dominant, forcing other parties to fall in line or a secular fightback, this time hopefully in its bonafide avatar. We hope that the country, sooner than later embarks on the latter course.  JNU event has once again confronted India with a stark political choice between a secular, inclusive India or an exclusive, majoritarian country, RSS vouches for.    

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