The JNU controversy and Rohith Vemulas suicide have taught us some valuable lessons. First and foremost is the fact that none of the minorities or marginalized classes are safe in India. The idea of secularism is dead and the voice of dissent has been brutally silenced. These two events have also brought to light the fact that in our country, different versions of nationalism are being constantly patronized different political ideologies and each party remains busy in imposing its version of nationalism. In a situation like this, individual liberty, freedom of thought and expression and right to dissent are brutally murdered. If things continue like this, our country, which takes pride in its unity in diversity, will soon be broken into small pieces.
What is disturbing is that instead of taking steps to hold the social fabric of our society together, these events are used to play political gimmicks. Certain fringe elements are not able to comprehend the beauty of diversity and are busy trying to suppress minorities. Being secular automatically gets you the label of being antinational, as does criticizing the government. Our leaders are busy promoting their versions of nationalism, even if these versions exceed all limits of humanity. The agonizing part is that the highest institutes of learning, our universities, are not able to distance themselves from what is unfolding at political and societal levels.
After incidents like Rohith Vemulas suicide and JNU controversy, the parliament session was expected to be chaotic. The drama by Smriti Irani was no surprise considering her background, however certain misleading statements from her, particularly with regards to Rohit Vemullas suicide, were not expected at all. Her acting skills may be worth applauding but her lies were simply appalling. No wonder the media didnt lose a moment to disparage her. The HRD minister in her parliament speech said that nobody allowed a doctor near Rohith to revive him or take him to the hospital. She also said that Rohith sbody was used as a political tool and no police was allowed inside till 6.30 am the next morning. However, this has been contradicted by the Chief Medical Officer of Hyderabad Central University, Dr Rajashree and by the students. In fact, a video showing police presence near Rohith Vemulas body in his hostel room has also been played by many news channels. The CMO further revealed that it was the students who took her to Rohith’s room where he was found hanging and requested her to make an attempt to revive him. The HRD ministers furious comments over the JNU controversy are a slap on the face of democracy in our country. It must be noted that the video, on the basis of which Kanhaiya Kumar,Omar Khalid and others have been charged with sedition, is believed to be doctored. These facts suggest that sedition law is being used to suppress the dissenting voices in our country in the same way it was used by the colonial rulers.
It is a little heart-warming that some prominent personalities have at least expressed their disagreement over the way this country is being run. While expressing his dissatisfaction over the law on sedition under Section 124A,Gandhiji termed it as the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizens. What he said in 1922 holds true even today. The Supreme Court of India too has argued in many cases that raising mere slogans can in no way be used to slap sedition charges on the citizens (Kedar Nath Singhs Case, Indra Das v State of Assam, Arup Bhuyan v State of Assam, Shreya Singhal v Union of India, Balwant Singh v State of Punjab).
The Indian state needs to remind itself about what Gandhiji reminded the British Government in 1922, Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. A particular version of nationalism, forced and imposed, cannot bring true patriotism in the subjects of a state.
Universities are a place of learning, research, debate, discussion and expression of ideas and opinions. Caste discrimination, intolerance and suppression of ideas should have no place at these highest institutes of learning. State should try to liberate young minds and not cage them. Those who make fiery speeches in parliament to justify these actions need to understand that Lies Never triumph.
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