KANHAIYA SPOKE WELL

Irrespective of going into the Qualitatives of Kanhaiya Kumar’s address – that he said was not a speech but accumulative expression of his experiences – after his release from the Tihar Jail today – was really something to listen to.

The man spoke well. He had a flow. And he sounded fearless, objective and bound to an ideology. That is probably the difference age brings – a kind of puritan fearlessness where you don’t really think much of the consequences.

Some years ago, once, I had chance to speak to Dr. Binayak Sen over the phone, after he had got a long fought but ‘temporary’ bail in the sedition case the state had imposed on him along with other serious charges. It was a brief conversation where Dr. Sen sounded very cautious on what to speak and what not to. He was evasive on directly answering most of the questions even during our brief conversation.

Dr. Sen is an inspiration – a great crusader of social rights – and he is still the same Dr. Binayak Sen – that he was – when he had started giving shape to the ‘Mitanin’ programme for the tribal people in Chhattisgarh’s hinterlands.

But when I spoke to Dr. Sen, he was around 60 – with years of incarceration and system’s oppression behind him. He was hounded like a hardened criminal when he had simply done his job – of being a doctor – in places no one else wishes to enter. If it is said that doctors are next only to God, doctors like Binayak Sen give a reason to validate that.

But years of State’s hostility and prison term with ageing turned him into a silent crusader than a vocal activist I can say. Something that is not there in case of Kanhaiya Kumar – the 29 year old JNU Students Union president. He is young. He is armed with an ideology. And he sounded like ready to fight come what may. Yes, the Constitutional sanctity is pristine but every act then is permissible within its norms, irrespective of the ideological affiliations (and difference).

The case against Kanhaiya Kumar was always on a flimsy ground and he should have got bail much earlier. In fact, the whole JNU incident (row) was mishandled. We should wish for more in line developments now onward.

This speech by the fellow, delivered at the prestigious institution a while ago, tells where the system erred. Dissent is a must for democracy. Democracy needs consistent spark at ideological levels. A healthy culture of dissent and debate strengthens the Constitution that runs any democracy. Subaltern history should be as important to us as History is.

Irrespective of the observations like a ‘political leader is born today’ or ‘Kanhaiya is making a career option for him’, we should wish this incident, the whole JNU row, may prove a blessing in disguise for us. It has to be much more than mere a ‘making of breaking of a leader’. It has to be a step ahead in the quest to make a just and responsible society. Let’s not make him a hero or a leader. Let’s not do anything to anyone like Kanhaiya Kumar that could bury the valid hopes anymore.

India has had not meaningful and coherent student moments while even China had one – resulting in one of the darkest chapters in the history of mankind – the Tiananmen Massacre – when China’s authoritarian regime had killed hundreds of protesting students (some reports quote even thousands).

We should hope this be the right beginning for student movements in India – for student activism from the petty levels of student politics that is reeling under the corrupt and ruthless vice-chancellors mainstream political concerns. The ground is ripe – after the hugely successful civil society anti-corruption movement of 2011 and the massive protests by outraged students and civil society in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya gangrape case of 2012.

Technology is a leveller and it is helping us, in our societies – to get connected – to speak out and to reach out. Spiral of silence in our country is peeking now. And in my view, it is the next big leap of social media after the Arab Spring. It is heartening to see the hashtag #KanhaiyaKumar trending at top on Twitter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

NOTHING OF ANYTHING ‘ULTRA’ PLEASE!

Here it is in the context of the ongoing ‘national Vs anti-national’ debate!

JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar was released today on interim bail for six months and we saw wide scale celebrations – at Jantar Mantar and in JNU.

The celebrations are logical only if they are a natural reaction to the administrative actions taken (or excesses done) by the State and the police and not when they are seen as extensions of the feelings hostile to the nation.

It becomes sort of ‘ultra-leftist’ then.

— The way some people have acted like ‘ultra-nationalists’ to create a monster out from a prestigious institution and some over-enthusiastic students – something that is totally unacceptable!

We are free to exercise our Constitutional right of the freedom of expression as long as it doesn’t interfere with the sanctity provided to us by the Constitution, a sanctity we start losing the day we start colluding with anti-India sentiments.

Our Constitution, as laid out by the Supreme Court, still protects as – even if we shout anti-India voices.

But the day, we go beyond the restrictions of this sanctity – when we start acting on the feelings so far expressed only through some innocuous words – innocuous because so far they had not incited anyone to acts against the interests of the nation – we lose this Constitutional protection.

Why is JNU an example of the ‘state’s excesses’? Because this Constitutional sanctity was still not violated there. And if there was a fit case for taking action against anti-India sloganeering, the State should have explored the options befitting to an educational institution and students first, instead of going into the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

For a legal, penal and judicial system that believes in rehabilitation, students do deserve a second chance.

We need to see that leftists don’t become ‘ultra-leftists’.

Likewise, we need to see that nationalists don’t cross the fine line of Constitutional obligation and become ‘ultra-nationalists’ – the way a BJP MLA and some lawyers did – the way anti JNU-students lobby has acted – the way some fringe elements have been raising voices consistently.

Debate, dissent, ideological differences, multi-party presence and a strong civil society – all these are must for a healthy and maturing democracy. A democracy cannot become strong if it has a weak political opposition. A democracy ceases to be a democracy the day a single ideology establishes absolute domination within its precincts.

Democracy needs rightists! Democracy needs leftists! Democracy needs centrists. Sans their ‘ultra-esque’ brethren – without them clinging to the ‘ultra’ extremes!

A democracy never needs ‘ultra-leftists’ or ‘ultra-nationalists’. They choke the dialogues process that all the stakeholders, that we all are, must engage in to create a pluralistic society, a robust democracy and a strong nation.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

TO THE POINT ON THESE JNU ROW DEVELOPMENTS

The JNU row has become the talking point of the nation. The controversy is spreading like a wildfire now – from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi to Jadavpur University in Kolkata to University of Hyderabad to Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi – almost across India – and if something concrete is not done – it may soon engulf the nation.

And when and if it happens so – it may upset many equations – apart from destabilizing the society – because we must not forget that even a China could not control students from coming together and organizing a Tiananmen protest that resulted in the Tiananmen Massacre – one of the most horrific and most talked about dark chapters of the 20th Century.

There has been intense buzz and every related development makes for news headlines. There are versions, counter versions and more versions. There are claims and counter claims and there are related developments.

And in all this, one development stood out for its plain speak with highly effective, to the point imagery – on presenting some ugly faces in this row – of goons in the garb of people next door and of Delhi Police – clearly on the back-foot here – by making a ‘big something’ out of almost nothing and the way BS Bassi – the Delhi Police Commissioner is reacting, Bassi is sounding more and more empty.

The Telegraph’s front pages of February 16 and February 17 are right at the point in capturing the essence of the developments in the ongoing row.

The February 16 front page has a cover story talking about BJP MLA OP Sharma and the unruly mob of lawyers who were worse than goons who attacked supporters of Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students Union president who has been arrested for allegedly participating in a seditious meet, and journalists including women journalists – in the court premises -and that too in India’s national capital.

The Telegraph 16 Feb

Its headlines ‘The Patriot’ with ‘riot’ in red colour hits right chords. Yes, we cannot allow anyone to abuse law like these bunch of lawless lawyers and OP Sharma did – even if we knew ‘how law would take its due course’ in dealing with these goons.

The February 17 front page was again rightly and very sensibly headlined ‘The Thought Police’ – on Delhi Police and its ‘now controversial’ chief Bassi. Bassi has clearly failed here – himself and us.

The Telegraph 17 Feb

People had thought he would be the first Delhi Police Commissioner in many years to have completed his term without a major personal controversy – until this JNU row happened. We don’t know what are his reasons to act so – but his attitude has raised unanswered questions – and he has consistently failed to justify his ‘discriminatory’ stand – on coming down heavily on Kanhaiya Kumar – and on conveniently ignoring the goons in the garb of lawyers – and OP Sharma – when everything happened in front of press cameras – when the Delhi Police filed the sedition case against Kanhaiya Kumar on a video clip from a television channel.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

JNU ROW: QUESTIONS WE MUST ASK!

THE QUESTIONS

The JNU row (Jawaharlal Nehru University) has debased to such lows that we seriously need to ask questions – on the whole socio-political milieu prevailing at the moment:

— That what was and what would be the right approach – to let the incident pass by taking strict disciplinary action against the erring students? – or making a fuss about it to the level that it has now escalated to the extent to threaten the academic atmosphere in many other universities?

Obviously, the sane and the logical voices would say a disciplinary action would be enough to address the issue – if at all it was needed – or that it would be precisely in course to ignore the event because it was not a majority view there, in fact just a handful of students were for it, and it was not the first time in JNU.

— Was it a case fit for police intervention? Now, after a week of row and its spread to other universities, we can safely say NO. In the age-groupthe  of being students, we all are impulsive, reactive, susceptible to sentiments and above all, we question ethos if we don’t conform to them – even if it means airing our views about the state, about its affairs. Being a student should be about that. We need to get outraged and speak our mind whenever we see something wrong. That is permissible within the democratic norms – something that is even the top custodian of the Indian Constitution, the Supreme Court of India, accepts – saying unless words incite action, it is not a fit case for imposing sedition laws. We may be wrong, like here these ‘pro Afzal Guru’ protesters were, but then there were other possible means to handle the situation than a police intervention.

— That if the administration was hell-bent on ‘improving’ the situation, sanitizing JNU of anti-national elements? If it was so, and no problem in that, then why did the Delhi Police act so late. Reports say the Delhi Police had information prior to the event.

— What were they waiting for? If the Delhi Police can proactively raid a government run canteen (Kerala House beef controversy) in the name of taking precautionary measures to prevent any untoward incident in the name of beef politics, why didn’t they do so here?

— Since February 9, it was JNU. Since yesterday, it is Jadavpur University. University of Hyderabad is also delicately balanced at the moment. Now, in the name of taking tough action on the so-called ‘anti-national’ elements in our university system, in our academic institutions, aren’t we risking something much more insane – something that would vitiate the academic atmosphere by dividing students along the lines of differing ideologies?

Universities must be the first place in any society to inculcate a culture of debate with differing voices and ideologies and the emphasis should be on developing in-built mechanisms to address voices of extreme like the ‘pro Afzal Guru’ event of JNU. There were just handful of students (10-15), and even that is not sure that if they all were from JNU, and their voice would never matter in the whole group of over 7000 JNU students.

— Aren’t all political parties culprit of adding fuel to the fire? From Arvind Kejriwal to Rahul Gandhi to senior BJP and Congress politicians to Mayawati to Nitish Kumar to Omar Abdullah and all others including the natural claimants, the Left parties with their legacy in JNU, who made statements or visited JNU to take sides – everyone is responsible to make what JNU has become today – since February 9 – and what University of Jadavpur is becoming since yesterday.

— Aren’t we all to share the blame? Aren’t we all instilling fear in minds of our students? Aren’t we all forcing our students to take extreme steps like Rohith Vemula did or like the three students of a Villupuram allied medical college did or like a Ph.D. scholar in Central University of Rajasthan who committed suicides after harassment from his research guide? Incidents like JNU crackdown or policies that make vice-chancellors excessively powerful are solely responsible and therefore it is the system that is behind such events or policies.

— Did the police act politically? Did the police act in haste? Did the Delhi Police make the matters worse? Yes, in fact, it is the Delhi Police that is primarily responsible for making this much of something that was initially nothing. And they have continued with their charade. They found an anti-national in Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students Union president, very conveniently and arrested him but they have conveniently ignored the goondaism and lawlessness of some of the lawyers, an spectacle that has been on obscene display since yesterday thrashing Kanhaiya Kumar, his supporters and journalists including women – in the name of nationalism or patriotism. But like the ultra-leftist (DSU, the Democratic Students Union in this case), we also don’t need these ultra-nationalists. And the list of such bravados includes a BJP MLA. Things are on tape, recorded. The BJP MLA and the goons in the garb of lawyers are openly airing their views but the Delhi Police is still investigating, even if the Supreme Court reacted angrily on the lawlessness on display at the Patiala House Courts complex.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE RATAN TATA JNU BUZZ?

Yesterday, during and in the context of one of my articles on the ongoing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) row, I had used ‘access chaos and information chaos’ – that how access can become excess when we lead to chaos – and when we are misled to chaos.

Apart from the developments directly related to the JNU controversy, something happened that became its most legitimate example of the day.

It was the Ratan Tata development.

Now Ratan Tata is probably the most respected figure of the corporate India and that too in a constellation of very few. And the most remarkable thing about him is that his popularity extends beyond the corporate realms.

He is a real brand custodian of the most trusted and sincere brand name in India’s industrial space – Tata – that percolates much deeper in our psyche. Tata stands out not only for its corporate social responsibility but goes much beyond with its many ‘for society’ initiatives like hospitals and research institutes.

The name Ratan Tata inspires us to aspire – with his integrity, with his simplicity and with his sincerity.

That Ratan Tata was at the centre of a rumour mongering social media frenzy last day that linked him to the ongoing JNU row – in fact shown him taking sides – showing him in solidarity with the so-called ‘anti-national’ elements of JNU.

And it went to the extent that Tata Sons had to issue clarification that Ratan Tata had not said so.

Here is the message that went viral that said that ‘Tata would not employ JNU students anymore’.

Ratan-Tata-JNU-rumor-4

Ratan-Tata-JNU-rumor-2

These images in fact look shabbily treated and those who really know about Ratan Tata would not believe in any such message. But then there are many in this country, like those who are busy presenting their nationalist credentials these days, sometimes in JNU, sometimes in Hyderabad, sometimes at the Patiala House Courts Complex, and they would grab such ‘adding fuel to the fire’ developments instantly – as evident by tens of thousands of shares and likes on various social media platforms and on services like Whatsapp.

Ratan Tata

The charade went on for so long and spread so wide that the Tata Group had to take notice and issue clarification that Ratan Tata did not issue any such statement.

This is a perfect example how information access becomes chaos in one go and how rumours so quickly spread to add to a raging controversy or social unrest. The information available on internet can cause more harm than good if not used cautiously (and judiciously). The dream to make information accessible is a dream for everyone to see but we need to put qualifiers so as to lead us to order and not to chaos.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

HAPPENING THIS TO JNU ROW IS UNCALLED FOR..

The JNU row has taken a disturbing trend. It stirs your soul with negative energy now. Politicking has become worse but the worst part is – the issue, the JNU row and JNU, all have become a hotbed for conspiracy theories – going as far as a Hafiz Saeed involvement or cryptic Intelligence Bureau inputs or the so-called foreign designs.

Someone is busy labelling someone as anti-national. Someone is busy proving his nationalist credentials. Someone is crying hoarse over a Constitutional hara-kiri.

And everyone is busy settling political scores and seeking political mileage.

Yes, anti-India protests and sloganeering are unacceptable but there is nothing that makes case for #CleanUpJNU, the hashtag that was trending at the top throughout the day. And in fact, even at this hour a Twitter hashtag – #StopAntiIndiaCampaign – is trending at the top on Twitter’s India interface.

Yes, there are some misled JNU students but then society is first about counselling the misled – trying to take them in the social flow – especially when there are first time offenders. It has to give them the chance to undo some wrong first.

By simply saying that put those students behind bars, we cannot rid the society of this malaise. It goes much beyond that. And in fact, as the situation has become now, and as it is rapidly spreading, the anti-social and anti-national elements may exploit the sentiments to perpetrate some anti-society, anti-national plot.

You cannot say the counselling and mainstreaming are going to happen in an impulse. Counselling takes time. You cannot use force everywhere, especially on students.

Even the Supreme Court says mere sloganeering cannot be the ground for imposing the charge of sedition on someone unless the sloganeering incites some action. The top court had declared in 1962 – “Words and speech can be criminalised and punished only in situations where it is being used to incite mobs or crowds to violent action. Mere words and phrases by themselves, no matter how distasteful, do not amount to a criminal offence unless this condition is met.”

Let JNU be JNU, an academic institution. Let’s not make it a place to settle political scores and seek political mileage. The intense level of politicking, senior political leaders holding briefing sessions and consistent marches and rallies – these leave us in bad taste and are totally uncalled for.

That takes us to this natural question – has politics failed us?

It is both ways.

Politics has failed us. But politics also makes us the world’s largest democracy. Decision is for us to make.

There cannot be utopia, the ideal situation for a country, a society and the system that prevails there. It’s always a mixed bag – with negatives and positives. Yes, negatives look prevailing in our country but one cannot dismiss positives.

There are disparities and they are growing. But that is the case even with the US. The fact that we can openly discuss JNU row tells us a lot.

Europe had its Westphalian and renaissance moments. The US had its civil war and abolition moments. But they go back to centuries in making while sovereign, independent India is just 68 years old. Europe and US reformation took some 300 years or even more.

And if it has not happened in 68 years, the reform in our political system, then we need to accept that it is not enough time yet, even if we are at a cusp of technology revolution. We need to remember that technology revolution also brings information chaos and ‘access chaos’.

And there is no option but to struggle, persist and fight as long as what has been a practical universal norm for a good society is reached – as Vivekananda says – arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached.

Arvind Kejriwal’s coming to power in Delhi is indicative of that, even if he is failing us now. That experiment by people tells people are ready to speak, even if symbolically.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

JNU’S AFZAL GURU EVENT: DEPLORABLE!

It has to be absolutely true and a norm – that a university must serve as the first place to invite voices of dissent – if we have to talk about a healthy democratic society.

And in spite of all its flaws, we need to accept that India is such a place. Yes, there is no utopia. Voices are muzzled and crushed in India.

But it is equally true that voices are also raised and heard in India. See all around India and in many other countries and you can realize the importance of a nation being India.

Nowhere there is absolute freedom, including in the United States, in the United Kingdom or even in France, the European hotbed of rising terrorism in the name of Islam in the country.

We have seen how some much advanced societies have abused the concept of the ‘freedom of speech and opinion’ – like in WikiLeaks and Julian Assange’s case. Germany, the rare example of a nation regretting and remembering being the perpetrators of the darkest chapter in the history of human civilizations, the Holocaust, failed to do justice when it let most of the people responsible for the Holocaust off the hook – because there were too many Germans. We know about Russia and China.

So, nowhere is the place for an ideal concept to emerge and pragmatism is the best chance that we can have – voicing against voices crushing the voices of healthy dissent.

Yes, but we should always remember the qualifier here – ‘healthy dissent’.

We must remember, like anything and everything, ‘freedom to express, speak and opinionate’, too, is not absolute – be it in a democracy or in an autocracy or in an aristocracy.

And that is why the incidents at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi) revolving around Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat are deplorable. These two were declared terrorists by the Indian judicial system, after exhausting all democratic means, and were hanged on February 9, 2013 and February 11, 1984. Not going into much debate here, we must accept that these two, like many other anti-India separatists, were engaged in terrorist activities.

And no Indian can support them. Pakistan endorses, supports and promotes terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and other parts of India in the name of supporting ‘so called independence from India’ acts in J&K. The issue has dictated Indo-Pak ties since 1947 and we know the stand taken by the Government of India and Indians on separatists of J&K.

While it is democratic to allow the separatists to come to the dialogue table to listen to their grievances and see if there are points worth considering, it is certainly not acceptable that we start eulogising declared terrorists.

And every Indian must go by the norm that J&K is an integral part of India.

The video of the JNU event to pay tribute to Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat is even more disturbing when we listen to its whole content. It is openly anti-India and seditious. There can be debates on ‘hanging and pardon’ of Afzal Guru. Democracy has a scope for that – but certainly not for paying tributes to the people who engage in armed struggle against India – and certainly not for raising anti-India slogans that aim to wage war against the state to split it. 

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/