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The JNU issue – politics all around




It was speculated during the Muzaffarnagar riots and the tense situation thereafter that this was actually due to an understanding between the BJP and the SP; the tense situation would result in a polarization of communities; the Hindus would polarize in favor of the BJP and the SP would have the Muslim community (they already have support of the Yadav’s and some among the remainder of the Hindu community). The other parties would all get squeezed out of the picture. The script worked well, with the BJP enjoying an unprecedented win in the Lok Sabha polls, but the SP really did not get anything much to gloat out from the election. However, the polarization that was attempted in elections after the Lok Sabha elections did not provide much electoral benefits – the BJP lost out in Delhi and Bihar, and lost out massively.
The JNU problem is something that is equally complex. On the surface, it is pretty simple. During a demonstration, some students raised anti-Indian slogans, and it was pointed out that this would be equivalent to sedition. The tension in the air was raised significantly, with news channels, the police and BJP members pointing out that this was a major problems. After all, JNU has always been seen to be a leftist bastion, and it was an easy extrapolation to claim that the students at JNU are essentially anti-national. The pressure to do something grew fast, and since the JNU student union President, Kanhaiya Kumar, was seen to be part of the demonstration, he was arrested and charged with sedition. The other students supposedly who were the main slogan shouters went underground and were not caught.

The atmosphere went more tense, with many news channels ramping up their attack on Kanhaiya and JNU, claiming that they are associated with anti-national activities, or with terrorism. There are calls for JNU to be shut down. On the other side were a number of students in JNU, the teachers, and students from some other universities which supported the right of the students in terms of freedom of speech. The concept of freedom of speech is a bit nebulous in terms of popular reaction. A number of people could not understand how freedom of speech or expression could be extended to raising anti-national slogans. Some channels (primarily Zee News and Times Now) went hammer and tongs on how this concept of anti-nationalism needed to be nipped in the bud. The father of the missing student was asked to condemn his own son for being an anti-national.
In the meantime, the police role seemed to be a strange. There were police personnel present at the demonstration, but the evidence presented by the police seems to be the video footage given to them by Zee TV, not from their personnel present on the site. Further, other news channels have shown through expert opinion that the footage shown on TV repetitively is actually doctored, with audio from one video being loaded onto another video. This managed to show Kanhaiya asking for azaadi (freedom) while he was apparently asking for freedom from price rise, freedom from communal tension, which is a very different outlook on things.
What really makes the whole issue dangerous is the Patiala House court incidents. Kanhaiya Kumar was supposed to be taken to the court for judicial proceedings and there were teachers from JNU along with reporters at the court premises. On 2 separate occasions, a set of lawyers took the law extremely into their own hands, attacking the students, attacking the teachers, attacking journalists, and also attacking Kanhaiya Kumar. The police apparently stood by and let these attacks happen, and even after that, there has been really no action on the lawyers. This kind of action reminds one of lawyers who praised the killer of a Pakistan Minister (apparently because he was supporting blasphemy); we really need to be careful that we do not go down a path where people are allowed to do what they want irrespective of the law; or that people are presumed guilty from the beginning. The conduct of Delhi Police and its chief has been atrocious in this entire matter and have covered themselves with egg – this reflects badly on Rajnath Singh who actually controls the Delhi Police.
In this matter, things need to be cooled down now. There were some people who apparently raised anti-national slogans, they need to be caught and prosecuted and the court needs to design on the boundaries of freedom of speech. The lawyers who took to violence need to be punished after an investigation, and the BJP needs to learn that trying to raise the pitches of nationalism really does not play too much electoral dividends.




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