From Central University Hyderabad to JNU: An Era of Intolerance
“A University stands for humanism. For tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher objectives. If the Universities discharge their duties adequately, then it is well with the Nation and the People.” Address to a Special convocation of University of Allahabad, December, 13, 1947
The approach of current regime towards the recent incidents in Central University Hyderabad and Jawahar Lal Nehru University is not only outside the framework of the constitution, but also, against the values’ enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution of India. Although, the context of issue is different in both the cases, but, the approach of current regime is predetermined. The common thread in approach of the current regime is to address any type of crisis outside the frame of constitution and an attempt to legitimize anti-constitutional approach paving way to anarchy. Obviously, in this type of anarchy, the definitions of nationalism are not defined by the constitution, but by subjective interpretation of self appointed nationalists. At the outset, it may be clearly said that the anti-India slogans (incidents of 9/2/16 in JNU), raised as visible in some video footages , must be condemned and needful may be done as per law.
Rahul Gandhi outrightly said, “Congress Party condemns any expression of anti-nationalism outright. Those indulging in such behavior must be identified and dealt with strictly”. Further, He said, “Anti-India sentiments are unquestionably unacceptable. But the right to dissent and debate is an essential ingredient of any democracy. The Modi government and the ABVP bullying an institution like JNU, simply because it won’t follow their line, is condemnable. The most anti-national people are the ones who are suppressing the voice of this institution”. None of minister or office bearer of BJP demanded judicial investigation on the whole issue.
Although, the High Level Enquiry Committee of three senior Faculty members constituted by JNU identified eight students, and recommended disciplinary actions. Further, the Times of India reported (17/2/16, 10:35am) “The latest reports by intelligence agencies suggest that there is no video evidence with the Delhi police yet to show JNU student’s union leader Kanhaiya Kumar shouted “anti-national” slogans on the campus. They also rule out the role of terror elements as claimed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh”. Instead of accepting this report or constituting any higher judicial investigation, The discourse of BJP painted entire JNU as centre for terrorist activity. It is most unfortunate approach of any governments towards university system. If BJP cabinet minister or HRD or Home Minister would have taken a stand to take action as per any judicial investigation, the people of this country would have been told the truth in totality. But, the interpretation of people like BJP MLA was propagated as final truth and in the name of BJP’s ‘Final truth’, the anti-social elements and members of extremist groups got a license to issue certificate of nationalism. This version of nationalism is contrary to the understanding of nationalism of Mahatama Gandhi, Dr. Ambedkar, Nehru etc.
Infact, this BJP’s version of nationalism do not have space for diversity and dissent; interpretation is fixed and parameters of interpretation are predetermined. Rahul Gandhi has vehemently opposed BJP’s version of nationalism where anarchy, physical attacks on teachers, women, students, minorities, tribals, dalits etc., are justified. The three activists of ABVP (JNU) resigned in protest against the approach of current regime. These students include Rahul Yadav (President, SSS), Ankit Hans( Sec, SSS), Pradeep Narval (Joint secretary, ABVP, JNU).
These students said, “They cannot be mouthpiece of a government that has unleashed oppression on student community”. NDTV India reported (18/2/16, 2:19 PM) ‘‘नरवाल ने कहा कि कन्हैया के बारे में दोष और सजा का फैसला उच्चतम न्यायालय को करने दिया जाए। कानून को अपना काम करने देना चाहिए और भारत में ‘‘तालिबान संस्कृति’’ नहीं होनी चाहिए।’’
Similarly, Rahul Gandhi vehemently expressed anguish against involvement of authorities (although degree may vary) directly/indirectly in brutalities as reflected in cases of Dadri, Sunpedh, University of Hyderabad. The institutionalized murder of Rohith Vemula is an institutionalized and organized attempt to define India in a particular way which is against diverse ideas of India evolved and celebrated throughout history. Infact, Hyderabad has become centre of alternate interpretation w.r.t knowledge production and SC/ST students are participating in this process in large numbers. As per Bhopal document, the share of total SC/ST population in Andhra Pradesh in 7% and approx 18% of this population goes for Higher education. Increasingly, the new generation of SC/ST/OBC is reading Phule, Ambedkar, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Kancha Iliah etc., in different ways, and a new range of interpretations is emerging opposed by fascist forces. Unfortunately, the ministers of current regime at centre are unable to understand diversity of thought and innovative way of alternate thinking as reflected in the ideas and philosophy of Rohith , so Bandaru Dattatraya described this thinking as anti-national and extremist. Prior to NDA, the elected M.P.s, Cabinet Ministers never wrote these kinds of letters to describe other (in this case students) as anti-national. Shockingly, It is glorified by complete silence of Honorable Prime Minister either on this issue or issues of Dadri or Sunpedh or JNU or irresponsible statements of its cabinet ministers.
The Honourable Prime Minister may not be associated with this culture of intolerance, but his complete silence or act of spectator puzzles this country in totality especially when members of his party are taking law into their own hands. Obviously, in the name of x or y incidents, the current government is trying to impose its own version of nationalism and this version of nationalism is neither inclusive nor as per spirit of the constitution. Instead of following institutionalized mechanisms such as enquiry committees etc., as established by University system and its autonomy, we are moving towards a dictatorship and highly autocratic system as was done by Hitler or Stalin. In the name of national interest, we are subduing dissenting voices and it must be resisted by talking what is nationalism. Therefore, any era which is defined and conceptualized outside the framework of Constitution and whose methods are based on violence is an era of intolerance.
The author is a Professor in Department of History, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi