The sedition charge against Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of one of the students’ unions of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) seems to have been dropped as he has since been allowed interim bail for six months by the Delhi High Court. He was arrested after a demonstration by the students in JNU earlier this month on 9th February protesting against the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru who was allegedly the mastermind of the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001 even as it was in session. Guru’s execution took place in Delhi’s Tihar Jail on 3rd February 2013.
The charge against Kanhaiya arose out of the report that during the demonstration some of the participants had raised anti-India slogans. The slogans raised were about their resolve to struggle till dismemberment and ruination of the country. Branding Afzal Guru’s death sentence as “judicial killing” was itself a show of disrespect for the Supreme Court. Besides, some slogans demanding freedom for Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland were also raised. “Aazadi” (freedom) is a slogan frequently heard in Kashmir, especially shouted by those who are known as “separatists”. Later reports from JNU indicated that the slogans against the country were mainly raised by Kashmiris some of whom are students of the University and some others were from outside who joined them for the occasion. Apparently, the court didn’t find any evidence of any seditious act against Kanhaiya and hence granted him interim bail.
JNU has always been a hotbed of activists of all kinds where resentment and protests against the ruling dispensations go hand in hand. The Left oriented faculty, some of whom were card-carrying communists, have been infusing in their wards a kind of rebellious streak, a revolutionary fervor coupled with anti-statism. Established in the late 1960s by Indira Gandhi as a crucible for promoting socialist thought it never could change course over the years. Nonetheless, it nurtured some very bright scholars who have done very well in India and abroad in the fields of management, public administration, teaching and research. Perhaps, there is always some spark of brilliance in those who rebel against their surroundings and turn against the establishment, ventilating their resentment against it with all their might. This time, on 9th February last, they crossed the line while protesting against the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru.
The slogans and the subsequent arrest of Kanhaiya let loose a furore in the media, both print and electronic. The University has, of late, acquired a troubled legacy because of its students’ frequent brush with the faculty and/or administrative authorities. It has always been volatile, sizzling with leftist anger against the Right or any shade thereof. The University and its students have supporters in the media who not only are sympathetic but also claim to be “secular” as against the current ruling dispensation of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP).
What is known in this country as the liberal and secular press is, quite obviously, pretty strong. The so-called liberals and secularists are not only in the Indian National Congress led by Indira Gandhi’s daughter in-law, Sonia Gandhi, but also in the Left parties like Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Revolutionary Socialist Party that also leans toward the Marxist and Leninist ideology. Also hordes of unattached liberals/seculars constitute their intellectual capital. Having wielded the reins of power for most of the post-independence history of the country the (liberals and) secularists have had immeasurable opportunities to consolidate their hold over national psyche by planting people of their choice in establishments and institutions of national importance and/or doling out favours to those who toed their line. These include placements in key positions in institutions and organizations of higher learning and research as also those that deal with culture and the practice of it. They have also insinuated into the media, both print and electronic. Having acquired a critical mass over time, such secularists and/or liberals, if threatened, can and do swing public opinion in their favour. In comparison, the Indian Right hardly has any presence in the media except, of course, a few intellectuals who could be counted on the finger tips.
The turbulence in the JNU followed by arrests and filing of charges of sedition against Kanhaiya were a great handle presented on a platter for the secularists, led mainly by the Congressmen, to beat their sworn enemy with, the BJP and Prime Minister Modi. Entrenched for a decade at the Centre and indulging in unfathomable corruption, the Indian National Congress was routed at the 2014 General Elections. That is when the tectonic shift took place. The hated Bharatiya Janta Party came to power and of all the people the man, Narendra Modi, against whom the secular brigade had run a persistent campaign for more than a decade and a half for allegedly overseeing the communal killings during the Gujarat riots in 2002 became the prime minister. Discomfited, they started slamming the new government from the word go – more so, Modi himself. His party having overall majority, Modi had nothing to fear and he generally overlooked the jibes and barbs. They made issues out of the indiscriminate statements of a few elements of Hindu fringe in the ruling party or alleged attacks on places of worship of the minority communities or killings of a few free-thinkers and even killing of a Muslim for allegedly having consumed beef by over-zealous members of the Hindu fringe and blamed Modi for all the things.
They successfully raised the din about, what they called, “rising intolerance” in the largely tolerant Indian society and ventilated their views not only in the domestic media but also abroad. A spate of articles against the government and even the Hindu religion were published by prominent US and British newspapers. Those who went abroad on invitations of foreign organization did not let go of the opportunity of speaking against the government and the intolerant environment it allegedly had created. Taking a cue from Rahul Gandhi, the Congress Vice President, their aim was to run down the government, especially the Prime Minister in the West. This was more because of the rousing receptions that Prime Minister Modi was accorded in several world capitals - receptions like of which none of their prime minister was ever accorded. The basic idea was to run him down in the eyes of the world leaders with whom Modi has developed a great rapport and is on first name terms.
The reverberations of the JNU incident continue in the press. The basic issue that is being debated is whether it was a case of sedition that the government was quick to seize and slap against the students, including Kanhaiya Kumar. The secularists are holding forth in the newspapers on what constitutes anti-nationalism or anti-India, dilating on their views on nationalism and seditious acts which, generally, tend to favour the anti-establishment view, more so since the ruling party today has always been branded as communal. Strangely, they are not able to distinguish between anti-establishment and anti-India slogans.
What the JNU students are guilty of is raising anti-India slogans – the slogans that were not anti-BJP or anti-Modi. They were against the Indian State.