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JNU Row has opened up the debate on freedom of expression verses nationalism- Comment.


Organising a cultural event for poetry reading but ended up in marking the anniversary of hanging of terrorist Afzal Guru in one of the finest university has created a lot of controversy in the country in last one and half month. Hailing terrorist and raising anti-national slogans has resulted in sedition charges against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar. His arrest has created more menace than the actual cause.

First of all, one needs to explore the freedom of expression article 19(1) (a) of Indian Constitution grants us the freedom of speech and expression. But it is not an absolute right. It can be reasonably restricted on certain grounds out of which our speech should not hamper the sovereignty and integrity of India, wasn't "we will split India","pro Afzal" statements against the integrity of nation.

The another issue is what is nationalism and who is a nationalist. Throughout medieval times, our country has been ruled by in numerous foreign rulers like Mughal emperors and then Britishers ruled our country for nearly 200 years. We never retaliated any rule until and unless our personal sentiments were encroached. Hence, nationalism is a new concept to India. So, nationalism can be defined as a sense of belongingness and responsibility that comes along for a particular nation which has supported life from time immemorial.

Battering of students, journalists by a group of lawyers in Delhi's courts, exhibition of violence rather than handling the situation with legal approach, this was not only against morals but has also brought the idea of accepting the idea that violence in the name of nationalism is not deniable. And following this, denying courts summon orders three times and finally getting bail easily. Having authority in dealing the legal issues does not give the right to pick up the stick on one's own hand and start punishing.

The way politicians claimed that the incident being supported by Lashkar-E-Taiba Chief Hafiz Saeed and then left without proof to support their claims has taken the debate to higher level. And the opposition and leftist supporting the students by criticising the government for its way of imposing RSS ideology. Hence it has become a political battle which seems nothing more than vote bank politics. Politicising the issue rather than joining hands together and finding out a way is far more apprehensive.

The exaggeration by media and over exposure of students and displaying Kanhaiya as the hero amongst the youth of the country which is terrible on its side. Meanwhile Make in India event which took place in Mumbai did not catch our attention and the fire mishap has been completely ignored. The way media raised questions of Umar Khalid having links with terrorist outfits is more absurd, since we are so much stereotypical and consider all muslims to be terrorist. Though Arnab Goswami aptly asked "would any US University allow a cultural event to hail Osama Bin Laden?". Anyhow keeping the media away from the heat could have saved such mess.

After Kanhaiya getting bail, the more aggressive he was. Giving a statement "some Indian Army men rape women in Kashmir" was enough for the entire country to stand up against him and declare him anti national and tell him that freedom of speech doesn't mean to let down the ones who guard our nation. Standing and speaking in Delhi is way far easy than to actually survive in severe weather conditions, facing militant attacks every now and then and then not even knowing if they would ever return to their family alive, is the plight of our army men. And most importantly it is "men" who rape not "army men".

JNU being an autonomous university, should have taken the actions itself, the university authority should have set up a panel to identify the actual culprits and then handed them over to the police, rather than directly being imposed with sedition charges as such incidents are not new in JNU, students have been protesting on various issues since time age old, definitely this doesn't justify their acts, punishment is a must so that such incidents are not repeated In future but politicising the issue has only brought students together and led them to stand against suppression of their voices.

Even a faction of RSS observes 26th January as black day and hails Godse, they are as poisonous acts as it is of JNU students, hence the need of the hour is to analyse the situation without terming others anti-nationals and without political interference as it is signalling to something like the situation of Srilanka years ago when Velupillai Prabhakaran found LTTE, the story only began after serving as a student activist. Hence a liberal approach to handle such situation which not only saves the future of the students but also doesn't inculcate anything wrong in the young minds.

-Jayasri Selvakumar