17/02/2016 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

JNU Row: Why The Govt Was Absolutely Right To Press Sedition Charges

I have studied at institutions like St Stephen's and Cornell University and I am a strong votary of free speech and voices of dissent. But in the case of the JNU students glorifying terrorists like Afzal Guru, Maqbool Butt and Yakub Memon, I think that the State action has been just, proportionate and balanced. Here's why.

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NEW DELHI, INDIA - SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) AISA`s candidates Shehla Rashid Shora, Vice President, Rama Naga, General Secretary and AISFs Kanhaiya Kumar elected as President, pose during a photo call, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, on September 13, 2015 in New Delhi, India. RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) won a seat in Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) polls after 14 years. ABVP outshone its opponents by huge margins and swept the Delhi University Students' Union (DUSU) elections this year despite predictions of a tough four-corner fight. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Large sections of the nation are boiling with rage over the shameless glorification of terrorists like Afzal Guru, Maqbool Butt and Yakub Memon by JNU students. This anger might be termed as yet another example of "intolerance" emanating from the perceived supernatural powers of Modi.

However, let me say outright that I, and many others in India, will always be "intolerant" of people who are against the sovereignty of our nation and who are out to destroy the idea of India. I have studied at institutions like St Stephen's and Cornell University and I am a strong votary of free speech and voices of dissent. But in this case, I think that the State's action of pressing sedition charges has been just, proportionate and balanced.

The protests were seditious

Firstly, this act fulfils all the criteria of sedition laid down in Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. When you say "Bharat ki barbadi" or "India, go back", it certainly means territorial disintegration of India and this is how the common people of India will perceive it no matter how much one tries to defend it in the name of free speech.

JNU students and the assortment of left wingers in India call their PM a mass murderer, while killers like Afzal Guru are hailed as martyrs...

Slogans espousing the dreams and aspirations of terrorists like Maqbool Butt, Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon can hardly be seen as an expression of revolutionary Marxist ideals. This is like supporting people who morally, intellectually and logistically and ideologically supported the carnage of 26/11 in Mumbai, the hijack of IC-814, the Pathankot attacks and a series of bomb blasts that have occurred across the country killing thousands of innocent people. JNU students and the assortment of left wingers in India call their PM a mass murderer in the blink of an eye, an allegation which has not held in the highest courts of India, while killers like Yakub Memon, Maqbool Butt and Afzal Guru who were found guilty of acts of terrorism after fair and honest judicial trials are still hailed as martyrs, killed in the most ruthless manner by India. What is this if not an insult to our armed forces and the real martyrs who lay down their lives for the country?

Secondly, the slogans were provocative and a blatant incitement to violence. One cannot expect the citizens of India to sit silent over slogans which openly invoked support for the destruction of their nation. By any standards, this event, the sloganeering and the causes espoused are highly inflammatory. They are as provocative as the communal speeches of Praveen Togadia and the Owaisi brothers. When Kamlesh Tiwari could be booked under NSA for his distasteful remarks against the Prophet Mohammed, then why is it so unthinkable to arrest Kanhaiya Kumar, who led the JNU protest? I think it is a fair legal action. Just because one comes from JNU, on does not deserve any special treatment.

Abusing the right to free speech

Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. Under Article 19 (2), it is subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order and sovereignty and integrity of India. Secondly, there is a difference between the use and the abuseof the right to free speech. When you express support for terrorists who attacked India's sovereignty, and when such an expression deeply wounds the sentiments, beliefs and feelings of the majority of India's then, yes, I think it constitutes the abuse of the right to free speech.

One cannot expect the citizens of India to sit silent over slogans which openly invoked support for the destruction of their nation.

Defending the indefensible

Those defending the outrage perpetrated at JNU summon the names of Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh as justification. That is absurd and little more than a display of low intellectual acumen and poor moral fibre, but still I will try to clear their doubts. First of all, when you want "Bharat ki barbadi" you basically want the destruction of secular, liberal and democratic India, and by doing this, you are inflicting the most outrageous insult to Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh who sacrificed their lives to establish said secular and democratic India. Further, they were fighting against a colonial power which had curbed all kinds of freedom and illegally occupied India against all principles of justice. It is not the case anymore. If one has objections with the nature of the judicial trial of Maqbool Butt, Yakub Memon and Afzal Guru, then they can be raised in a parliamentary manner. There is no need to bay for India's destruction to register your protest.

Another disheartening development is the support to the protestors provided by certain politicians - this is an example of political chicanery and spin-doctoring at their best. But this is not an occasion to spew your hatred for Hindutva and Modi. There are certain things which brook no compromise and the sovereignty of India is one such thing. These politicians are starting a very dangerous trend by crossing the "Rubicon lines". There are a plethora of divisive forces already existing in India and several religious and ethnic groups have their own share of grievances against the state. If every grievance becomes an occasion for separatist sloganeering then the very idea of India and its sovereignty are under threat.

Such actions on the part of the left is the perfect fuel for those promoting xenophobia.

A history of hypocrisy

Often, I have found the "intellectual giants" of JNU to be awfully averse to logic, wisdom, conscience and common sense. The woes of the Baluch people and Kashmiri Pandits have never appealed to the bleeding heart liberals of JNU. When Baba Ramdev was brutally beaten along with his peaceful anti-corruption protestors there was no one from JNU to protest. Students of the hallowed institution celebrated the death of 76 CRPF men in Dantewada, but somehow the Islamic extremism in Malda and Purnea didn't bother them in the slightest. I fail to understand the reason for this selective outrage. What is it that drives them to support jihadi terrorists?

A favour to Hindutva extremists

Whatever the reason for such hatred and insanity, it is clear that they are feeding right into the designs of Hindutva extremists. Such actions on the part of the left are the perfect fuel for those promoting xenophobia. In this age of social media, such gimmicks spread very fast and the ripple-effects can be humongous. It does not bode well for the future of India. It is high time that universities like JNU which provide a major supply of civil servants and academicians to India are prevented from becoming the centres of anti-nationalism. The elements that masquerade as ideological stalwarts behind the shield of politically correct causes, and may well be actually working for vested interests, must be checked through recourse to intellectual and legal means.

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