20/02/2016 8:32 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

JNU Crisis: Countering Violent 'Nationalism' With Common Sense And Humanity

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 18: JNU students took out a march in support of JNUSU president who was sent to Judicial custody, all the student supporters join other AISA activists at Mandi House for a Solidarity March, at JNU Campus on February 18, 2016 in New Delhi, India. The ripple effect of protests against the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges is visible in a wave of demonstrations in educational institutions across India. Delhi's Patiala House court on Wednesday sent JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar to judicial custody till March 2. JNU has been on the boil over the arrest of its student's union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges after some students organised a meet to mark the anniversaries of executions of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. (Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

I voted for the BJP in the 2014 elections, but the nearly two years since have been distressing and a bit guilt-ridden. The government and many of its ministers have often behaved atrociously since they came to power. The way the government (man)handled the JNU incident was the last straw -- I could no longer bear the guilt and decided to publicly apologize for voting for the BJP, and posted that on Facebook. Little did I know that such a personal, heartfelt opinion would be converted into an issue of national and moral importance by hyper-nationalists. I was abused and shamed for two days, although no-one actually talked rationally with me regarding my genuine concerns about the state of governance.

But then, I don't blame them entirely. Even during the dark period of India's Partition, people who were friends and neighbours had suddenly, unexpectedly, turned into rabid enemies of each other. The environment itself (or to use the better, Hindi word, 'mahaul') was so bad then. It's the same today, even if less intense. From the murder of a young Muslim man in Pune in June 2014 to Rohith Vemula's 'administratively abetted' suicide last month, hatred and violence are being insidiously injected into the national climate, and many among us are acting under their effects. For people like me, what is more crucial is countering this abusive environment rather than countering abusive individuals; and that is also why I did not respond in any way to my trolls.

What is more crucial is countering this abusive environment rather than countering abusive individuals.

To neutralize this mahaul, it is highly important to hold on to common sense and humanity, however difficult that might be. I try to do that, and so do many others. We know we will be abused, hated, and called names. But more important principles are at stake: truth and non-violence. Many of us frequently forget that it is these principles, not any war or other form of violence, which won us freedom. The words and acts of BJP's own leader, OP Sharma, and the absence of any disciplinary action against him, prove how distant we have come from the ideals that India stands for. People like me who were deemed 'patriots' when we opposed the then Congress government through the 2011 Anti-Corruption Movement, have now become 'anti-nationals' because we don't agree with the corrupt and violent policies of the present dispensation. The most amusing aspect is the presence of an entire army of internet trolls who leap on you when you try to say something logical and commonsensical (which, by default, doesn't align with the government's positions).

With respect to the current issue of 'anti-India' words, I find it absurd that some citizens believe India can even be insulted, that too by a bunch of overzealous university youths. If there is anything insulting, it is this foolish belief that a culture and civilization as great as India's is capable of being insulted. You cannot insult Sholay or Schindler's List, or Lata Mangeshkar's voice, or Sahir Ludhianvi's poetry. You can certainly hurl abuse at them, but the great thing about great things is that they are enveloped by such a glowing aura of greatness that any abuse thrown at them burns and turns to ashes before it can reach them. The same applies to India; and this is common sense, not rocket science. When I first read that 'anti-India' (whatever that means) slogans were yelled somewhere, I was only amused, and did not feel that the matter would snowball into the needless national crisis it later became. In the thick pervasive stench of hyper-nationalism, perhaps many of us are failing to recognize the faint fragrance of common sense.

I find it absurd that some citizens believe India can even be insulted, that too by a bunch of overzealous university youths.

The same fate has befallen our humanity. The way the government immediately reacted to the incident by making criminals out of students without verifying all the facts, and by employing Delhi's famously insensitive police in the university campus, is plain inhuman. The same is true of the government's and the Delhi Police's subtle condoning of the assault on students and media-persons.

If there are young students who are disillusioned with their country (there will always be, everywhere in the world), the humane reaction would have been for the university administration to hold mature and rational discussions with them. By treating them so bitterly, the government has only made them, and thousands others all over the country, more bitter. There is no socio-political principle more certain than 'violence begets violence': Bollywood movies New York and Haider have commented eloquently on that. It is shocking to see how, following the government, many of us have also turned bloodthirsty and cannot see any way out of this other than 'punishments' for 'these terrorists'. Interestingly, while anti-national 'sentiments' of young people make hyper-nationalists cry for their blood, the anti-national 'actions' of the government and its ministers continue to receive veneration and adulation.

The underlying battle here is between love and hatred: our love for India, and goonda nationalists' hatred for whatever they think anti-India is.

Anyway, people like me who have held on to common sense and humanity during this crisis, have been branded anti-India, anti-national and traitor. These are amusing terms, and they obviously deserve no counterargument. To quote G Sampath from The Hindu, "the correct response, as Kanhaiya Kumar said, is to ask what qualifies goonda nationalists to issue certificates of nationalism, and to question the motives of a government that allows them to do so."

After all, the underlying battle here is, as are most battles in humankind, between love and hatred: our love for India, and goonda nationalists' hatred for whatever they think anti-India is. Spoiler alert: love always wins.

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