18/02/2016 3:36 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Dissent Is Not Sedition

MONEY SHARMA via Getty Images
Indian right-wing activists try to break down a barricade outside Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi on February 16, 2016. A student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on Friday for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans at a rally in protest against a Kashmiri separatist's execution three years ago. AFP PHOTO / Money SHARMA / AFP / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

From Indian educational institutions to courts, justice has been buried, voices choked, humans lynched, students called terrorists. This is our nation today.

India proudly says that it is a country of different civilizations, religions, communities, but what is the ground reality under the present regime? Are they behaving any better than cruel dictators? They tell you what to eat, what to wear, whom to love, what to read, what to say and how to live. If you don't toe the line, you'd better watch out.

This alleged democracy is afraid of a small group of unarmed students. Their crime was to express their solidarity with a victim of political vendetta who was hanged to satisfy fascist forces. The young men and women in question expressed the solidarity with the people of Kashmir who are living under military occupation. Abraham Lincoln putted it like this: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves".

It doesn't matter who organized the event in JNU or who shouted the controversial slogans. What matters is why those slogans were raised.

While protests at JNU, such as the one that on 9 February, are not new, the interference by the state is.

The word "university" has the same root as "universe". It implies that we are all different beings living together. We are united by space and time but disparate in our ideologies and political aspirations.

If you believe in your democratic set-up then you ought to be tolerant towards the people. Democracy means respect for dissent.

It doesn't matter who organized the event in JNU or who shouted the controversial slogans. What matters is why those slogans were raised. Why were hundreds of young men and women demanding freedom for Kashmir? Why were they asking for justice for Afzal Guru and Maqbool Butt?

This should be a time for introspection for the government of India. Why after nearly seven decades are Kashmiris so unhappy with the country that rules them? If they are really worried about the incident they should see what went wrong. Kashmir is the highest military zone in the world, even though the government confirms there are only about 200 armed rebels operating in the region. Why is the whole population under siege?

Using force and booking students under serious crimes won't help. The more force you use the more rebels you will create.

This whole problem is the creation of mainstream corporate Indian media houses. Every night, they engineer shouting matches and virtually offer certificates to participants proclaiming that they are either nationalists or anti-nationals. Every night in media trials they declare that students, activists, democratic organizations and human rights groups are terrorists. This jingoistic approach of the media can lead only to destruction.

The media is supposed to inform people. But in India, the job of media is to misinform and divert attention from important issues...

The media is supposed to inform people. But in India, the job of media is to misinform and divert attention from important issues and changes decided by the political and economic elites.

Noam Chomsky identified 10 strategies that the media uses to manipulate and contain.

1) The strategy of destruction.

2) Create problems, and then offer solutions.

3) The gradual strategy, acceptance to an unacceptable.

4) The strategy of deferring.

5) Go to the public as a little child.

6) Use the emotional side more than the reflection.

7) Keep the public in ignorance and mediocrity.

8) To encourage public to be complacent with mediocrity.

9) Self-blame strengthen.

10) Getting to know the individuals better then they know themselves.

This is how the corporate media helps the system to exert greater control and power over people.

Dissent does not mean sedition. In the current JNU row the whole drama is revolving around fascist forces, media trials, government and police. They are all colluding to suppress dissenting voices.

Now at the end let me point out a few positive points from incidents like JNU, Rohith Vemula, FTII or the protest over non-NET fellowships. The student community came forward united. All big revolutions start like this.

The youth of India have realized the worth of dissent and providing space for different ideologies. They will stand against every injustice, be it Rohith Vemula, Afzal Guru or the illegal arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar. They will speak and speak loudly. Debating on different political and social issues is not a crime. You may agree to disagree but you do not label someone as a criminal. Because dissent is not sedition.

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