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Rohith to Kanhaiya

The 3-month-long budget    session starting February 23, is going to be stormy. The Congress party has now an option to make a case out of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) event. Earlier Hyderabad Central University incident too paid them enough leverage to grill the Modi government and raise the intolerance issue, for electioneering purposes of course. From Rohith to Kanhaiya, the issue is the same—how to silence the voice of dissent and marginalise the opposition. Maybe, in this way they are strengthening democracy and safeguarding the constitution! Nationalism, or for that matter patriorism, is being defined and re-defined all the time to suit the interests of the powers that be. But the way the saffron brigade is trying to impose their brand of nationalism, by dubbing anybody opposed to their political culture anti-national is horrific.

The recent prosecution and arrest of JNU students and other civil rights activists on sedition charges is appalling.

Arrests and detentions of dissenting students and prosecution of scores of other civil rights activists under one of the most draconian sections of colonial penal code just for organizing a protest against capital punishment and injustice meted out to Yakub Menon and Afzal Guru, hurts the very core of the constitutional values.

If on one side the students and civil rights activists are slapped with sedition charges, on the other side the real anti-national fascist forces who are openly celebrating the assassination of Gandhi by declaring Godse as hero and disrespecting the constitution are roaming freely. They are the patriots India should boast of! No doubt, the Modi government has given free hands to the saffron fringe organizations to carry out all the atrocities against the Muslims, Dalits and the people who are struggling against state repression and suppression.

Modi government’s absurdity of imposing section 124A against students and civil rights activists for asking uncomfortable questions violates Supreme Court orders. Constitutional bench of Supreme Court in Kedernath Singh vs State of Bihar ordered that mere words cannot be seditious unless it is accompanied by incitement to violence.

Freedom of speech and expression includes right to dissent and protest, government by branding every dissent of status quo as anti-national cannot curb the basic rights provided in the constitution.

This despicable norm of branding dissenting Muslims as terrorists and dissenting Dalits as anti-national has crossed every limit since Narandra Modi took power in Delhi. From Rohith Vemula to Kanhaiya Kumar, Modi government has repeatedly shown how fragile and vulnerable fundamental rights have become on the face of an authoritarian state.

Surprisingly, they have not yet brought in Maoists into the JNU scenario. If Pakistan card fails Maoist label will be convenient to prosecute the agitating students of JNU.

Ironically, Modi’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, once actively took part into the JP movement as a student leader and was among the first to be arrested when emergency was declared. And Modi himself came into limelight through the Nav Nirman Movement which again started as a simple students’ protest against a mess bill in 1973. But past is past. Unless students in the institution of higher learning toe the saffron political line they will be in trouble. And in the coming days witch-hunt will continue. There is every reason to believe that the saffron brigade succeeded in making a case out of ‘nationalism’ or anti-nationalism, by way of deploying their own agent provocateur to tarnish the image of JNU students, refusing to subscribe to their communal and casteist outlook.

23-02-2016

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 34, Feb 28 - Mar 5, 2016