They then came for...
Tree Wants to be Calm
But Wind Will Not Stop!
—Jose Maria Sison
(Filipino Revolutionary and Poet)
Whether all the leading public intellectuals of
present times have suddenly decided to go for a break—now that Kanhaiya Kumar is out of jail—or are thinking that the impending storm would peter away on its own. Anyone who has closely followed the public hounding of two of the finest human beings of present times—Prof Nivedita Menon and Gauhar Raza—and the silence which has followed with it (barring a statement signed by many and few articles here and there on some webmagazines) would understand what does that mean. While Prof Menon is being targeted because of airing of selective quotes from one of her lectures, Gauhar has been put under the scanner because of his participation in Indo-Pak mushaira. It is clear that one of his poems—focusing on the dangerous cocktail of religion and politics—which he recited there, has infuriated them.
Here also the same TV channel is in focus which neither has any qualms in exhibiting its proximity with the ruling establishment nor has ever faced any moral dilemma in presenting doctored videos in painting JNU as a den of 'anti-nationals'.
It is a dreary scenario but as things are unfolding with every passing day in this neoliberal times, all talks of media being a watchdog of democracy have started appearing unbelievable. (True there are few noble exceptions also). Perhaps people seem to be entering period were the boundaries between media and the ruling elite have suddenly started appearing fuzzy or seem to be crumbling to say the least.
Neither Prof Menon nor Gauhar Raza need any introduction but looking at the fact that a conscious attempt is on to pigeonhole them in a particular way and deny their work as writers, scholars, activists, documentary makers it is important to state a few things.
Leading academic and activist Prof Menon, teaches Political Thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi and her major publications include 'Seeing Like a Feminist', 'Power and Contestation: India since 1989 (co-authored with Aditya Nigam),' 'Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond The Law (2004)', 'Gender and Politics in India', (ed.). She has been an active commentator on the blog kafila.org and has been active with citizen's forums in Delhi around secularism, worker's and women's rights, sexuality and in opposition to the nuclear bomb. Scientist by profession and a Urdu poet by choice Gauhar is a long time social activist and documentary filmmaker. Known for his films like 'Jung-e-Azadi' and 'Inqilaab'—based on Bhagat Singh, Gauhar is working to popularize the understanding of science among general public.
As any impartial observer can see both of them 'rightly suit' the self-proclaimed 'nationalist' brigade who are ready to go to any extent to paint someone as 'anti-national'. Prof Menon belongs to JNU whereas Gauhar is married to Shabnam Hashmi, who has been a leading voice of the anti-communal movement.
The storm troopers presume that it is rather a smart way of sanitising their own past, especially procrastination of their political forefathers before the Britishers during anti-colonial struggle, and keeping themselves aloof from the mass upsurge then. It is their rather naive understanding that by unleashing their muscle power against such 'anti-nationals' they can even lay claim over the moral halo of the real freedom fighters.
Commenting on this targeting, an editorial in 'The Tribune' titled 'The Enemy Within' underlines how the rightwing wants to shape discourse of the future.
The RSS' annual stock taking session has now revealed the primary reason for the serial framing of secularists. Under the guise of demanding strict action in universities against "anti-national" forces and "slogans calling for destruction of the nation", it wishes to close down the primary channel of creative and reasoned opposition against its saffron agenda. The RSS has laid down its agenda in plain view.
The planned and mischievous manner in which Prof Menon and Gauhar have been selectively targeted—one by one—makes one thing very clear that anyone can become their target if it suits them. Anyone who still retains the capacity to think independently and is courageous enough to raise uncomfortable, incovenient questions before them in whatever capacity need be prepared to face their wrath.
It's not necessary to be a card holding Commie or an Islamist to attract their undue attention.
Golwalkar, the second Supremo of RSS might have included Communists, Muslims and Christians in his list of 'internal enemies', today when the proponents of Hindu Rashtra are having a field day, mere refusal to toe their line in academics or sticking to constitutional principles—may be as a government servant against their machinations to the contrary—can invite their ire.
It was not for nothing that some time ago Ramchandra Guha rightly said, 'the present dispensation is the most anti-intellectual government in post independence times'.
Vol. 48, No. 41, Apr 17 - 23, 2016