The unfortunate incident of a students’ clash at the Ramjas college of Delhi University has been projected as an issue of free speech & democratic rights. But what is being missed in the coverage by the various media outlets is that this is not an isolated incident but part of a pattern which has gained momentum since the infamous 9th February incident at JNU last year. Basic template of such disturbance remains the same, organize a programme by giving wrong information about the nature of the event or with a pseudo name. Once the true intent of the event becomes apparent and authorities deny permission, attempt is made to forcibly push the event by creating public nuisance and resorting to incendiary sloganeering. It’s a well calculated strategy to spark confrontation either with the authorities or the students.
Same trend happened at the Ramjas college as well. After the authorities denied the permission to invite Umar Khalid, a controversial ultra-left propagandist in a literary event, communist party workers, mostly outsiders from JNU and Jamia resorted to ruckus and sloganeering demanding Azadi for the various parts of India. This was then resisted by the students of Ramjas college & their elected representatives. What happened next is rather unclear. The students claim that communist cadre misbehaved and manhandled them for which they were forced to contact the DUSU office bearers. With the arrival of DUSU office bearers from the ABVP and more DU students, situation became intense due to competitive sloganeering and a scuffle broke out between the communist cadre and the ABVP. Various photos and accounts clearly shows that the communist party workers too indulged in violence against the unarmed protesters especially targeting the girl students.
But the media has once again resorted to the shallow debate of freedom of expression without asking the basic journalistic question that as to why do we see the same bunch of 40-50 ‘perpetual students’ involved in such ruckus everywhere from JNU to India gate to DU? Who are these people and what do they stand for? Or is the media simply content with their rhetoric of social justice, democracy and Azadi from poverty & hunger? It is surprising that despite giving them so much space in TV studios and newspapers, no one has ever asked them to elaborate upon their basic concepts and how this Azadi will be achieved.
Had they asked about it they would have realized that in the world view of these ultra-left organizations the main impediment in eradicating poverty & hunger and oppression is existence of the India as a unified political entity. Their theoretical and ideological construct projects India as an illegitimate and artificial construct, which is oppressing various nationalities by denying them the right to self-determination. And any real progress towards the economic development and social emancipation is possible only when these nationalities have gained Azadi from the Indian rule. Also, they paint India as a Brahmanical project to impose a regressive cultural agenda to keep the religious minorities and subaltern classes subjugated under a Hindu majoritarian rule to perpetuate the global capitalist order. And the various socio-economic problems like hunger, caste, denial of women rights etc can be resolved only when India ceases to exist as a political unit and cultural-civilizational entity.
Up until the 9th February incident, the slogan of Azadi was raised by them in solidarity with the Kashmiri separatist movement. Anybody from JNU or any other left-stronghold will not find it surprising. It is only after the mass outrage due to the media broadcast of such sloganeering, they have tried to camouflage it as a slogan for end of hunger & poverty etc. But it is clearly understood by everyone present as to what this Kashmir Mange Azadi, Manipur Mange Azadi means. Under the grab of literary events, protests, and student politics protected by the supposedly sacrosanct free speech, there is a coordinated attempt to mainstream these ideas. In the name of promoting debate and discussion, call for breakup of India is being normalized.
This is clearly an unacceptable situation because there is nothing sacrosanct about the free speech. Even the constitution of India, behind which our constitutional patriots hide whenever they find themselves in uncomfortable situation, doesn’t grant unqualified right to freedom of expression. Also, freedom of expression is just one part of the constitution. The very same constitution also specifies fundamental duties including the duty to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India; it envisions India as an indestructible union, there is no right to secede for any part of the country. There is no established reason to assume that the (restricted) right to freedom of expression automatically trumps other provisions in the constitution.
This dangerous trend to promote such people just because they are also against the present day’s union government is short-sighted and self-defeating. People are watching with much dismay and disbelief that how just to target the central government and the ruling party, leaders of the various opposition parties are patronizing such elements and giving legitimacy to these ideas in the name of standing up for freedom of expression. But the greatest discontent of the people is directed towards the media, which in its zeal to ‘speak truth to the power’ is unable to take a balanced approach and double check the kind of narrative it is promoting.
The willingness to give free run to people like Umar Khalid, who was the member of the Democratic Students’ Union, a frontal organization of the banned Maoist party as told by the UPA government to the parliament in 2014, is perplexing. The flawed invocation of the freedom of expression and democratic space become even more untenable when we see that the same comrades have repeatedly prevented or disrupted alternative views from being heard in their strongholds. Perhaps it is time to reflect upon as to how this small bunch of ultra-left comrades have come to exercise such a huge influence upon the public discourse in India and what is their core ideological understanding. That’s where the real debate & discussion lies.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.