QRant: Burning Questions for Arnab Goswami on His JNU Coverage
In a shrill build up to Arnab Goswami’s daily aag aur shola extravaganza on Monday, Times Now put out videos shot on 9 February as evidence of ‘anti-national’ activities in JNU. The videos show students raising slogans against the death penalty, in support of self-determination of Kashmir. And yes, there appear to be some students saying things along the lines of “India go back”.
Now, before we go any further, its important to remember that some of these these videos are still unverified.
But that hasn’t stopped people from calling those involved anti-national, equating their dissent with disloyalty and demonising them. People have painted the entire student body at one of India’s most coveted universities with a red brush, and perhaps even a tinge of green.
A Political Opinion (Even a Marxist One) is Not a Crime
Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNUSU president who is behind bars on charges of sedition, is a Marxist. He belongs to the student wing of the Communist Party of India (CPI) which believes Kashmir should be granted autonomy under the Constitution of India.
And as Kumar said in a speech made hours before his arrest, he disagrees with some of the anti-India statements made during the meeting in support of Afzal Guru. Some communists, from Lenin onwards, believe in states and provinces’ right to self-determination. Believe it or not, holding such beliefs is not a crime. And it is not the only anti-state position taken in India.
Successive governments in Tamil Nadu sympathised with and supported the LTTE which killed an Indian Prime Minister. The Akali Dal, a BJP ally for years, has been okay with lionising the assassins of Indira Gandhi and Beant Singh. The Hindu Mahasabha still celebrates Nathuram Godse.
Their views may be distasteful to some of us. The slogans of the students may seem reprehensible to others. But as long as people do not engage in violence, shouldn’t we let them air their political views?
During the debate on Section 66A of the Information and Technology Act, Times Now and others were great champions of free speech. Apparently, our universities do not deserve the same freedoms as the internet.
Is Times Now’s faith in India so fragile that it believes we must protect it with the might of the state and the police force, with measures as harsh and extreme as incarceration of students?
There’s something else that seems to have escaped their notice.
Let Student Politics Be
Student politics is not new in India, and definitely not new to the JNU campus. Both the All India Student Federation (AISF), to which Kanhaiya belongs, and the ABVP had done well in last year’s university polls. Neither had been powerhouses in JNU’s politics for some time. The ABVP has used whatever tactics it can to capitalise on its advantage, as have their rivals. Where things have gone wrong is the police and central government getting involved.
India has a long and vibrant history of students being engaged in politics. Many of our most senior politicians are a part of that legacy.
What’s playing out in JNU is yet another round in a long game. It’s healthy and democratic, let it run its course.
And please find Arnab Goswami something else to be pissed off about.