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'BJP/RSS bringing disrepute to Indian nationalism'

Last updated on: February 18, 2016 21:32 IST

'The message the government is sending out is you are not safe if your dare oppose this regime.'

'The entire incident gives you an understanding of what happened in Germany during the Third Reich.'

'This is jingoism and not nationalism of any kind.'

IMAGE: Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad 'activists' during a protest outside the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in New Delhi, February 16, 2016. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters

Almost ten days after alleged anti-national slogans were raised at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and its students union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition, the issue has escalated further with lawyers attacking students and media persons on the Patiala House court premises on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yogendra Yadav, below, left, the distinguished social scientist and psephologist, spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ on how the raging debate is not about Afzal Guru or Kashmir, but about the freedom of expression.

How do you view the political scenario in the country post the JNU incident?

What appeared to be a minor incident of a somewhat thoughtless action by students and an equally thoughtless reaction by the government now appears to be something much bigger, especially after the incident involving the chaos and violence at the Patiala House court.

It is quite clear that this was not an accident. This is meant to send a signal. JNU was deliberately chosen to send a message to all the dissenters, to all those who disagree with this regime.

What happened at the Patiala House court on Wednesday shows it was the same place, the same people, the same action and the same inaction by the police.

The entire incident gives you an understanding of what happened in Germany during the Third Reich.

Journalists are being beaten up inside a court room. Can you recall a time when such incidents have taken place in our country?

I cannot recall anything of this kind. The fact that it is happening for the second time within three days right in the middle of the national capital and that too within a judicial complex gives you an idea that it is not a minor intransigence.

It is not an accidental overstepping by a fringe element. The message has been sent.

And the message is no matter who you are, no matter where you are located, if you dare oppose this regime, you are not safe.

This is exactly the same thing which happened during the Third Reich in Germany.

The writer Chetan Bhagat tweeted on Tuesday that 'Modi hate' can blind you to the point that you even tacitly support anti-India protesters. Would you like to comment?

I need not comment on this specifically, but the idea that those who are supporting the right of free expression are supporting 'India hate' is ridiculous.

Pakistan recently punished someone who was a Virat Kohli fan for waving the Tricolour. Anyone in Pakistan who opposed this kind of action by the Pakistani State is not an opponent of Pakistan, and could be a supporter of freedom, a supporter of sanity and a supporter of civility. This is what we are doing.

I have said repeatedly that what happened in JNU with the slogan shouting by a few fringe students was thoughtless at best, mischievous at worst. No one is supporting that. The real question is how do we respond to that.

Does the State respond to the incident like Pakistan, wherein the State uses its entire might and uses draconian colonial laws?

Do you think we are entering a hyper-nationalist phase?

I would not call it hyper-nationalism because to call it hyper-nationalism is to grant this is nationalism.

I do not find anything nationalist about bringing down the reputation of the nation.

What the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) are doing is to bring disrepute to the great Indian tradition of nationalism.

The tradition, which had people like Rabindranth Tagore who questioned the very idea of nationalism, people like Mahatma Gandhi who argued for the rights of those who are outside the boundaries of their own nation.

This is simple degradation. This is jingoism. This is not nationalism of any kind.

Why is the culture of violence being perpetrated in our society? Today, we see goondaism in the name of nationalism.

I do not think it is society's pathology or society's flaw. This is clearly, really, politically orchestrated.

Those shouting anti-India slogans at JNU were Kashmiri students. Where have we failed as a nation in assimilating these students into the Indian mainstream?

Kashmir is a complex issue, which we need to discuss and debate, but what is going on in the JNU debate is not the Kashmir question.

Incidentally, the boy was not from Kashmir. The main accused is from Nagpur and he (Umar Khalid) is an atheist. He has nothing to do with Kashmir. No one cares about the facts unfortunately.

Somewhere, we have failed to bring Kashmiri youth into the Indian mainstream. Where have we failed?

Undoubtedly, that is a larger question. At the moment, the BJP and its cohorts are trying to confuse this debate and draw you and me into a debate on Afzal Guru and Kashmir. But this is a debate about freedom of expression.

The debate should be about what is possible about the law of sedition in such cases.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf