It was very disappointing to see that the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, Kanhaiya Kumar, who was released on conditional bail and was advised to introspect on his activities, proceeded straight to make a fiery speech on the JNU campus, which was virtually a tirade against the government (“ >We want freedom in India, not from India ”, March 4). No one can question the freedom of the student leader to hold a critical view of the government and its policies and express the same in any academic discussion or debate. However, to make what seemed like a political speech within the precincts of a government-aided university, openly criticising the government itself, is perhaps unwarranted.
Universities should have an environment of peace conducive to studies. Students’ unions should concentrate on promoting academic-related activities and ensure students’ welfare rather than promoting political activities and ideologies on the campus. Similarly, politicians should refrain from interfering in the affairs of the university.
I watched Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech and wondered if we are seeing the green shoots of an Indian spring, coming as it does in the wake of student unrest in the Film and Television Institute of India and in Hyderabad Central University. It is quite clear that these student outpourings are symptomatic of the deep discontent that exists in a large segment of our society. Delhi as well as several other cities have been brought to a standstill in the past with the youth taking up public causes. The government needs to pay heed to this, and seriously introspect amidst the accusations of McCarthyism and intolerance that are being hurled at it.
There is a lot of hue and cry over whether Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code should remain in the statute book or not (“Welcome release, strange remarks”, Mar. 4). In a country where undemocratic and ultra-divisive voices and activities take place on almost on a daily basis, it is important to retain the sedition law in the form of 124-A, but with different rules. The judiciary must decide whether a speech is seditious or not. As in the case of capital punishment where the judiciary decides the ‘rarest of rare’ cases, in cases of sedition too it must be the last word.
Lucknow The article “No freedom without dissent” (Mar. 4) is thought-provoking. Democracy, to function successfully, requires voices of dissent. But dissent and defiance cannot be treated on equal footing. And drawing parallels with the past, from instances such as the First War of Independence, is far-fetched. What happened in JNU comes nowhere near all that. The meeting held to mark Afzal Guru’s death, applauding his bravery and forgetting the fact that the attack was on a country’s sovereignty, was uncalled for.
On the other hand, if the young intellectuals had brought into focus the need for abolishing capital punishment, the meeting could have been justified. It will be good if prestigious institutions such as JNU are kept free from such sensitive issues. There are a number of socio-political problems, economic issues and cultural crises which young intellectuals can debate and discuss instead of this.
A. Sudhakar Rao,
Unlike in an autocracy, a democracy paves way for diverse views to be expressed freely. It is this rich and basic idea that strengthens a democracy. No nation can afford to compromise on this liberal idea without compromising on the ideals of equality and justice for all. History is witness to the fact that it is this interaction of diverse views and opinions that resulted in the development of society at large.
Kanhaiya Kumar has merely reminded us of issues that come up before elections; of political speeches that instil some hope in us that something will be done about these issues before we lose that hope again after the elections. He has just reminded us that we are not an honestly managed nation. We are so hopeless that we do not collectively dissent; we need someone to remind us that we don’t deserve to be treated like this. We live in a democracy that is supposed to be focussing on our development and not of those in power. I hope this speech will be a reminder to our authorities that it is time they started working on ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.
While influential persons manage to secure bail within hours after being taken into custody, the leader of the JNUSU had to keep tapping on one door after another before being let off for a period of six months. Those who pounce on him do not care to pause for a moment to think of the doctored video clippings that enabled the right-wing coterie to go around brainwashing minds across the nation against Kanhaiya Kumar and others. It is even more disgusting to find cynical views aired against a research scholar speaking on “freedom from casteism, freedom from poverty and freedom from capitalism”. The voices that are “advising” students to “only study” and “avoid speaking politics” sound too childish, yet politically loaded against the challenge to the social order.
That the Aam Aadmi Party government is mulling the idea of filing cases against the electronic media for allegedly tampering with the videos of the JNU event is to be appreciated (“Channels face action over videos”, Mar. 4). There needs to be a semblance of discipline in reporting.
The media, both electronic and print, needs self-regulation. Television channels, in their exuberance to increase TRP ratings, indulge in ‘media trials’ and draw their own inferences even before the matter reaches the police station. They show the same sequence over and over again, much to the chagrin of the viewers. The less said the better about the panel “discussion”, where no one is heard. It is important for the media to be ethical in times like these. It must follow norms and not overstep its limits. In the larger interest of the nation and its populace, giving space for dissenting voices and precluding the beaming of unverified news and hearsay would do good to everybody.