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Bulwark or misled?

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The violence on the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University on Sunday night has given rise to much commentary as well as accusations and counter-accusations on who was responsible. A hunch I have is that this has been orchestrated in order to distract us — we the people — from the struggle which is on the streets all over India: namely, the protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the National Register of Citizens. Public dissent is not only spreading across the country but is also resonating across generations. This mounting dissent has also been reflected in some of the political realignments. In Jharkhand, for example, there is now a new platform for non-BJP political parties and agencies to come together. All this could actually pose a serious political challenge to the BJP by the time of the next next general election. So a word of caution to our youth who have been exemplary and who have also been a source of great hope for my generation; we must recognise that they are fighting for the Constitution and for prevention of discrimination based on any of the various differences which make up the great Indian democracy. This little note is to say: be warned, do not let the JNU attack take away the focus from the protests against the NRC and CAA (Editorial page, “Students in the vanguard of democratic struggles”, January 7).

Devaki Jain,

New Delhi

The strength of students and their protests have been perfectly gauged by the right wing, which in turn has become a source of discomfort. This is probably why scheming minds have contemplated and executed such nefarious deeds on educational institutions which are a threat to the illogical, unscientific and overtly retrogressive misadventures of the ruling party since 2014 (Editorial page, “Students in the vanguard of democratic struggle”, January 7). When educational institutions in most parts of India are merely a step toward securing a job, it is in institutions such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University that real learning and understanding happen, where questioning is encouraged and where future citizens of India emerge. Such institutions are seen as obstacles before Hindutva. Despite the machinations of the ruling party in muzzling dissent and scuttling protests, the resilience of the students must be admired. Such a development is heartening and encouraging in a country where there are many who are obsessed with a fascist agenda.

G.B. Sivanandam,

Coimbatore

The writer seems too eager to build a grand narrative about how the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 protests in a few campuses across the country are metamorphosing into strident student activism and that too with a pronounced anti-establishment tilt. A few pockets of protest do not represent a national phenomenon of campus revolt against the government. Fitting the violence in the Jawaharlal Nehru University into the narrative makes it possible to hold the government as the perpetrator. It is inconceivable why the government should create another flashpoint of unrest when it is trying to grapple with the anti-CAA protests, and this seems lost on the writer.

The exaltation of campus politics as a social good seems misplaced because social activism is a euphemism for political activism and that too subscribing to a particular ideology that is very selective about the causes it espouses and the enemies it targets. The student activists mindlessly and uncritically internalise the agendas of their political mentors. Indoctrinating students to think merely in terms of ideals and abstractions and ignore harsh and unpleasant realities shaped by history and culture suits the interests of political parties who need a pool of loyal workers and street fighters.

The need of the hour is to teach students to think critically and independently unburdened by the shackles of political filters and contemporary campus activism appears to be the very antithesis of intellectual freedom as it denies a level playing field for all thoughts and beliefs.

V.N. Mukundarajan,

Thiruvananthapuram

Students are admittedly a nation’s future, but they must know their limitations and, more importantly, their responsibilities. They should not become pawns in the hands of scheming politicians. If at all they are serious about the whole issue, their representatives should invite the powers-that-be to a meaningful debate on a public platform that must be telecast live. A neutral and initial approach is essential for understanding of the CAA’s intended purport.

V. Lakshmanan,

Tirupur, Tamil Nadu

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 6:53:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/bulwark-or-misled/article30506759.ece

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