I understand that I may be a little late in commenting on the recent developments that we have witnessed in the ‘Freedom of Expression’ debate happening in India, but I wanted to understand both sides of this story before rationally explaining to myself what has been going on in the prestigious campuses, which have now been beautifully tagged as anti-national hubs, and why such judgements are being passed on these campuses which later spread on to activists, academicians, opposition party members and also to any citizen who came to a conclusion which is not in agreement with the ideology of the ruling party.
I would like to begin by bringing out some of the comments passed by well respected ‘tax payers’ and news anchors, not to mention the very patriotic politicians who seem to agree that campus is a place for students to study, secure good grades, hopefully get placed and move on with life. They cannot comprehend the fact that campuses provide the apt space for ideological development of students. Students are taught about the various economic models, political theories and social and cultural development that has either managed to ruin the country or help in its progress. They then try to apply these theories and models into the current economic, political and social scenario to try and make sense of why their country is the way it is. In this process, while they may agree with and marvel at the numerous historical milestones that the country has achieved under the leadership of strong and distinguished personalities and forgotten heroes, they also develop a critical mind to question certain actions and decisions of these leaders and heroes.
Students challenge the system or authoritative body whose actions have resulted in the unfair treatment of a section of the society or an individual or both. Questioning a superior body and challenging their decisions is what makes India a wonderful democracy. The citizens are allowed to exercise this power as long as such actions does not lead to violence. And when I said superior body, I also include the Supreme Court, which according to many patriots, have become a body which is not to be touched. If that is the case, a very large number of social activists and human rights organisation members will have to be tagged as anti-national too (and I think that has already happened by now).
Organising a meeting where the members are provided a platform to express their displeasure over a decision made by the Supreme Court is not an anti-national activity. Supporting an oppressed community and condemning the deliberate actions of people in power which takes advantage of the members of this community is not anti-national. Following a tradition or culture which is different from what is being commonly followed by the masses is not anti-national. Questioning the actions of a religious group or having taste for a particular dish which is frowned upon by the dominant religion in the country is not anti-national and questioning the mythological tales including God is not anti-national. Anti-national will be propagating violence by delivering hate speeches in the name of election campaigns and disturbing the peace of an entire state which further led to the brutal massacre of a large number of innocent civilians. But we are not allowed to speak of these actions because then we too will become anti-national.
I don’t know when this happened, but people seem to have forgotten that this is a secular state. Passing judgements on people clouded by religious feelings does not make a person more patriotic. Instead of understanding the reason behind organising such an event where the people demand for the rights of a particular community to be heard before deploying rules and regulations, leaving them with limited access to any sort of freedom, the authorities decide to punish the people who dared to suggest that this community need to considered as a geographical space which contains living breathing people who also have a right to a better life; and instead of finding out the root cause for all the violent outbreaks that has happened in this space, the authorities once again decide to clean the surface by wiping out anybody who dared to bring this out in the open. They have very effectively succeeded in dodging the real problem here and in that process has also manage to define boundaries to freedom of expression.
To all those worried citizens who are worried about their tax money going to waste, they needn’t worry any-more as the actions of the state has created a stir in the academic community. So now, maybe your taxes will not just help in creating a large number of 9 to 5 job seeking group, it will now help in creating a massive number of citizens who have decided to question the actions of the current state of affairs and maybe, just maybe, your tax has also gone into the creation of a number of budding political leaders who now have a clear cut agenda to lead the people- against a system governed in the favour of a few selected communities while blatantly ignoring the screeching needs of the minorities and the oppressed. If I have to romanticise this situation a little more, We were supposed to learn from history about our past mistakes, but while some are busy redefining historical facts, there is another history being made.