Of JNU And The Intellectual Crisis: Beyond The Binaries

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Enough has been said, written and debated over about the JNU row. We have seen the political mood go up and down, as a series of events unfolded before us on live television screens. Some of us looked at the issue in terms of binaries of the far Right v. the far Left while the rest of us cribbed about the ‘larger conspiracy’ of the Government to quieten its critics. Many among us also cringed at the idea of an all-out onslaught on university space that facilitates dissent. And then there is no end to the Patriots v. The Anti-National rhetoric… It goes on!

Whether or not Umar and the rest raised “anti-India” slogans, or even if they did; does the act amount to sedition? Looking at it from a broader perspective, can slogans really make or break a nation? Fortunately, a verbose rhetoric is capable of neither.

We have come a long way from being caught in the clutches of retrogressive notions to wielding the gears of modernity. From being a police state to an all-encompassing, welfare-oriented, democratic republic. But, have we? The police crackdown on the JNU campus, in clear terms said that we aren’t developing anytime soon.  Even now, the debate continues to be us v. them, and not the whole lot of us versus poverty, unemployment, human rights violations, domestic violence, etc. The whole question-answer phraseology, right now, is wrong. Our questions pertaining to the ongoing issues, which are for the most part ideologically loaded misinformed opinions owing to the adversarial format of tele journalism, need a thorough revision. The incentives, both collective and individual, need to change. Why are we still stuck up with the notions of patriotism and nationalism? We should have been concerned about building ourselves up as more competent global citizens. It’s saddening and rather unbelievable on second thoughts, that we are busy manufacturing conformists and yes-men instead of translating youth’s energy and potential into well-rounded, high-yielding personalities, for the World and for ourselves. Why is the Indian culture not inclined towards breeding Nobel laureates, literatus, scientists, astronauts, jurists, etc and instead tries to induce “nationalism” into the young blood? We should be labelling people based on intellectual merit and not their immediate identities. Only when we begin to question the very questions that have clouded our vision of tomorrow, that we will rise to the occasion, over and above the entire ideological tussle between the State and the civilians.

Nationalism is more than waving the tricolour and chanting “Bharat Mata Ki Jai.” It’s a feeling borne out of responsibility. Responsibility to recognise the supremacy of law and to hold the Constitution in high-esteem, transcending the ideological differences. Responsibility to respect the Rule of Law which according to popular scholarship requires that the government be subject to law and not the law subject to the government. Responsibility to ask and confront realistic and difficult questions, as and when required. Responsibility to live on purpose and be an asset to the society. Responsibility to be the solution to the problem and never to be the part of the problem itself; flowing from the responsibility to keep one’s nose where it belongs i.e. on one’s face and not in other people’s business. Responsibility to let the nation grow without impediments. Responsibility to be up and get going tolerably, without identifying people based on immediate identities. Responsibility to live and let live the Rohiths, the Kanhaiyyas, the Umars, the Soni Soris, without any  apprehensions from the custodians of nationalism of our times!

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