It was a poetry-reading event in JNU, turned seditious in the times of fascism

Tahiba Ulfat

Tahiba is a researcher scholar at Dept. of Sociology, Delhi school of Economics.

Dear people of India,

If you think, that by saying or seeking the truth or by identifying with people’s pain and suffering one can be labeled as an anti-national or a terrorist then there is a problem with the way you think. I feel if you do so you have no legitimacy to speak yourself. I’m very serious about this. If you believe, that by holding an Indian flag, and waving it in the air, or by using the sacrificial nature of army (When there is working class in formal and formal sector, who has nothing to see but its labour power, get wages to live and work for another day), one can demean anything, and can claim some to beat journalists and lawyers, a legitimacy to use sexist abuses, and a legitimacy to brand anybody as a traitor, then I’m sorry to say that you are in spirit anti constitution, and will only lead to the destruction of the core values of our democracy.

I just don’t understand that what kind of Nationalism is this, which does not understand the pain and suffering of its fellow country men/women. I fail to understand what you mean by being nationalist. Is it about branding each and every Muslim as a traitor or an outsider, and sending them to Pakistan, Syria, or any other Muslim country? Is it about an ownership of pieces of land without its people? Is it about the destruction of old babri masjid? Is it about imposing AFSPA in Kashmir and Manipur.? Is it about harassing and honour killing/? Is it about lynching a whole family of dalits and raping them because they don’t adhere to the rules of caste system? Is it about not questioning the hindutava fundamentalism around us? Is it about killing more Akhlaqs on the pretext of beef politics/ Is it about moral policing ? is it favoring an ideology of imperialism? Is it about justifying occupation? Is it about pre-planned genocide of thousands of ‘people’ belonging to a specific religious identity in Godhra, in 2002? Do you really know and identify with the people all across the state and regions inside the Indian Territory as fellow Indian citizens? Are you ready to treat every individual of the Indian subcontinent as an equal? Can you identify with the their pain?Can you speak for the women raped by the army in Manipur and Kashmir? Can you speak for the working class of the country and the inhuman conditions of their daily lives? Can you speak of the adivasis, whose livelihood and land is under threat? Are you ready to respect different ways of clothing, and different ways of eating, and different ways of praying? Are you ready to marry your sons and daughters friends to anybody he/she wants, defying the barriers of religion, caste and gender? Are you ready to accept that one can denounce any caste and any religion by his or her own choice, and can live in whatever ways in which can live his/her life, without encroaching on other’s life?

Are you ready to ready to build a consensus among among fellow citizens in the name of human solidarity? Are you ready to let individuals decide what to eat, be it beef or pork? If she wants to, are you ready to let women walk at any moment of the day and night, alone or with whoever they feel like? Are you ready to accept that one can choose any work and can sing any song, and can paint anything? Are you ready to denounce the concept purity and pollution, hierarchies that create a superior and inferior being?
If you think that your idea of nation is just about borders and territory, then you anger is not genuine and I don’t believe in this idea of nationalism. It is just a selfish concept devoid of its people. The idea of nation is strong when people of the territory are respected, and are treated as equal, and if the people are respected, the idea of nation, is questioned. For example JNU can be considered as a mini-nation in itself, where the idea of JNU is so strong that when its students are targeted they came out in the street like a sea, not to lynch but to protest.

Do you believe that people have a tendency to create problems or call for azaadi just for fun? There is a basis and logical reason for calling those slogans. I’m not talking about the slogans like ‘bharat mata ki jai’ and then lynching someone. ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ and then demolishing babri Masjid. Bharat mata ki jai, and then calling women sluts and threaten them of rape when they assert their rights. Bharat mata ki jai and then calling a dalit a dog. Can you go deeper into yourself and put aside your all identities and reduce it to the level of human species, and think on the basis of gender, caste, race and patriarchy?
If you are ready to do that then, I think, you have the legitimacy to show your anger, and have legitimacy to protest.

What happened on 9th of Feb, in JNU? The infamous event that night which certain media channels, described as a ‘Deshrohi Event’ was in spirit an expression of the core values of democracy. It was an event to express solidarity with the suffering of people who live in Kashmir. It was an event which connects one person to another, it was an event which reaches at the level of heart, and blurs the boundaries. It was an event which questions our conscience. But that event in itself was termed as seditious, and converted into a conspiracy against the Indian state and nationalism. And the organizers became traitors, and some became the mastermind. And a Muslim name Umar Khalid became the target. Called one of the masterminds of the event, the media was quick to charge him of terror links. In actual Umar was only engaging in democratic practice organising an ‘open and democratic’ event at an ‘open space’ like the JNU campus for which he seeked permission from the administration, made a Facebook event for it, shared posters of the event with his and his comrades names on it!

Have you ever seen such a democratic and open conspiracy around the world ever? These organizers followed a process through which one has to conduct an event anywhere outside or inside the campus, and yet they became targets of the pseudo nationalists. These pseudo nationalists are anti democratic and as well as anti-constitution. They say ‘chit bhi meri aur pat bhi meri’. They say, you are anti-national and then threaten to lynch Kanhaiya and Umar Khalid, and others who comrades. They will disrupt the court hearing of Kanhaiya and then beat up the Journalists and lawyers also. They are supported by the police, the central government and its ministers, and parroted praises by some of media channels. As an oppressed identity, Muslims are always at a vulnerable position. It is easy to target and brand them, as it is already a part of larger consciousness of the people of this country. To satisfy this conscious of the people, who themselves are so divided and alienated from one another, by different ideologies we create our own enemies. Do we even need the constitution or the different institutions that seek to protect its fundamentals, when not just the organizers of the event, the JNUSU president and with him all of JNU is being branded as a traitor just through a media trial and the muscle power of goons and thugs? And the crackdown is still on. When already there is a blood thirsty mob, which shouts ‘bharat mata ki jai’, and can perpetuate violence at will. Why is there such lawlessness? Why these media trials before the accused even steps into the court? Why is there such a hurry to pass judgments? Why is there such a hurry to give punishments that we can hire and protect goons and thugs? What are the reasons and agendas of those in power? What is clear is that this agenda is not democratic or with the spirit of our constitution.

We have to defend this idea, the idea of holding a democratic event. We have to defend our freedom of expression. We have to defend the slogans that express the pain and suffering of those that in our nation are oppressed and suffering.

We have to defend these acts of solidarity. Any compromise or dilution of this idea will only make us corrupt.

P.S. Like Umar Khalid, I also have a Muslim name, but don’t go by that. We are Humans, with no Religion. He said to me once, and I’m saying it to you, “ You might hear things against us from people in responsible positions. I will only ask you to also give us one hearing before you form any opinion.” If something will happen to Umar Khalid, Kanhiya and others students. Neither history nor we, the students, will spare you. One Rohit is killed, save and support these Rohiths, before they will be killed, and don’t let India, to be ‘A country without a Dissent’.

Tahiba Ulfat








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