By Pope! Uncle Ben and Voltaire are Linked to the JNU Incident!

The best thing about blogging…No one gives a damn about what I feel about an issue. But, it’s my blog…and I have the freedom to express ANYTHING I want!

Freedom to express ANYTHING? Really?

Which brings to my topic for this post. for the second time in my blogging career, I am writing about a topic which is political in nature…and this one has divided the nation like no other in recent memory!

If you have been in India last couple of weeks, it’s very unlikely that you have not seen or heard about the events which took place in the Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) campus in New Delhi.Considering the fact that many of my fellow bloggers are not from India, I think it’s necessary that I give a brief background. However, if you are aware about the incident, you can skip the next 2 paragraphs.

Our story starts in December 2001, when 5 terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament House, leading to the death of 14 people, which included the 5 terrorist. At least 22 people got injured in the attack. Though these things can never be proved, we can safely assume that the terrorists were trained and armed in Pakistan. In the investigations which followed, 4 people were accused of being the masterminds of the attack, and of these 2 were acquitted by the court. Another person was given 10 years imprisonment but released 9 months before his official release date, due to his good conduct.

The remaining person, Afzal Guru was sentenced to death and hanged on 3rd February, 2013.Now, this death sentence was on one hand hailed by most Indians as justice finally being delivered to those innocent people who died on that day in 2001. On the other hand, it was considered unjust by many people, in major part the Muslims of the country, especially in Kashmir ( Afzal was a Kashmiri), where people felt that Afzal was forced to confess to his crime, and his trial was not fair.

Lets fast forward to 3rd February, 2016, the 3rd anniversary of Afzal’s death. Some left leaning and Kashmiri student groups had planned an event to protest the death sentence of Afzal Guru and to highlight the plight of Kashmiris. Well, that’s what the plan was, according to the organizing students.

What happened next is not very clear. What I have understood is that students belonging to the ABVP, students wing of the ruling party, BJP protested against such an event. And in a video which has gone viral, it is clear that the students were shouting anti-India slogans, and since the slogans ended with the word Inshallah, it can be assumed that they were mostly Muslims.

This is the genesis of the storm which has ensured that newspapers, news channels and FB have never had a moment’s respite. The government sent police to arrest the student union’s leader on charges of sedition, which had the university students up in arms, protesting it as a breach of freedom of speech, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. According to them, one can be charged with sedition if there is active involvement to cause violence against the nation, not just mere sloganeering.

On the other hand, a major section of the population is enraged by the fact that people who are Indians are shouting slogans claiming that they will destroy their own nation, and break it into small pieces. The nation which feeds them, provides for their education subsidy and a shelter to live in.

Now, I am usually very apathetic to anything remotely political. But, the human mind can take only that much, and especially when you are bombarded with the topic 24×7.

So, what does Know-All think about the event? In all honesty, I can’t really decide who is the Hero and who the villain.

So, Let’s start and see where we reach…

I am reminded of Uncle Ben. Remember him? Well…he is actually my friend’s uncle…ring a bell? No? Oh well, my friend likes to call himself Spiderman! So, Uncle Ben once said…With Great Power comes Great Responsibility. Apparently, Uncle Ben was not very original. He was merely repeating something which some ancient French guy named Voltaire had said couple of centuries ago!

So, in the context of the JNU incident, I think the great power is the freedom of speech, which the constitution provides us. If you think it is not a power, you can always try living in Saudi Arabia or China or some other countries where people cannot take freedom of speech for granted. If you don’t believe me, I strongly recommend that you read up the article on Saudi Arabia in this month’s National Geographic magazine(that’s me showing off my intellectual side again! ).

Well, if you are not too happy about me quoting Spiderman’s uncle or same French guy named Voltaire, how about quoting the only contemporary Godman I admire? None other than Pope Francis!

In my honest opinion, this guy is really a breath of fresh air. Now, after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, when the whole world was shouting about the need to protect freedom of speech, this guy stuck a note of caution.

He said that there are limits to freedom of expression when it comes to insulting religion. Or, he joked, his mom!

Calling freedom of expression a “fundamental” human right, the Pope outlined why he believes there are limits to that right. If someone “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” he joked. “It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

So, here’s my submission to the students who shouted anti-India slogans. If you go around abusing your freedom, expect repercussions. Mind you, I am not commenting on whether it is fair or unfair. I am saying, expect it.

Do you realize how much trouble your slogans have caused to millions of Muslims in India? Accept it or not, a substantial number of Hindus in India love to think of most, if not all, Muslims as Pakistan sympathizers at best, and terrorists, at worst. Do you think, such sloganeering will help improve the already bad relations or do you think it will in any manner help improve the living conditions of the Kashmiris? Maybe the ABVP students instigated you but if you fall for the bait, are you any better than them? Do you realise the mess this whole event has created? The trouble ordinary Muslims are going through, because of all the brouhaha? They probably don’t give a damn about the incident and they probably didn’t even know about the existence of JNU before this. But they are suffering because of it, because Hindus are judging their patriotism. Whether they are for the Nation or are Anti-National. Do the poor really understand what Sedition implies?

So, no matter how justified your demands are, you need to keep in mind that if you are insensitive, there will be intolerance.

On the other hand, if all ye desh-bhakts( patriots) are going Aye to what I said, let me add something.

Remember what Pope Francis said? Well, it seems he did not stop there. He went on to add and I quote, “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion — that is, in the name of God,” the pope said. “To kill in the name of God is an aberration.” He also clarified, that under no circumstances did he advocate that violence was justified if religious sentiments were hurt.

 And remember that French dinosaur, Voltaire? The one who talked about power being a responsibility?

Seems like he was a BIG time fence sitter. Because he also said to someone, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it……or something to that effect!

Going by the statements of some of the so-called Nationalists, whose patriotism is limited to vitriolic updates on FB, it seems anything which is remotely critical of the country is to be treated as seditious!

Let me try and understand your angst, point by point.

 1) You are angry because they raised slogans threatening they will ruin India. I agree with you. It is a very offensive statement to make. No matter how much grievance you have. Because the ruin of a nation cannot lead to the betterment of people in another place, irrespective of whether it is part of the same country.

 2) You are outraged that these “Commies” and “Muslims” and “Pseudo-intellectuals” are supporting a terrorist, who planned a heinous crime against our Nation. But, I have a question. These “anti-nationals” feel that the Afzal Guru was not given proper justice and that he was framed and the charges against him were all based on circumstantial evidence and that he was forced to confess to his crimes. So, the problem is, they have a different take on the issue. While writing this post, I just got a news alert that Harper Lee had passed away. Remember “To Kill a Mockingbird”? The black man was convicted of raping a white girl. But, as we learn later, he was falsely implicated.So, there just might be a remote possibility that Afzal Guru was indeed innocent? So, just because some people believe in an alternate version, does that make them anti-national?

 3) You are outraged that these guys want freedom for Kashmir. To be honest, even I cannot imagine Kashmir ever being separated from India. But, instead of thrashing up these guys, don’t you think we need to try and understand why they, or some states in North-East India, are demanding freedom? Is it because they have some genuine grievances which have not been addressed by any of the political parties? is it because, that even though, on paper, they live in a free country, they feel suffocated and lacking true freedom?

As a friend recently mentioned, many Scots felt they wanted a separate country. They were not termed as anti-nationals or ungrateful for all that the motherland had done for them. The politicians decided to debate it, in a civilized manner, and they decided to hold a referendum, and as it turned out, majority of the people did not want a separate country!

Are we Indians scared, that the Kashmiris do have a cause to be unhappy with the treatment they have received and is that why we are trying to shout them down?

Is that why we are bashing up the prime accused outside court? Is this the kind of democracy we want our country to be? And just because I am asking these questions, should I termed as anti-national or Communist or Pakistan lover or Pseudo-intellectual?

 I would love to hear your opinion, even if it is contrary to what I believe in. Because I believe, that’s what makes my country great. The freedom to express my opinion, without insulting anyone.

18 thoughts on “By Pope! Uncle Ben and Voltaire are Linked to the JNU Incident!

  1. Very well written, but as usual, Sayantan! I agree with you and Pope Francis, freedom of speech should be respected and limits not crossed. Provocation to such extremes never brings any good.

  2. So succinctly put. Not much of that news has reached Bangkok and most of the “news” articles don’t give enough information about it. I have been asking whoever I can to give me information about what has been happening and now I know. It’s a bit sad that it is happening. At the same time, I really agree with all of your points. It’s how I feel about the issue too!

    • Haha…thank you Aditya…after I had posted, a friend pointed out that Voltaire probably did not say all that….but, since the words are more important than the speaker…i decided to go with it…and hoped, no one would notice! 😀

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