Why Nehru would not have taken sides in the JNU debate

We need a political class which stands for the unity and progress of the country, not the one which divides the nation or seeks to silence its citizens. Alas, such a political class died decades ago

Anand Raja | March 15, 2016


#kanhaiya kumar   #gandhi   #nationalism   #supreme court   #sedition   #law   #human rights   #jnu row   #JNU   #jawaharlal nehru university  

(Photo: Arun Kumar)

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has always been a bastion of the left. Decades ago, people in power saw to it that JNU moved on the left beat. Recently, JNU students (and possibly some unidentified outsiders) chanted few slogans in favor of Afzal Guru who was hanged by the state. A furor ensued. Police arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, head of JNU students’ union and slapped sedition case against him.

Two sides have emerged in the debate.

There are people who are in favor of JNU. These include JNU alumni and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. He has adopted a matter of fact, non ideological position and has said that the issue should be investigated further into. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi while addressing JNU students termed the central government as ‘anti national’. There are people who are against JNU. Like Subramanian Swamy, people have called JNU a den of ‘anti nationals’.

So who is right?

The answer to this dilemma can come from the man in whose honour the university was set up. So, would Panditiji (Jawaharlal Nehru) have approved of what happened in JNU or would he have taken sides of the likes of Subramanian Swamy?
Who was Nehru?

Panditji was a nationalist. Among the many ways in which Panditji can be described, it can be said that Panditji led his life for the cause of noble ideas. Among the many ideas that the great man espoused, the first idea was the idea of service. Winning the fight for independence, Panditji said, “It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of service to the nation and her people and the still larger cause of humanity.” While analysing the contribution of Gandhi to Indian psyche, he says in the Discovery of India that Gandhi’s message was simple: ‘Fear Not’.

Panditji encouraged people to aspire to higher ideals. The goal of a university was defined by Panditji in the following way: “Its (University’s) aim is to encourage human race to ever higher goals.” This statement, to be accurate, is a line in the motto of Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Nehru and contemporary JNU

Panditji was a nationalist who loved the nation and its people. Panditji wanted to encourage human love for humanity.

The recent incidents in the JNU do not indicate the existence of a JNU which loves all people of the country or the country itself, as Nehru did. Speaking about the interests of some sections, it succeeds in alienating a large section of the population. JNU students are not concerned about the national good but divide the nation into various groups. JNU, in our times, does not see Indians primarily as citizens but as individuals who belong to various sects. There are various examples which suggest the same.

The very fact that an event was organised to commemorate the death of Afzal Guru (a man with a militant past) indicates that contemporary JNU students’ opinion is not entirely the one with the interests of the country. Commemorating the death of Afzal Guru is in itself a tacit support of militancy. Armed militancy in Kashmir would certainly not have been celebrated by Panditji. We have to note, however, that the slogans which television channels proclaimed were chanted at the occasion, experts say, were doctored. So, we cannot call crackdown on sedition charges on student leader Kanhaiya justified.

There are other pieces of evidence, however, that suggest that JNU students are not nationalists, in the Nehruvian way. A few years ago, the Naxals carried out an armed attack against CRPF in the jungles of Bastar. JNU students danced and sang to celebrate the killing of CRPF men. This indicates that the killing of people in a political conflict is not condemnable to the students of JNU, but praiseworthy. The killing of CRPF men would not have been praised by Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who believed in non-violent changes in the country. Although holding one’s government to account is a civic right, celebrating its overthrow is quite another. Nehru would not have approved the throwing away of a state of which he was the first head in post-independence India.

Nehru’s vision was not limited to a particular caste or a particular creed. Nehru was not the leader of just a fragment of India. He saw all Indians as equals. The university founded in his name does not see all Indians as Indians. Not all citizens of India are the children of one land, one Bharat Mata. A few days after Kanhaiya was arrested, posters figured on the walls of JNU. A vicious caste based agenda which sees the people of India not as one but as a collection of various different castes has come about. The posters said ‘India is a jail of various castes’.

The students of JNU, in an anti-Nehruvian spirit, imply that our nation is not one nation. The nation is divided into various castes which are not linked to each other. Nehru said, in a speech from the Red Fort, that if we privilege our caste or community over nation, nation would fall. The behavior of JNU students show that as far as JNU students are concerned, the nation has fallen!

Nehru and anti-JNU

Nehru would not be a fan of what JNU students are doing. Nehru, however, would not be with those who oppose JNU from the right. To begin with, Nehru would not have been one with those who claim that JNU should be closed on the basis of what JNU students say. Such closure would be anti-democratic. While Panditji would have disagreed with JNU students, he would have fought for freedom of expression for the students. Nehru would certainly have said that ostracising people on the basis of what they say is anti-national. In the same vein, criminalising speech would have been disagreeable to Nehru. He would certainly have been up in arms against Rajnath Singh who said: “Those who speak against the nation would not be forgiven.”

Conclusion
Jawaharlal Nehru loved mankind in a noble and forgiving way. Nehru stood for the unity and integrity of the country and would have certainly differed with a section of students who celebrate those who seek to harm and divide the nation. Neither celebrating the memory of Afzal Guru nor putting up posters which do not hold our Republic in high regard would have pleased Nehru, or those around us. The anti-JNU people, on the other hand, are widely known as fascists today.

If Nehru were to take sides in the JNU debate, he would, for reasons elucidated above, probably not be on either side. We need a political class which stands for the unity and progress of the country, not the one which divides the nation or seeks to silence its citizens. Alas, such a political class died decades ago.
 

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