Lies Never Triumph
By Imran Khan
01 March, 2016
What can be understood out of JNU controversy and Rohit Vemulla’s suicide is that the situation in India for minority and marginalised is bleak and the space for dissenting voice is fading. What can also be observed is that, different versions of nationalism are being constantly patronised by different political ideologies and each remain busy in imposing it’s version of nationalism on the other. In such a situation, individual liberty, freedom of thought and expression and right to dissent is put to walls. If such a situation is allowed to continue it will lead to extreme polarisation in India.
What is more disturbing is that no attempt is made by the politicians to hold together the social fabric of Indian society. Instead politics is being played on such sensitive issues. Certain politicians and some groups are not able to look at the beauty of diversity, variation and dissent. Though respect for diversity, tolerance to dissent and freedom of thought and expression can strengthen India, but such virtues of democracy are labelled as antinational these days. Politicians seem hating to accept the truth and ground reality and instead stick to their own versions of nationalism, even if such versions exceed all limits of humanism. Considering previous experiences not much can be expected from politicians though but the agonizing part is that the highest institutes of learning are not able to distance itself from what is unfolding at political and societal level.
Following the incidents like Rohit Vemulla’s suicide and JNU sloganeering and then the subsequent sedition charges, the parliament session was expected to be chaotic. The acting skills of Smiriti Irani Ji was no surprise either considering her background, however certain misleading statements from her were not expected at all, particularly with regard to Rohit Vemulla’s suicide. Thought Smriti Irani did a wonderful job in terms of dramatising her speech in the parliament, particularly her facial expressions were just perfect, but she was factually incorrect on many occasions as reported by many news channels. The HRD minister in her parliament speech said “Nobody allowed a doctor near this child, to revive this child, to take him to the hospital, nobody allowed a doctor near him. The police have reported that not one attempt was made to revive this child, not one attempt was made to take him to the doctor. Instead, his body was used as a political tool, hidden, no police was allowed till 6.30 the next morning". However such a statement has been contradicted by the Chief Medical Officer of Hyderabad Central University, Dr Rajashree and by students of HCU. In fact a video showing police present near the Rohit Vemulla’s body in his hosted room has also been playing on many news channels. The CMO further revealed that it was the students who took her to Rohith's room where he was found hanging and requested her to make an attempt to revive him. About JNU incident also the HRD minister made certain furious comments. It must be noted however that the video on the basis of which Kanaya Kumar, Omar Khalid and others have been charged with sedition is believed to be a doctored video.
So the facts unfolding in the aftermath of Rohit Vemulla’s suicide and JNU controversy suggest that the dissenting voice is being suppressed by the state and sedition law is being used to fulfil such a purpose. And the unfortunate part is that such a strategy is continuing from British period now. What is funny and ironical here is that British gave sedition law to India and but Britishers themselves don’t have the same law anymore. So India is continuing with a relic of their colonial past. On the other hand prominent personalities in India too have expressed their disagreement with such a law. While expressing his dissatisfaction with the sedition 124A Gandhiji termed Section 124A as the “Prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. What Gandhiji said in 1922 holds true even today. Further Supreme court of India too has remarked in many cases that mere slogans do not attract Section 124A pertaining to sedition. (Kedar Nath Singh’s Case, Indra Das v State of Assam, Arup Bhuyan v State of Assam, Shreya Singhal v Union of India, Balwant Singh v State of Punjab).
Indian state needs to remind itself what Gandhiji reminded the British Government in 1922 and that is:“......affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law”. A certain version of nationalism, forced and imposed, cannot bring true patriotism in the subjects of a state. Universities are a place of learning, research, debate, and discussion, expression of ideas, opinions and dissent. Caste discrimination, intolerance and suppression of ideas should have no place at the highest institutes of learning. State should try to liberate young minds and not cage them. And no law can justify such caging. And those who make rhetoric speeches in parliament need to understand that “Lies Never triumph”.
Imran Khan is presently working in Education Department. Previously worked as Psychologist with Action Aid International, Medecins sans Frontieres and JK Police Drug De-addiction Services.