INDULGING IN ANTI-NATIONAL ACTIVITIES IS NO STUDENTSHIP
Freedom of Speech not for propagating Sedition
By Vashishtha AC
A day after the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar in a sedition case Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi visited the campus to express solidarity with the students. He said the "most anti-national are people, who are suppressing the voice of students in this institution (JNU)". Why a student is "not allowed to say what he believes in", he asked. Can the JNU, Hyderabad University (HU) and Jadavpur University (JU) incidents mean that the action is directed against students as a whole?
An educational institution, be it a school, college or university, is a temple of education where students irrespective of their caste, creed, region and sex worship the goddess of knowledge to study, learn and gain experience for a better future. All their activities and energies are — and should be — concentrated on education and education alone. They focus on what promotes to quench their thrust for education and knowledge. Since they cannot engage themselves in studies all through, their demand for recreational, sports and health facilities is also understandable.
Politics, as is commonly understood, is not the staple food for our students and not a part of their curricula or extra-curricular activities. What we understand by student politics also remains confined to the contours of education and student welfare.
At 18, students are adults. They become eligible to exercise their right to franchise. They are free to vote for a person or political party that strikes their imagination. That does not require a student to be a member of the party he votes for. In the country hundreds of thousands of people vote for a particular party without being its member. They retain with them the freedom to assess, evaluate their performance and to continue or discontinue the support to an individual or a party. Becoming member of a political party enjoins upon a student — and for that matter, on every individual — to support it for all times, in all circumstances for all the rights and wrongs. That divests the student of his freedom of thought and expression.
In the same manner whatever goes on in a college or university campus should always have something to do with education and acquiring knowledge. They can organize seminars, discussions and debates on matters that are purely academic or at the most social directly or indirectly touching the life of student community. They can observe martyrdom days, birthdays or anniversaries of important national leaders who contributed something for the nation.
The recent incidents in JNU and HU have one thing in common. A faction of the HU students owing allegiance to Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) of which late Rohith Vemula was a member and who later committed suicide, had agitated against the proposed hanging of terrorist Yaqoob Memon sentenced to death for the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts. His sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court and his mercy appeal rejected by the President of India. Memon was neither a student leader nor had he been punished for any activity connected with students. Thus, ASA was instigating students not to have faith in the law of the land and the judiciary. Derecognition of ASA by the Hyderabad University was in consequence of their indulging in a matter that had nothing to do with students or their welfare.
Same is the case with the 2001 Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru whose hanging anniversary JNU students were observing. He too had not been sentenced for an offence that had, directly or indirectly, to do with students.
JNUSU hoodwinked the university authorities by seeking permission in the name of holding a cultural programme. On the contrary it observed the death anniversary of Afzal Guru during which seditious anti-national slogans were raised. This in itself was an offence and an indication of their malafide intentions. That some students while raising slogans were hiding their faces is a proof that they knew that what they were doing was violation of law and they wanted to escape being identified. That some outside elements too joined is indicative of a deep-rooted well-planned conspiracy
The constitution of no students' union or association provides for taking part in matters that have nothing to do with students and education.
A person who commits a crime cannot seek protection behind being a student, lawyer, professor, journalist, doctor, journalist or engineer because he does so in his personal capacity and not by the profession or faith or region he belongs.
In other words, whether it is the Rohith Vemula case in HU or the JNU incident, the student community as a whole is not responsible for the shameful conduct of the minuscule minority which indulged in seditious and anti-national activities. And any action against the accused cannot be construed as action against the student community because they were not acting in furtherance of the student's welfare.
The JNUSU and the JNU Teachers' Association are raising a strange and unreasonable demand: the criminal charges against students be dropped and police should not be allowed to enter the JNU to perform its lawful duties. True, the autonomy of an educational institution should be honoured but that is possible only as long as the students and teachers abide by law. Barring police from the campus would turn JNU should into a safe haven for criminals because police will not be able to lay its hands on them as long as they are in the campus. Even Speakers of central and state legislatures will not deny access to police if a heinous crime, like rape and murder, takes place within legislature premises. This demand of JNSU and JNUTA gives credence to the charge that JNU is turning into a den of crime and harbourer of criminals and anti-national activities.
The whole sequence of events also makes one thing clear: Those who are crying hoarse over lack of tolerance are themselves turning guilty of displaying intolerance to the law of the land and the verdicts of judiciary.
Police has not hauled up the JNU student community as a whole but only a handful of miscreants who raised anti-India slogans and called for its balkanization. How can an attempt to enforce law of the land be construed as an attempt to gag the voice of students or preventing them from saying what they "believe in"? The students who continue to be law-abiding have nothing to fear.
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