An acrimonious row has broken out over the police crackdown at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The left-domited JNU students union is on strike demanding the release of its president arrested on sedition and crimil conspiracy charges, as well as other protesters hauled up from the hostels. When the arrested were to be produced in court on Monday, some lawyers and goons manhandled JNU students and jourlists within the court premises, intensifying the political war of words. The bitter fallout from the function organised on February 9 to commemorate the hangingof Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and JKLF founder MaqwboolBhathas split the university faculty, staff and students, with political parties falling over themselves to exploit the yawning divide.During the function organised by Leftist student groups and attended by sizeable number of Kashmiri students, anti-India slogans were reportedly raised calling for the country’s dismemberment and destruction through revolutiory war. While the JNU students union and its arrested president have distanced themselves from the objectioble sloganeering, their supporters are alleging that the rightist, BJP-affiliated ABVP acted as agent provocateurs to incite protesters and give the students union a bad me.After the police swooped down on the JNU campus following a complaint lodged by a BJP MP, Home Minister Rajth Singh warned that the government will not tolerate anti-tiol sloganeering and activities. Left parties have denounced the police action as reminiscent of the dark days of Emergency, while Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has lost no time in making common cause with the agitating students, alleging that the Modi government is hell-bent in stamping out voices of dissent and protest. This in turn has provoked the BJP and the Congress to question each other’s patriotic credentials.
The situation is therefore ripe for political posturing ahead of the parliamentary budget session, putting a question mark over several crucial upcoming legislations. More seriously, student politics getting sucked into the no-holds barred political battle holding the country hostage — is anunfortute trend. Opposition parties have derided the SanghParivar of wrapping itself in the tricolour and preaching tiolism. Legal experts have questioned the NDA government’s ham-handed use of colonial era sedition laws to prosecute student agitators, even calling for the scrapping of Section 124-A of the IPC. A section of liberal thinkers have pointed out that universities everywhere have traditiolly been bastions of non-conformist, revolutiory thought, where various causes and ideologies espoused by young rebels have germited and clashed. They argue that the basis of the State and the ture of its organising power should also be under constant scrutiny in the temples of higher learning if real, value-based progress is to be achieved. The Indian sub-continent has been no exception, particularly during the British raj when the freedom movement resoted in many varsities and colleges in the land. All this is ideal, and surely laudable. But students will also need to appreciate keenly all that have gone into the making of a society and tion, even as they think about how to make it better.It is not for nothing that the country built by their forefathers has framed laws forbidding desecration of its flag, its constitution and other State symbols. Rather, it is sad that gratitude and respect for one’s society and country, in spite of its many faults, has to be enjoined through laws when it should have been felt deeply in the heart. Bringing about change through violent, bloody means is no longer an altertive in today’s highly inter-dependent world battling the spectre of terror. It is all very well to take a critical look at the Kashmir and Maoist problems; it will also do good if insurgency ridden Northeast states figure in the intellectual ferment. And it will be just and equitable if campus revolutiories also spare some thought to ordiry victims of terrorist violence. They ought to stay connected to the real world outside the varsity walls, while political parties need to keep off the campus.