Debates on political questions banned in name of nationalism

On February 2, 2017, the history department of the Jai Narayan Vyas University in Jodhpur organized a conference on ‘History Reconstructed through Literature: Nation, Identity, Culture’. The Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), student wing of the ruling BJP, organized a shutdown of the university the following day declaring that a Professor who addressed the seminar had expressed “anti national views”. The teacher who organized the conference has since been suspended by the Vice Chancellor of the University.

On 21 February 2017, the English department of Ramjas College (Delhi University) had organised a Seminar entitled “Cultures of Protest”. This meeting was disrupted by activists of the ABVP, who objected to the participation of two student activists from JNU as invited speakers. These two activists had been branded as “anti national” based on doctored videos a year ago.The Principal of the college was forced to cancel the Seminar. When students and faculty organised a march to the police station the next day to file a complaint, the police allowed a group of ABVP activists to disrupt the march by violently attacking the protesters.

Similar attacks have been taking place in universities in different states. That these attacks have the full backing of those in power is shown in the justifications provided by different ministers. Addressing a meeting at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences on 25th February, Finance Minister Jaitley is reported to have said, “anyone who talks of nations and national rights within India is against the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India’. Therefore, he or she is part of the ‘alliance of subversion’ and is ‘anti-national’. Therefore, as per the Constitution of India, his freedoms can be legitimately curtailed”.

Jaitley is expressing the views of the ruling class of big capitalists who treat the land and natural resources of the people of our country as their private property to be ruthlessly plundered. Workers and peasants, women and youth, the tribal peoples, the people of oppressed nationalities, — all those who question this loot and plunder and demand their rights are treated as part of “alliance of subversion” and “anti national”.

In the name of “nationalism”, the BJP government is effectively justifying the ban on debates on political questions in the campuses. Teachers are being persecuted for their views. Students are being attacked. Passions are being deliberately inflamed amongst people, to declare that all those who hold a different view on the solution to the problems facing India and her people are to be treated as anti nationals.

The fact is that numerous nations and nationalities do exist in India. However, the Constitution does not even acknowledge the existence of nations and nationalities within India, let alone protect their rights. The Constitution does not defend human rights of our people, including the right to conscience.

The conflict that is going on in our society cannot be resolved by turning political problems into “law and problems” to be resolved through repression. On the contrary, it is precisely because successive governments have followed such a course that the unity and solidarity of the Indian people has been endangered. It is the ruling class which is guilty of anti-national activity, not those who are upholding the human, democratic and national rights of people.