Freedom begins between the ears – Edward Hubby
Time is a cruel equaliser. The very youth power which catapulted the present disposition to the seat power has unleashed itself once again against it. Jawaharlal Nehru University, the venerable seat of learning has become the battleground of nationalism. Here’s my two cents on the issue.
If Kanhaya Kumar and his friends did indulge in sloganeering that supports the cause of those who support Kashmir’s freedom from India, it is a case of an opinion, which I’ve right to disagree. To call it sedition, is to stretch the argument a bit too far. Basing the entire case on a purportedly doctored tape, questions our fundamental right to disagree. We exhort populace of western countries to raise up and reign in their governments from their hegemonic designs. If they do, we consider them fair and just, not unpatriotic to their country. Sometimes, no reaction from governments (which is the case in 99% of the time on all issues) is the best solution. Sad it is to see our political parties make university campuses their battleground.
Is there something in university campuses across the world to become the launch pads for revolutions across the world? Young blood, new found idealism and outside influence (positive or negative) make them a tinder box, awaiting a spark to set off chain reactions. India, is not alone in this, it’s a world-wide phenomenon.
May 10, 1968 is a date etched forever in the history and minds of French. On that day students of various Paris universities joined civil unrest and general strike by workers and brought the country to a halt. On May 13, a million Parisians – university students, high school students, workers, officials, teachers – marched, prompting the government to call for fresh elections. Many observers feared civil war or revolution; the national government itself momentarily ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly left France for a few hours. Although the events sometimes turned violent, they also had artistic and festive aspects with numerous quasi-improvised debates and assemblies, songs, imaginative graffiti, posters and slogans. It was a revolution that never was.
Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in 1980 (May 5-18) was in protest against the actions of Chun Doo-hwan government by the people of Gwangju city. Chun Doo-hwan came to power in a military coup which the students of local Jeonnam University were protesting against and were calling for restoration of democracy. Chun’s regime hit back. About 600 –some estimate 2000- students were killed by military which had silent backing of US under Jimmy Carter (who incidentally won a Noble Peace Prize later!). Incidentally, students are back on the streets of Seoul since November 2015, as the present government, ruled by the daughter of an ex-President who has a dark side, wants to rewrite the history text books which might help her father look better!
The role of university students in Chinese uprising in 1989 or the growth of Naxalism in Andhra Pradesh and also in the formation of Telangana is very significant. World over, students are increasingly getting active and restive. Students in US are protesting in an organised way against the ballooning student loan debts which total nearly $1 trillion! In Bangladesh, students are raising their voice against taxes on tuition fees.
For governments, universities are both the centres of future and revolutions. In India, we are even more uniquely placed. Never before in the history, are so many young men and women seated in the classrooms of a country. Economic and social equality along with economic opportunities need to be ensured by the governments of today and tomorrow. The way our political parties demonstrated their credentials in the Hyderabad University and JNU rows, political reformation is need of the hour.
Let’s not forget the words of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius: Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.