From the violence at Ramjas College to harassing a 20-year-old social media campaigner Gurmeher, the last few days have kept the nation in a constant confusion. Which side to take, who’s right and who’s wrong. Umar was to talk about his research as a ‘Bastar’. He was not invited as an activist.
Umar Khalid, who is on bail from the High Court for six months, for lack of evidence in his sedition case (which means they couldn’t prove whether he said ‘anti-national’ things) was invited to a panel discussion at Ramjas College. What was this panel discussion about?
It must definitely be about Kashmir as Umar Khalid can speak about nothing else, thought the ABVP.
While quite contrary to popular beliefs, he was invited to talk in a closed-door panel with other speakers on a topic about ‘Bastar’ a village in Chattisgarh, that has been burning between the Naxalites, policemen and the army. ‘Bastar’ is Umar’s PhD research topic. He was not invited as an activist.
Still, the ABVP protested against the discussion with Umar in. Either they meant to say that Umar does not have the right to pursue his research work because he holds a certain view about Kashmir. Or they meant to dishonour the High Court which granted him the bail with a genuine lack of evidence. Either case, there was no logical point in ABVP’s protest still they were granted their right to (peaceful) protest by the authorities at Ramjas College.
“They had their right to ask difficult questions to the panel if they had disagreements,” said Professor Debraj Mukherjee in a debate on the evening of the incident on NDTV (with Nidhi Razdhan).
But when the college authorities felt the threat was real and could get dangerous and hence they cancelled their invitation to Umar Khalid. Shehla Rashid, another student invited on the panel was seen showing the stone that was thrown on her by ABVP activists and was asked to ‘have patience’ by the BJP person. She stresses on the fact that she would have been dead in the clashes that day. (I was she was a little calmer in the NDTV debate. Shouting, screaming and throwing personal comments on the BJP person just made it worse. That was also not a correct way to debate. A little more grace and poise would have helped, especially when you are not in the wrong.)
We didn’t see any protest (apart from the news articles) from any (political) side when the RSS got the stage at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) this year (JLF 2017). There was nothing wrong in it. Speaking on a stage, arguing on ideologies, is different from resorting to violence and pushing your viewpoint under someone’s throat. As a counterpart, the RSS also carries an extremist sentiment that a lot of Indians don’t resonate with.
But if Umar Khalid is invited as a researcher to speak about his PhD topic as ‘Bastar’ while on bail from the High Court due to lack of evidence on the ‘sedition’ case, he must not be allowed. We will not raise the standard of our arguments or questions but we must prevent any single assumed word against what we believe in. By this, we shall protect ‘anti-national’ sentiments being spread because obviously the people in our country don’t have brains of their own, and they will be disillusioned or swayed away if they hear the ‘other’ viewpoint.
There is no question of engaging a person in a dialogue because that’s the difficult thing to do. Easier is to shun. Or perhaps it is about our ego that we will not let any voice of dissent against the system or some of the people out there. Every single voice of dissent must be trolled, abused or killed. This is the law of the jungle now.
In the end, when did ‘supporting ABVP and RSS’ become a nationalistic question? Isn’t this the same party that killed Gandhi?