#JNU vs pseudo patriotism with popcorn

Is ABVP wresting control from JNU Leftists?

ByMadhu Trehan
#JNU vs pseudo patriotism with popcorn
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I am unashamedly jingoistic and cannot watch and hear this without getting goose bumps.

Now stand up and watch and listen. Invariably, I get choked up every time.

Now sit down and watch this.

It has often been repeated what L K Advani said about the press during the Emergency, “When they were asked to bend, they crawled”.

It was a totalitarian time. Today’s young people seem to believe that the heroes who went to jail were heroes then. They were not. They were the outcasts at that time. There were no mass protest marches, no agitations. The public just watched in quiet, fearful dismay as Sanjay Gandhi’s goons took over the country. The janta lived in fear and did nothing. It was not as clear-cut as it is today when you look back at that time. If you were against the repressive measures against the press, the censorship, the arrests of political leaders and journalists, you were an outcast. You were not given access to interviews, you were excluded from press conferences, you were shunned politically, socially and by your peers. If you asked an aggressive question in a press conference, your fellow journalists would complain that you spoiled the atmosphere. You would not be allowed in future press conferences. You could not get press accreditation from the Press Information Bureau. People would look at you with disdain coupled with the attitude, “Why don’t you just behave yourself?” A fictional ideology had taken over that if you were patriotic and believed in the country’s progress, you would support Indira Gandhi. Yes, trains ran on time, government employees arrived on time, population control measures would make India prosper, unsightly slums were ruthlessly wiped out, you were raided because you were anti-Indian and you deserved it, if you spoke against the Emergency even in private drawing rooms you were branded and reported. The majority of Indians did nothing and many believed that Indira Gandhi was good for the nation and was getting the country into shape. The rest of the public was resoundingly quiet. A handful of people stood up against it but as journalists and politicians were hauled off to jail, the public did nothing because it is difficult to be an outcast. You have to get used to abuse, ostracisation and consequences where you and your family suffer. You get used to accusations of being bought over by the “others” because holding independent views without material gain is incomprehensible. You have to learn to stand completely alone. Many lives were destroyed during the Emergency. Much like the Germans who looked the other way in Hitler’s Germany when he exterminated the Jews, after the war was over they claimed they did not know.

No one in today’s India will admit how many looked the other way during the Emergency. If heads of those who supported the Emergency (or looked the other way) were tonsured, a large part of the population would be bald headed today. It was just a handful of people who fought back. Basic reality check: do you know anyone personally who fought against the Emergency? In M K Gandhi’s movement, it was difficult to find a family that didn’t have someone involved. It is an accident of circumstance or the triumph of the Indian constitution and democracy that those who were outcasts then are heroes today. It didn’t have to be so. They could have continued into a failed cloud of oblivion had Indira Gandhi “mistakenly” not called for an election. We do not know how history would have played out. Maybe today’s prince would have inherited the dictatorship.

History repeats itself because the people who made the disastrous mistakes have long gone. A new generation makes the same mistakes, in different colours, not even realising that movie has already played and flopped. They grab with passion the fictional ideology and watch munching the popcorn of nationalism. There is always a war between the “chosen” and the “outcasts”.  These ideologies have the power to activate a populace who passionately believe and take ownership of this fictional idea. Transforming patriotism to a single, unambiguous concept that will deliver you from the danger of enemies, frightens the ordinary citizen into submission. The next step is to identify and locate the “enemies” who could be anyone that does not fall in line. This happened in the Emergency.

The lawyers in the clip above exhorted the ABP reporter to shout Vande Mataram. By shouting Vande Mataram did it make them more patriotic than her? How many of these lawyers are true patriots? Patriotism means acknowledging the failings of your country yet still loving it enough to work to remove those failings. Patriotism means paying your taxes, obeying the rule of law, maintaining a civic sense, standing in line, not using corruption to get your work done, disposing your garbage responsibly, treating public property with respect, stopping at a traffic red light and not treating it as optional, supporting your armed forces, volunteering after natural disasters, donating to worthwhile causes, comprehending the difficulties of the less privileged, contributing by working for change in your country in whatever field and not taking the law into your own hands. It means standing up for the values that are enshrined in our constitution – for liberty.


Vaishnav Janato’s words seem archaic and quaint in our times but all they do is to simply outline how to be a responsible human being. Shouldn’t that be the goal of any political party in India? Wouldn’t that assist in pushing Make in India? Instead, this is what we do. This happened less than a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated this for the public to use and enjoy.

It would not surprise me if PM Modi raised his hands in frustration and despair at the people of India. How can Swachh Bharat happen unless the public is made to realise their individual participation is important?

Within a week of the fracas at Jawaharlal Nehru University, pseudo patriotism was born. It is indeed infuriating and blood curdling to hear slogans that shout for the destruction of your country. Azaadi for Kashmir is a slogan that makes me grit my teeth. If I were his mother, I’d do to him what this mother did to her son during the Baltimore riots.

But, perhaps going into the history of JNU will tell you that this is not the first time such slogans have been raised, if they were. In 1969, JNU was created and widely reported that the underlying reason was that the Communists were a thorn for Indira Gandhi and this would be a good way to keep them busy and out of her political arena. To a large extent, she succeeded. JNU became the bastion of radical politics with Leftist professors and regularly went on strikes and protests. It became the perfect hunting ground for Left parties to recruit fresh, gullible students with ideas of revolution and helping the under privileged. Revolution was always round the corner, until they grew up and had to find a job. Some have gone on to become serous political leaders such as, Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Nirmala Sitharaman. Let it not be forgotten that it was JNU students that went on a three-day strike to protest the Emergency. Maneka Gandhi was stopped from entering a class she was enrolled in and was asked to respect the strike. She was reportedly furious, threatened she’d be back and soon after police entered the campus. Many students from JNU were jailed during protests against the Emergency. Reportedly, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was prevented from entering the campus in 1980. Over the years, there have been regular protests in JNU on various issues against whichever government happened to be in power. Previous governments, including AB Vajpayee’s BJP, have ignored the “seditious” nature of JNU’s protests. They were treated as misguided youth caught up in the romance of revolution. If they are more than that today, why was the Home Ministry’s intelligence so inadequate that they were unaware of serious seditious activity? Why did they not infiltrate, investigate and let them feel the full force of the law against sedition?

The underlying reason for the upheaval in JNU is the advent of ABVP in the university, which has been in the forefront to wrest the base and power so far enjoyed by the Leftists. It was the ABVP leader Saurav Sharma, joint secretary of JNU Students Union, who filed six FIRs against Umar Khalid, the organiser of the march, and other students. ABVP protested outside Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar’s office demanding expulsion and announced they would get the intervention of Smriti Irani, the HRD Minister, to ensure action was taken. They said they were assaulted by members of the Democratic Students Union who chanted slogans against the hanging of Afzal Guru.

There is no doubt that the Congress Party has placed people favourable to them, in powerful positions all over the country. Their ideology is visible everywhere from naming institutions in their family name to taking ownership of historical “facts” and curricula.  The Telegraph reported that BJP member of Parliament Chandan Mitra called for the closure of JNU.

“JNU has a long history of sedition and anti-national politics and it is not easy to combat it intellectually or through campus politics. So the best way is to vacate the hostels and shut the university down. It can be restarted in a different way, with a different curriculum, a different set of students and a different administration,” he reportedly said. Instead of shutting it down, why not let the Leftists play and start a university to counter that ideology? Doesn’t our constitution accept pluralistic ideologies? Did it have to be confrontational, divisive and become a national issue? It has been said that instead of banning a book, why not write one to refute it? Well, instead of destroying institutions, why not build new ones to counter the old? Nothing could be better than to get our youth educated on the Upanishads, learn Sanskrit, understand Hindustani classical music and poetry, astronomy, Ayurvedic sciences, and most important of all, the Hindu spirit of enquiry, ambiguity and debate. And aren’t Leftists a bit of a joke now since there are only about three Communist countries left in the world, with Cuba on the verge?

Indians had not even recovered from the polarisation of the tolerance/intolerance debate when we were hurtled into bullying pseudo patriotism. Is the polarisation a studied, planned strategy or is it incompetence that sees the fringe element wagging the top? The bullying lawyers in the video above and the ones who bashed up Kanhaiya Kumar have created a new phenomenon in our politics. The self-righteousness with which they misuse our flag as a prop in their violence, shouting patriotic slogans as justification for political vendetta, is a dreadful twist to patriotism.

Can you not be a Leftist and still be patriotic? H L Mencken wrote, “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.” The easy brainwashing of the public at large who now reduce and allocate all views to competing camps is nothing short of mind numbing. Are brains so anaesthetised that people will only think what they are told to think? Why can’t each person devise his/her own form of patriotism? After all, it is an emotion and not a product to be bought. It is an emotion that follows a thought. Can you order goose bumps when a person hears the song Vande Mataram? Can you demand choked up emotion when you hear Jana Gana Mana? Can you demand that someone shouts Vande Mataram and feel you have converted a subversive?

Can such divisions and turbulence help the economic agenda Narendra Modi has set for his government to deliver? Can we uncover the fundamental structures of this new political experience? Is this a new form of galvanising support like Hindutva did?

When Om Prakash Chautala was interviewed 20 years ago when he first came on the political scene, he said, he wanted mothers to tell their children to go to sleep or Chautala would come and get them. He wanted to be feared. Is this the kind of India we want, where people are frightened into compliance? Is this terror of pseudo patriotism a means to a political end, or is it an end in itself? Is terror the purpose? Is the foundation of governance to be based on fear? Can the accumulation of such pathologies create united citizens who will sacrifice to build the nation? Will they be motivated to follow the law and respect the urgency to be participatory citizens? Does this pseudo patriotism encourage the public to feel the pain of the high rate of farmers’ suicides? Or the hurt that comes from discriminatory behaviour towards Dalits? Will it discourage the epidemic of rapes? Authentic action must come from a non-threatened space. To transform today’s India, it must start with the individual. Some of the public have taken it upon themselves to bully others into submission. Any attempts to present the other side of the facts presented are termed desh drohi. Is there a connection at all?

It is a historical-philosophical moment. These bullying actions are not for their own sake. They are only given meaning and validity when they are seen and recognised and even admired. For this some of our news media have played it like an obedient child. Adding masala, connecting dots that don’t exist and manipulating minds that if you think any other way than what they are propagating you are unpatriotic.

The question of Kanhaiya Kumar’s video being doctored to add anti-India slogans was proven. All the channels who had proudly shown it, shrugged off the responsibility and suddenly there was a quietus on that issue. But, in debates and reports they continued to play the Afzal Guru and anti-India card.

News stories have become highly effective agitprop.

Consider this:

First, footage was shown of students and teachers of JNU demanding the release of Kanhaiya Kumar in a march from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar.

In reports that followed, this footage was run with the tagline – AFZAL GURU SUPPORTERS. There was not a single placard supporting Afzal Guru. The speaker at the end of above footage said they would not support any anti-India slogans. They just wanted Kanhaiya Kumar released.

This footage below was tagged – SUPPORTING AFZAL GURU A TREND? It is actually a story about five brave Indian soldiers who were martyred in Pampore during an encounter with terrorists. They, somehow, connect it to invented supporters of Afzal Guru in JNU. How can any Indian not feel the pain of losing five courageous, young soldiers? Connect that emotion to protests by students in JNU, that were, I repeat, not about Afzal Guru, and they have you where they want.

In an interview with Police Commissioner B S Bassi, where he states that they are still investigating the video, the footage is tagged – BACK FORCES, NOT AFZAL and PRO AFZAL GROUP WON’T SURRENDER? Bassi is then pushed to half the frame and the rest of the screen has images of Afzal Guru with SOLDIERS DIE, THEY HIDE IN JNU. Talk about connecting unconnected dots. What does Bassi’s interview have to do with soldiers dying and Afzal Guru?

I do not support any statements made by such cutesy liberals as Prashant Bhushan and Mani Shankar Aiyar who were against the hanging of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon. They both had enough years of the Indian judicial system probing their culpability, and I don’t mean Bhushan and Aiyar. The Supreme Court delivered justice in their wisdom and I support both decisions. This new form of war (terrorism) must be fought as a war on the nation. I do believe my conviction is formed by informed thinking that is triggered by some form of patriotism and the pain of the people Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon killed.

What some in the media are doing today is to create convictions and destroy any independent thinking that would come to logical conclusions. The public is being led by the nose and is acting in response to this manipulative propaganda. Lawyers boasting about beating up Kanhaiya Kumar is just the tip of it.

Edward Morrow said, “We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were, for the moment, unpopular.”

Twitter is awash with people being divided into camps. It is violent – You are either with us or we will abuse and beat you up. M K Gandhi created a nation that espoused non-violence at all costs, sometimes to the point of irritation. Since liberalisation, we have metamorphosed into a nation of Rage. There is not a section of society that is not seething with Rage against another in some form. Narendra Modi had the opportunity to channelise the raging multitudes to understand that building the nation, Swachh Bharat, investment, jobs, can only happen if we change our focus. But, his followers seem to believe that the more rage they disembogue the more loyal they are to Modi. Has Modi asked them to bend so low? History will then ask, when he didn’t even ask them to bend, why did they crawl?


This link is an opposing perspective by Rashmi Das. She is the Founder Promoter of Live Media & Publishers Pvt Ltd. The company publishes two industry leading monthly magazines – TelecomLive & InfraLive. She is also the Editor of both these magazines.


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