Home Open space From HCU to JNU:  BJP’s nationalism is dismantling academic pluralism

From HCU to JNU:  BJP’s nationalism is dismantling academic pluralism

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The unfolding of events in around the country especially at two premier institutions, Hyderabad Central University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, in the last three months has given an irrefutable testimony to the fact that nationalism is being misinterpreted and misused to orchestrate a vested interest. The idea of nationalism is not to promote unrest, jingoism, violence, ethnic/racial cleansing and nor even shutting down of any institutions of learning. Nor is it to be construed as of being racial supremacist. What is happening in India today is indicative of the same. BJP has taken to itself the bastion of defining who is national and who is anti-national.

In a country as diverse as India, nationalism can’t be grounded in the principle of singularity – mono ethno cultural identity. When the ideologues of a single unique identity come to power and assert their terms and conditions of defining nationalism, the nation starts witnessing scuffles even on dietary practices and loses its character of being accommodative of and tolerant to the differences in people’s ways of living. When the nation moves from “diversity is celebrated” to “mono-identity is worshiped”, it penalizes those who oppose the super-imposed ideology (much on charges of sedition), it hunts those who express their dissent at its politics, it ostracizes those who raise voices against the judicial proceedings (settled in much proclaimed notion of collective conscience  ).

The two recent incidents at HCU and JNU, the institutionalized murder of Rohith Vemula and the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar respectively, articulate the modus operandi of BJP’s authoritarian nationalism. In the case of HCU, the ABVP protested against the ASA expressing sympathy with Yakub Memon and demanding the repeal of capital punishment. ABVP termed the offering of namaz as anti-national activity. Since when offering namaz has become an act of de-nationalizing the country?? The high level political interference from a senior BJP MP Bandaru Dattatreya in hastening a compliant letter to MHRD ultimately resulted in social boycott of five Dalit research scholars. While in the case of JNU, it started with a protest being organized by a group of students against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru. Here too the ABVP branded the students as anti-nationals.  Its case was taken up by a BJP MP, Maheish Girri, whose complaint led to an FIR being lodged. This resulted in the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges. In both cases, the Vice-Chancellors have been pliant and docile.

Their interpretation of nationalism is narrower than the diversity of population and too parochial to listen to the dissenting voices. Their nationalism comes with kicks, punches, thrashing and goondaism.

Four things clearly emerge from this. First, BJP and its affiliates are averse to any meaningful and sensible freedom of expression, matured and critical expression. They are unwelcoming to the right to dissent and welcoming to the proclamations of submissiveness, unquestioning and tolerating intolerance. Secondly RSS is pitching in its nose in the functioning of universities to saffronise the academic spaces which have been the places of open debates, critical deliberations and inquisitions. Thirdly Muslims and Dalits in particular have been the main targets of Hindutvavadis. Fourthly the VCs are complicit in classes being disrupted and academic affairs being halted due to their party politics. It is high time the appointment of VCs and other academic posts should be delinked from the direct involvement of central ministers and campus politics inside universities and colleges should be independent of central politics.

For all those who are ultra-pseudo nationalists, anyone who is neither a Modi-Bhakt nor a RSS Pracharak is anti-national. Their interpretation of nationalism is narrower than the diversity of population and too parochial to listen to the dissenting voices. Their nationalism comes with kicks, punches, thrashing and goondaism. In the last three months, Indian campuses have borne the brunt of their stereotyped nationalism. Students, teachers and other academic staffs have been targeted and the pluralistic ethos of democratic atmosphere in campuses has been crumpled.

Does BJP gain anything out of their manufactured version of racial and authoritarian nationalism, apart from polarizing the nation?? Yes BJP does. It gains the media attention on the issues it wants the entire nation to be engrossed in. It gains the media attention being diverted completely from the purely national concerns like upcoming Budget 2016-17, GST, entrenched income inequalities, labour reforms, reduction in health and education expenditure and many more. These concerns get marginalized in the schizophrenia of Hindutva nationalism.

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