This post was removed from Firsptost after alleged rape threats to the writer. I am republishing here as I believe the writer should get an opportunity to express her views. After all, if an Army officer’s daughter doesn’t have the freedom to speak her mind then who does?
Since 9 February, the lives of students of JNU have not been normal. Every night when I go to sleep, I tell myself it gets worse before it gets better. Soon, everything will be normal. For hours, I rest my head on the pillow with no sleep. In the darkness and stillness of the night, my pillow takes in everything – my anxiety, my pain, my tears and my humour. You can’t pick it up: It’s heavy with emotions and feelings.
Since that fateful Tuesday, my pillow has been taking in a lot of my burdens. I am afraid that my pillow will soon ask me to rest my head on a stone instead. I tell my pillow, assuring myself, Kanhaiya Kumar will be released, Umar Khalid and other students – slapped with false charges of sedition – will be fine too. And JNU’s image will be back to what it was. But I have a deep fear. My own friends from outside JNU (who have come here, had tea/food at the dhabas here) are being hostile towards me, never mind the general public’s reaction to this. I recall what Hannah Arendt once said reminiscing about her generation’s tame acquiescence in fascism – “what disturbed us was not the behaviour of our enemies, but of our friends.”
Here is a message for everyone and especially my friends who are spouting venom against me, calling me anti-national because I am a JNU student, calling me a terrorist and asking me to go to Pakistan because I am a Muslim, calling me over the phone and abusing me because they think I am just a feeble woman (Where is your love for Bharat Mata now?). I want to say to you, “Why don’t you get a life that is worth living?” The life of a human and not of a slave. You are nothing but a slave to an idea of a nation that you yourself are making exclusionary, communal and violent.
Before I give you ideas about nations and nationalism, let me share a few things. You ask me if I know the plight of an Army man, as if you know (your misplaced sense of nationalism makes you invoke the Army to prove nationalism all the time, how cute!). And unlike, you I do know the plight of an Army man. You conveniently forget about the women and children of the Army personnel. My father served in the armed forces, he was posted at places you wouldn’t have even have heard of. We lived without him in the family for years; all we had were his letters. So yes, I know the plight! Also, ask yourself who sends the army to these posts.
You tell me it is shocking that an Army officer’s daughter is a communist (even though I am not, but it’s alright). I have a message for you. My father was posted in Jammu and Kashmir in the 1990s – one of the most turbulent times in the history of Kashmir. His name was second on the hit-list of the militants. But this has not made me full of hatred towards the Kashmiris. It has not poisoned my mind. I don’t dehumanise Kashmiris.
Please don’t even lecture me on army life. I know what army life is (every time we had to move from one place to another with his posting, leaving our lives behind) and I know when to stand against injustice.
The times in which we are living are horrible; people are ready to kill just because someone shouted ‘Bharat ke tukde honge hazaar‘. Is Bharat so feeble that it will break because of some sloganeering? (I don’t even want to talk about how Hindustan became Bharat). Bertolt Brecht wrote “In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes there will also be singing. About the dark times.” We, at JNU, are singing about the dark times in which we are currently living.
When your freedom is curtailed, what else will you do?
When dissenting voices are smothered, what else will you do?
We, at JNU, are revolting against fascist forces by having cultural events, by holding talks, classes/lectures on ‘nation and nationalism’. We are revolting peacefully, non-violently, we come with flowers to our marches. And you call us anti-nationals? We don’t need lectures on nationalism from the killers of Mahatma Gandhi. They killed Gandhi then, they killed Rohith now. The RSS-BJP is mounting an open attack on the democratic and constitutional rights of the people.
Now that the case against Kanhaiya is falling apart, the government is finding another scapegoat, Umar Khalid. He was one of the organisers of the event that day, the day which changed the lives of the students of JNU – whether political or apolitical. What a beautiful name the organisers had given to the event – ‘A Country Without a Post Office’, after one of Agha Shahid Ali’s brilliant works, which relates to a time in the 1990ss when no letters were delivered to Kashmir for seven months or more.
There was no way for people to communicate with one another.
Umar Khalid questioned what it means to take a human life by keeping this history of Kashmir in mind. He only voiced the thoughts of thousands of Kashmiris. If, for this, he is tagged as anti-national, then shame on this country to not look at the death penalty critically. The PDP has declared Afzal Guru a martyr – with whom the BJP is making an alliance. What should we call this? Love jihad?
The attacks by the state are efforts to sharpen the communal polarisation in the country. They also want to divert people’s attention from the growing burdens being imposed upon them by the total failure of this NDA-led Narendra Modi government on all fronts.
As a JNU student, as a Muslim, and as an Indian I am in deep turmoil; I am trying to understand what exactly this idea of a nation that has excluded me, is. What is this idea where I don’t have the right to speak my mind freely? What is this idea of nation where I am scared to even get out of my home?
I remember studying that Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had visualised the Indian nation as emerging from the combination of various religions and cultures. Therefore, based on this, the post-colonial state had adopted a multicultural policy framework. This led India to develop a form of secularism that engaged deeply with religion so as to use it for various socio-cultural rights. For example, official status was given to various indigenous languages, autonomy extended to certain states and preferential policies formulated in favour of lower castes and tribal groups.
Currently in power, the BJP is promoting Hindu hegemony. Certain groups and corporations of political influence may not pay heed to minority marginalisation and their worsening situation but continue with corporate-led imbalances of economic growth that are damaging democratic citizenship. This frightens me. As P Sainath in his talk the other day at JNU said, this regime is worst of all because it not only is communal, but is market fundamentalist in its character. To which I will add that it has no reverence for human life.
The unprecedented unity shown by the students from across the world has emboldened this struggle against the current fascist state. On Saturday, we had a few workers from Honda to address the gathering at JNU. From their accounts, one could understand that they want to ruthlessly control and repress the large mass of those who labour under hopeless horrendous conditions. They are hunting students and workers at the same time, and this calls for ‘workers and students of the world (to) unite’ against the fascist state. It is most shocking that people are not finding the various acts of violence repulsive.
Where is your humanity? I hope the people who have been pulled into this vortex of violence – people who are ready to kill in the name of the nation – find their humanity soon. Like Rabindranath Tagore said, “Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live.”
In the end, we at JNU have only one thing to say to the fascist State that you must look into the mirror. You will see an ugly face that hides all kinds of prejudices (religious, caste, class, gender, ethnic). You are in a ‘state’ of intolerance and hate that comes from your arrogance and complete lack of empathy for the others in the ‘State’. However, “oppression is your privilege, and struggle is our right.”
We will stand in solidarity and continue our struggle till we win. After all, at the end of the tunnel there is light.