A Letter To Barkha Dutt From a Nationalist Rahul Sharma
I write to you today because like so many of my fellow citizens, I am both angry and anguished. I am aware that a missive from someone like me – “communal”, “sanghi”, “internet Hindu”, “troll” and worst of all, “pseudo-national” – will be most likely junked by your fraternity as not worthy of their time.
In any case, ever since media has reported on the 2002 riots in Gujarat, Narendra Modi is among the politicians media has clearly shunned and disliked (even after SIT report exonerating him) – that is, of course, entirely the media’s prerogative.
So I write this as a sentimental and proud Indian who is disturbed by what the ‘misguided’ youth of this country is doing. I am also worried about the way media has covered the JNU issue and tried to change the narrative by painting nationalists as hooligans.
As someone who believes in absolute freedom of speech, let me state at the beginning that I was absolutely fine with the JNU students protesting and raising anti-India slogans. You may accuse me of whataboutery but since we are discussing the right to freedom of speech, it’s important that I bring this on the table. One month back, cities like Malda and Purnea were burning with thousands of Muslims attacking police stations and demanding the head of a certain Kamlesh Tiwari (A news which you for some reason chose to ignore) because he had exercised his right to free speech & called Prophet Muhammed ‘gay’. The U.P. government invoked National Security Act (NSA) and today he is languishing in a jail. As someone who has often spoken about the way we treated M.F. Hussain when he painted nude Hindu Gods in objectionable positions; I expected you to stand up for Kamlesh’s right to free speech.
In our country, we grow up learning that ‘Nation’ comes before anything else. For example: I am an Indian first and a Hindu later. That’s why the paintings of M.F. Hussain don’t disturb me as much as the anti-India slogans. You tweeted that your stomach churned when Senior lawyer Rajeev Dhawan and his team were called ‘Pakistan ke Dalle’ and ‘Behenchod’ in the Patiala court. Weren’t those who abused Rajeev & his team were practicing their right to free speech? Also, how can you not be as angry as you are now when you hear a group of students calling for ‘Bharat ki barbadi’?
Coming to the point of arrest, while I support the right of JNU students to protest, I also support the police action after Mahesh Giri filed an FIR because as much as you or I may dislike; we DO have a sedition law at place and if the students had violated it then they deserve to be in the jail. Whether we need a law or not is a different debate altogether and ideally you should have written an open letter to all previous Prime Ministers asking them to revoke this law. You mention that we offered Kasab a fair trial and we take pride in that. But aren’t we doing the same with Kanhaiya? Has he been sentenced to death or imprisonment without a trial? The case is in the court and I am sure the judges will give a fair and wise decision in accordance with the Indian Law.
You share that HRD Minister Smriti Irani has said that the anti-India slogans were an insult to “Mother India” but Mothers are benign, forgiving, broad-minded and all embracing. One, she did not make any such comment as she clarified in a series of tweets to you. Two, what should a mother do when its children don’t consider her as a mother and want to destroy her into pieces? Three, mothers are many a times considered heartless when they punish their children. But, we should remember she does so only for the betterment of the children.
As far as the inaction of Delhi police towards the lawyers is concerned; Kiran Bedi talked about it your show where she said that given the situation at Patiala High Court; Police had two options – Either to lathi charge the agitating lawyers leading to a stampede which may have resulted in greater casualties (Something you expected them to do) or to let the lawyers protest. They chose the lesser evil.
What happened at Patiala court was shameful to say the least. But I am disturbed by you and the media at large who are equating the act of hooliganism by few lawyers with nationalism. You point out that hundreds of JNU students marched with a rose and Indian flag in support of Kanhaiya and conveniently ignore the anti-India slogans. Likewise, we had more than ten thousand people walking down the streets of Delhi and joining the ‘March for Unity’ to protest against the anti-national slogans at JNU. They were civilians who came out of their homes on a Sunday to show their love for the country and they did so peacefully. Interestingly, this march was led by ex-servicemen whom you greatly admire & respect. As someone who interviewed the ex-Navy chief when he said intolerance can hit armed forces; what would you say to Air Marshall P K Roy (Retired), who said that “anti-national” slogans “demoralize” the soldiers guarding the country’s frontiers?
Barkhaji, naturally, none of us like a couple of citizens who take law in their own hands and beat up people.
You question that is the Indian State so fragile that it would come undone by a clutch of “Hum Kya Chahate – Azaadi” cries? As someone who has covered Kashmir exhaustively, you would know that 25 years ago these very ‘slogans’ coming from the loudspeakers of the mosques in Kashmir forced an entire community into exile. It was the slogan ‘Ek Dhakka aur do; Babri masid ko tod do’ that resulted in the demolition of Babri. Yes, we are fragile, Barkha!
Did your heart not break, just a little bit, when you saw the news of a fellow journalist Jagendra Singh being burnt to death by a minister in UP or when you saw the pictures of the dead body of 27-year-old Sujith from Kerala who was killed because he was from the BJP or when Prashant Poojary was murdered in daylight because he was from the ABVP? You would be wondering why I ask you this. Since you along with many others make up the fourth pillar of democracy, I think it’s fair on my part to raise these questions.
As someone who voted for the Prime Minister in 2014; I agree with you that he should break his silence on these issues. But then I wonder why does the media and the liberal brigade at large never expect the Prime Minister to speak about Tuktuki Mondal or Prashant Poojary? Also, why wasn’t the earlier Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expected to speak up when Muslim fundamentalists chopped off the hand of a professor in Kerala?
You rightly say that a thought cannot be policed, and nationalism cannot be regimented; it’s for every Indian to define it for herself. But I wonder which Indian would define nationalism as something where slogans glorifying terrorists and calling for India’s destruction are considered okay; where singing Vande Matram is considered communal and you have the liberty to disrespect the National Anthem. I would never support this nationalism which was at display in HCU, JNU and Jadavpur.
As you said, for a moment I went back to my 6 years in university but sadly I couldn’t remember even a single incident when either me or my batch mates or my juniors and seniors rebelled in the way JNU did. Anti-establishmentarianism is may be a concept which is rooted in the left-leaning humanities students because even if I try; I cannot recollect if my friends from IIT/IIM and dozens of other engineering and management colleges resorted to anything like we are seeing in JNU or Jadavpur. You may romanticize with the notion of questioning the Nation-state but I can’t. You may even brush aside the slogans glorifying a terrorist as something which college kids do to rebel but I can’t. Is battling government because it is headed by a man whom you hate and a party that has an ideology different from yours is really the war the students at JNU, FTII or HCU want to lead into?
Whatever the media calculations were on converting the JNU crackdown into an incident where the government is made a villain and not the students has clearly dissipated. Beyond the lights of newsrooms; there is an India where if you ask 10 random people on the streets about the issue, I can pull my neck out and say that 7 would support the government and not the JNU students.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, one of our greatest freedom fighters wrote, “Nationalism is inspired by the highest ideals of the human race, satyam (the true), shivam (the god), sundaram (the beautiful). It is only on the basis of undiluted nationalism and of perfect justice and impartiality that the Indian Army of Liberation can be built up”.
Barkha ji, India indeed belongs to its young. The tricolor is in their hands. And so is our future. We must ensure it’s not torn apart!
A fan of yours who is looking forward to attending your next show.