Making JNU Inclusive of All Thoughts
As a JNUite, I am happy that a fellow JNUite, Prof Santishree Dhulipadi Pandit, has been appointed as VC of JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). That she is the first woman VC of the university is yet another reason to be happier.
But see the reactions of the so-called left- liberals and great apostles of dissent. They are questioning some of her old tweets and suggesting that as “a right-winger”, she has no right to be the head of one of India’s finest universities (However, in a report in The Indian Express, dated, February 09, 2022, the VC has said that she “never had” a Twitter account). In other words, whoever does not agree with their narratives should be automatically disqualified from occupying any position of influence in this country. Their ideas must prevail.
But then, these so-called left –liberals, who are the leading members of “the Khan-Market Gang” and are essentially “brown coolies”, do not realize that despite their discovery of virtues in the so- called farmers agitation that paralyzed the lives of people bordering Delhi for over a year, others like me, and the VC included, have our constitutionally-guaranteed right to say that it was an agitation of Dalals (middlemen).
Islamic fundamentalism may be a great development for these so-called left-liberals, but for people like us, the VC included, it is dangerous and we have every right to express that. Similarly, we have every right to express our views on the separatists and “tukde tukde ” gang as these left- liberals have.
Unlike us, these left- liberals in India are the worst fascists that one can think of. They want to muzzle dissent and rule over us in every aspect.
We have to fight and preserve our freedom of expressions.
All told, nowhere in our Constitution is it written that only people who are so-called left-liberals can occupy important positions, no one else. And yet, they talk of the importance of “dissent” and accuse all of us of being “intolerant”. For all the tall leaders in the political parties that are in opposition in general and Rahul Gandhi-led Congress in particular, this “intolerance” has come to the country ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.
But, how “tolerant” are these people themselves of things they do not want to see and hear? And how “consistent” are they on the very trends they proclaim to be dangerous or suicidal to a pluralistic and democratic India? Let me give some examples in this regard.
In the ongoing budget-session of the Parliament, during the debates over the President’s address, the opposition parties made, and legitimately so, some pertinent points and sought answers from the treasury benches. Rahul Gandhi, in his diatribe against Modi and his government, talked of Covid-mismanagement, inflation, unemployment, the country’s federal arrangement. But when Modi answered on each of his points in Lok Sabha, he was absent and his colleagues repeatedly heckled. In fact, when Modi was replying in Rajya Sabha, the Congress walked out of the House. Such is their level of tolerance to others’ views! They can speak and they can attack, but they will not listen to others.
Now let us see the honesty and consistency of our intellectuals, including the media, on the issue of tolerance. Some leading voices against “intolerance” withdrew themselves from the Bangalore Literary Festival a few years ago, objecting to the actions of its principal organiser, historian and writer Vikram Sampath. For them, Sampath had committed two sins. One, he had written an article saying why he would not return his own Sahitya Akademi award (this was perceived to be against the award-wapsi brigade). Two, he had signed an online petition with a group of historians and archaeologists, urging the government to consider alternative historical narratives. Sampath, meanwhile, had to withdraw himself as the organiser to save the festival.
This episode only reflects the depth of the tolerance of those who complain of intolerance! In a way, the same was the case with the silence of our top intellectuals on the attempts by a group which was forcing the authorities of the Jamia Millia Islamia, a central university, to withdraw the invitation to Narendra Modi for its annual convocation. Imagine, here, how the Prime Minister of the country was not allowed to go to a university funded by his government. But there is simply not a murmur of disapproval by our protagonists of the movement against intolerance!
Not long ago, there was a mob-violence in Maharashtra against the prominent regional newspaper Lokmat. Spearheaded by Congress legislator Shaikh Rashid, Muslim protestors attacked multiple offices of the paper, just because the paper had carried a cartoon showing various currency symbols pouring into a piggy bank whose snout carried an image from the jihadist group’s flag-a white seal with black Arabic lettering that reads “Muhammad is the messenger of God”. The paper had to apologise for the “offence”.
Celebrity TV anchors and the liberal intelligentsia bleating today about press freedom also looked the other way when Shirin Dalvi, an editor of Urdu newspaper Avadhnama, was arrested for re-printing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Dalvi subsequently lost her job and the newspaper had to be shut down.
Similar silence by these “votaries against tolerance” was also puzzling some time back in the case of prominent Muslim cleric Kantahapuram AP Aboobacker Musliyar. While addressing students in Kazhikode he said last week that gender equality was “against Islam”, adding, “the World is controlled by men. Women have strength in other areas – Her duty is to rear Children and feed the husband”.
The same mentality is now displayed in the campuses of Karnataka, with some brain-washed ( by clerics and Islamists) Muslim girls demanding to wear hizab, something they did not do before.
Those who point out at the slightest pretext against “devilish Hindutva” prefer to close their eyes and shut their mouths over things involving the Muslims. They are not bothered if a Taslima Nasreen (the Bangladeshi writer) is hounded in India or if a Salman Rushdie is not allowed to speak in a literary festival in Jaipur by “secularist-Islamist goons”. They vehemently demand Hindu women to enter every temple but at the same time support the non- entry of Muslim women in mosques.
If anything, the above examples only prove that those who dominate our intellectual discourse on the importance of tolerance are, in reality, most intolerant themselves. When they criticise, it is freedom of speech; but when they are criticised it becomes intolerance. When they question the Hindutva, it becomes secular; but when some question some Islamic practices, they become communal. Such are their double-standards!
As I have argued always , India’s perception-makers are overwhelmingly dominated by academicians, artists, journalists and contributors who are moulded in what is said to be the Nehruvian framework or establishment– “Left/Liberal/Secular” and this establishment literally hates Modi, BJP or for that matter anybody who has an alternate worldview. No wonder why they are deliberately building up perceptions that nothing is happening in India and that the country is literally burning along ethnic and religious fault-lines.
Particularly in the field of academia in India, there has been an inescapable sway of Left-wing ideology. Not only does the Indian Left continue to enjoy state patronage and a pervasive grip on academia, it has a long history of being viciously intolerant towards contrary viewpoints. It is well-known how renowned Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati was forced out of Delhi School of Economics in the 1950s. In fact, there has been a systematic ‘ethnic cleansing’ of all non-Left thinkers, particularly in social sciences in leading universities of the country in general and JNU in particular.
The intolerance of the Left in JNU is nothing new. Such is the hypocrisy of those who wail about freedom of expression that while many JNU teachers and students demand tolerance when they called for more individuals like convicted terrorist Mohammed Afzal to emerge from every home, they rally against Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev and prevent him from addressing a gathering at the JNU campus.
It is thus obvious that JNU needs greater plurality of thoughts. Prof. Pandit owes no explanation as the new VC to these so-called left – liberals. She must not succumb to pressure of these elements who accept the suppression of free speech to appease radical members of the Muslim community but reject any limitation on those who advocate India’s disintegration. Instead, she should strive hard to make JNU an institution that not only respects but also promotes different ideas and debates. Let a hundred flowers bloom in JNU.
By Prakash Nanda