Sunday, February 21, 2016

JNU: Thus spake the insomniac

The past few days have affected me more than they had a right to. I do not like staying up nights being worried about serious stuff. These days I typically close my eyes and bowl leg-break to world-class batsmen till I fall asleep. It works.

But JNU, and subsequent events, have shaken me to the core. Do not get me wrong: I am rarely affected by events of such magnitude, and am perfectly comfortable in my comfort zones.

I had a discussion with one of my friends (who prefers to keep his name undisclosed). We had conversations about numerous points. Thankfully, we agreed on almost everything. Most importantly, we agreed on exactly what was scary.

I have rarely supported or opposed Arnab Goswami, for I do not watch Times Now, or, for that matter, any news channel, unless something major breaks. My television set is almost always tuned on to cricket, a movie, or what they call ‘infotainment’ these days.

But I did see the clips. I do know what is morphed. Even if I did not know that it was morphed, the clip bothered me. It bothered me more because I am now a part of journalism.

The clip made me realise something I knew deep down, but had refused to believe: facts and cold logic are almost always drowned by decibels.

I have seen people do the same on social media. They do have responsibilities, but it is not part of their profession. However, it is the not the same for news anchors, who have the power of influencing an entire nation.

But this blog-post is not about Times Now, for they are in a competitive business, and must earn their bread. There is no point criticising Arnab Goswami for ripping a student apart on studio: why were you watching it, in the first place? Don’t you know that the best way to stop a programme is to hit the TRPs? You were equally responsible for the news show that evening, remember.

Where was I? Ah, yes, sleepless nights. I decided to put them to an end, and what better way could be there than to talk with myself? I let an imaginary interviewer talk to me, and come up with an answer.

Do you celebrate the national anthem?

The national anthem does have an impact to me. Unlike several others I know, I do not mind standing up to the anthem when they play it in the theatres.

In fact, I get goose-bumps it is played, and often sing along.

Did you hoist the national flag as a student?

I have seen teachers hoist it at my school, twice a year. It had zero impact on me. In fact, I was annoyed when ordered to salute the flag once it was up.
Celebrating my school’s foundation day had a deeper impact on me. But then, I went to the best school in the world.

You did not like saluting the flag? That is sedition!

Do read carefully. I was annoyed when I was ordered to salute the flag. I may or may not choose to salute the flag (or respect the national anthem). If I do it, I will do it out of choice, not compulsion.

In my opinion, saluting the national flag is neither good nor bad. It is a matter of personal belief. If you get a kick out of doing the same, do. But do not force others. Patriotism cannot be forced.

Are you a patriot?

I can hardly be classified a patriot. I never went to war, and given my age and fitness, I do not think I will go in future.

But I do pay my taxes that fund the Army. I know I am forced to pay taxes, but I do pay my taxes. And my country is supposed to be benefitted from that tax.

Is the lack of patriotism not a serious issue in the country?

I do not think there is a lack of patriotism in the country.

Right now, there are bigger issues in hand. Intolerance, honour killings, crime against women, corruption, bigotry, and farmer suicides are just a few a few examples.

Do you believe India is the greatest country in the world?

No. I do not.

Go to Pakistan, then!

No. Why will I?

You are anti-Indian! You are a Pakistani!

Let me be clear on this. Some Pakistanis hate India, but most do not. Some Pakistanis, like some Indians, are extremists, and try their level best to provoke the rational ones. These provokers are neither Indian nor Pakistani.

I have talked to Pakistanis on social media. They are perfectly rational. Obviously they support Pakistan against India in cricket, just the way we support India against Pakistan. That does not make them anti-Indian.

Don’t change the topic! You are anti-Indian!

I never said that. I simply said I do not believe India is the greatest country in the world. What I do have is hope that India will someday emerge at the top. I believe in India. I know it is madness to, but I do.

Don’t you think India is your mother?

No. I think of India as a very large collection of people who own passports issued by the same authority. I consider only one of them as my mother. Though she watches Bengali soaps, she is generally a nice person and an excellent mother.

What is your take on the JNU issue and subsequent reactions on social media?

Let me start with the JNU issue. I do not think anything wrong was said by any student. By now we (hopefully) know what was morphed and what was not. If the students have not said anything wrong, there is no reason I will not support them.

Let me come to what is bothering me the most. The extent of extremism on social media by both sides bothers me to no extent.

Subtle satire is fine. Direct attack is not (but once again, that is my opinion). It is foolish to expect to change someone’s opinion by having an argument over social media.

What also bothers me is the vitriolic use of phrases like chaddi and sickular (these are the politest ones). I do not have anything against the phrases in particular. The venom that is spewed (from both sides) troubles me.

It has affected me more than I had thought. I have mentioned above that I strongly oppose the arrest of the student(s), or some of the BJP/RSS comments on media.

However, what has also bothered me is the lash-back from people who are against BJP. I have always believed that temper stops even the rational from thinking logically, which is probably what is happening right now.

Why so much anger, people? Why the direct attacks if someone confronts you with reason? Is that not what the uncivilised do? Are you not armed with education? Why the hatred?

You know how to combat this, do you not? Do you not know that the only way to bring this to an end is to elect a new leader (a well-chosen one)? Do you think calling someone chaddi and verbally abusing them on social media will solve the problem?

Anguish and irrational behaviour from educated people does not affect a lot of people, but it disturbs me. I believe in being polite, and I always will. If anything brings out the animal in you, you should probably do a stocktaking of your personality.

Do you feel all BJP supporters are extremists?

No. Some of them are, but most are not. Recall BJP’s landslide win in 2014. That many people could not have been extremists. Had all of them been extremists, this nation would have ceased to exist long back.

But there are extremists, many of them. Unfortunately, some of them are in power. Some others expose their fangs and talons on social media. They are essentially the same.

So, do you feel everyone in other parties is good?

No. There are good and bad, intelligent and stupid people who vote, or have voted for, Congress, CPM, TMC, or any other party. Some RSS people are good. There are probably some good Talibans as well who feel a twinge of guilt deep down.

Unfortunately, the vocal extremists dominate proceedings to such an extent that the decent ones find it difficult to express their opinions.

Similarly, there is evil everywhere, in all political parties and their supporters. There are some in JNU as well.

Don’t you think those at JNU did the wrong thing by shouting anti-India slogans?

First of all, there is serious doubt over the authenticity of the video.

But even if it was true, I do not mind. As a voter and tax-payer of the country one has the right to oppose the goings-on in the country. We adjust, for we are too scared and busy. They were vocal, because they are brave, and are students. They pointed out. They dared.

Don’t you think the JNU students mutilated the memory of Hanumanthappa Koppad?

Did you spell that name, or merely copy-pasted it?

What if I did? He fought for the nation. He went through so much pain to protect our country. These students do not have any respect or honour for his valour.

Seriously? Did they mention him?

But such slogans are an insult to the memories of Hanumanthappa Koppad!

Dude, can you send me links of what the Government did to honour the man? Why does he suddenly crop up in everything? Who would you have named, had he not died tragically a few days back?

Now you are insulting the memories of Hanumanthappa Koppad! Do you not think he died to protect us? Does not that make you feel anything?

Yes. Civilians and The Army form an excellent symbiotic relationship. They protect the frontier so that we have a major worry less in our lives. In return, our taxes make sure they get paid sufficiently.

Does that mean I was not hurt when he died? No. I cannot imagine walking without a sweater in a Kolkata night. I cannot imagine the horror of getting stuck and dying in the cold of Siachen. The very thought is horrific.

PS: Please abstain from copy-pasting the name.

But you did not express your grief on social media!

No.

Do you not feel indebted towards our soldiers?

I feel guilty of being the part of a species where an army, or even warfare, is a basic need for a nation.

Based on the same reasoning, I feel guilty of being part of a species where welfare states are needed.

Are you fine with your taxes funding the colleges?

Absolutely.

Why?

It is my money, and hence, my business.

These students thrive on your money, and still are anti-Indian!

First of all, there is no proof that they are anti-Indian. More importantly, it is my money: why exactly are you concerned?

If you really care about my taxes, will you be kind enough to provide me a breakdown of exactly where every paisa I pay is spent?

I see. So you do not love India.

A lot of that depends on what India is. If India is a bunch of extremists trying to bully me into shouting “I love India,” then I do not.

My India is not about yelling Vande Mataram or Bharat-maata ki jai. Neither is it about the flag or the anthem. They represent the nation. They are not the nation.

***

My India is about the boy who carries his cricket kit to the ground at the crack of dawn.

My India is about the girl who endures long walks across grounds with the dream of becoming a doctor in her own village.

My India is about that taxi driver who sings perfect Rabindrasangeet.

My India is about the crowd that assembles in club-rooms whenever India plays.

My India is about parents looking affectionately at their children in albums.

My India is about children looking at their parents in photographs, their visions blurred by tears.

My India is about people standing up for a cause.

My India is about the Big Bazaar customer care boy whose eyes light up when he exchanges furtive glances with the girl who works as security-guard for INOX (he often passes by her).

***

I believe in the power of love and logic. I know this is a counterintuitive statement, but it is a fact. I also believe in the power of art and sport and humour. Embrace one of these, and I do not think there will be any need for jingoism.


Hope. I still have hope. I know all is not lost.

46 comments:

  1. Thanks for showing your emotion! It is always assuring to find people of similar thought process. Especially from one of the human beings whom you look up to.

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  2. ভালো লাগলো... :)

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  3. Thank you Abhishek-da for this nice article. The sheer naivety and stupidity of some of my friends' posts/comments on Facebook over the last few days were appalling. It was all the more painful because I consider them to be really good friends!! I could not even bring myself to confront them because I honestly didn't know where to start. I was feeling so hopeless and restless. You reminded me of the India that is full of 'love and logic'. It reminded me of all the good things I love and that they can still be found in abundance if one has an eye to look for. It gave me hope, restored my faith in 'my India'. Thank you so much.

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    1. I know, I know exactly what you are talking about. :(

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  4. Thank you, Abhishek. Good to see fellow liberals out there. Keep up the good work.

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  5. Not unexpected .You wrote this article on Feb 21, and you still think they are not anti-Indian.

    Even if we argue that the "India Go Back" slogans were raised by fringe elements who do not represent the crowd seen in the video, yet the fact remains that an event was planned that portrayed Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat as victims of judicial killings. Do you realize what the repercussions of these events will be? Do you know that a single event by JNU students, and subsequent support from other universities, have emboldened the hands that wish to destroy India? If I were a jihadi recruiter, I would surely use these incidents to my benefit.
    The issue, my dear Sir, is far bigger than satisfying the egos of a few kurta clad young men in university campuses, and a few kurta clad old men in the Parliament. The issue is to identify that India is under severe threat from separatist forces, most of whom receive clandestine support from within. While our focus should have been to exterminate those supporters... sadly, we have gone on, in our zeal to prove ourselves progressive, to extend our support in a far less clandestine manner.

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    1. I guess you missed my point. We are all entitled to have our opinions. If they are separatists, and there exists a group that does not believe in that, things can be sorted out in a peaceful, civilised, rational manner.

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The point I am trying to make here is, nobody should be forced to follow a belief. The definition of patriotism is different for everyone. I do not believe that a national flag hoisted at 207 feet represents anything, at least to me. On the other hand, if a man feeds ten children every day for no apparent reason, I find that extremely patriotic, for he contributes to the nation.

      I know a lot of people believe that it works the other way round. I do not blame them. All I want is the right to believe in what I believe in, and not be forced to believe otherwise.

      As for separatists, they work on publicity and their message being spread. If these children were indeed separatists (which I have no reason to believe), the Government did nothing but play into their hands.

      Additionally:
      1. February 21 is Language Day. It is called so because a group of separatists (well, almost) dared, back in 1953.
      2. Kurtas are cool.

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    2. Of course everyone is free to have their own definition of patriotism, and individual opinion must be respected. But Alas, I do not see the same courtesy being extended to the right wing opinion, the opinion that says that hoisting the national flag is essential to ignite patriotic feelings. May I ask why are you unable to recognise this opinion?
      We must understand that when it comes to freedom of speech and opinion, every citizen has equal rights. The student body president and the police chief, both are allowed to have an opinion, and propagate it.

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    3. I do not believe in it. But then, it is not because it is a right-wing opinion. I would have done the same if it was a left-wing opinion. I do not recognise any option barring what I think, because it is my belief. I refuse to let my thoughts to be influenced by others.

      I prefer to remain apolitical, and I will remain the same unless things change drastically. This, of course, does not mean I do not vote.

      PS: Kurtas are cool.

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    4. I believe, Mr. Choudhury, you have a problem understanding the concept of free speech. And also what makes an anti-national slogan. I believe my country is big enough to survive a few slogans from a few immature students. Also I may not like what they say but it is their right to say whatever they like. Even if I assume there were anti-Indian slogans (which is still being debated ) they did not commit any harm to anyone. They did not threaten anyone with violence. They merely shouted slogans. Whereas there are lawyers who actually beat up someone in the court of law and did commit a crime. But they are free. Is not the lawyers act as act against our nation ? Did they not show disrespect towards our judiciary ? Should they not be considered anti-Indian too ?

      The basic idea of free speech is not to be offended by what others say. I, personally, would completely disagree with any slogan that supports the separatist movement is Kashmir because I believe such a movement is: (a) not supported by popular opinion in Kashmir, (b) propagated by violent acts on innocent people, (c) has a history of ethnic cleansing (the attack on kashmiri pandits), (d) is against the rights of women and other minorities (in this
      case hindus) (e) is rooted in the already discredited two-nation theory. But I would support anyone's right to shout slogans in support of the Kashmiri movement. This is what is called free speech. May I suggest that you brush up on your already vast knowledge of Voltaire.

      Please also allow me come back to my earlier question. What exactly is an anti-Indian act ? If I kill my neighbour because I want his piece of land I believe that is not anti-national but merely a crime. But if I shout "pakistan jindabad" while attacking my neighbour it becomes an anti-national act ?

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    5. 1. Of course, kurtas are cool. A few people inside the kurtas, however, are namakul.
      2. The dare that led to the celebration of International Mother Language Day happened in 1952 and not 1953.

      Let us agree to disagree.

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    6. I wish we had all treated discussions in a way this peaceful.

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    7. >> What exactly is an anti-Indian act ? If I kill my neighbour because I want his piece of land I believe that is not anti-national but merely a crime. But if I shout "pakistan jindabad" while attacking my neighbour it becomes an anti-national act?

      I could not have expressed better, Ghonada. But then, who can beat Ghonada?

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    8. Ghonada, your namesake in 72 Banamali Naskar Lane is my hero.
      And yes, I do have a problem in understanding a lot of things, ranging from macro-economics to differential calculus, and now you just added the concept of free speech to the already vast list of things that I do not know. And no, I do not have more than a small droplet of knowledge on Voltaire... but thanks for considering as if I have.
      And yes, I fully agree to the example of yours concerning anti-Indian act. Because in the second case, in addition to grabbing your neighbour's land and murdering him, you are voicing your support for the country with whom we have fought four wars, the country that constantly kills our soldiers by firing across the border, the country that allegedly funds terrorist attacks in my country, and the country that my country considers an Enemy No. 1. This act has a potential of strengthening the hands of those people who are capable of, and are interested in, killing a lot more people in my country.
      Call me ignorant, but that Sir, is my freedom of speech. And being the upholder of freedom of speech that you are, you are honour bound to respect my freedom.

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    9. BTW, this has been debated elsewhere, but since the issue of Free Speech came back, should we consider any public comment on the prophet Mohammed (PBU) should be allowed as a free speech? Note that the person is not harming anyone, he is just shouting slognas, and anyone has the full right not to agree with his/her comment about the prophet, but merely making comment should be OK and allowed under free speech! As you may know very recently such an incident happened and the person in question is arrested and booked under NSA. Do you think that was a mistake too by the govt.? Pls let me know.

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    10. Public slogans against anyone is not a crime. In New York, you actually have to book slots for doing the same. :)

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    11. We stay in countries that are called India, The United States of America, Afghanistan etc. There is no country in the world called Utopia.

      I'm sure that most of us personally know people staying in and around New York City. Can you ask any of your friends to book a time slot in New York City, and host an event where he/she raises voice in favour of Osama Bin Laden, highlights how Osama was denied a fair trial (well, Osama wasn't allowed any trial, fair or unfair), and how his death was actually a judicial/military killing?
      And chant slogans like "Osama hum sharminda hain, tere qatil zinda hain"?
      Let me know what happens to the crusader.

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    12. I will, though I firmly believe nothing will happen to the 'crusader'.

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    13. As expected no answer came from Ghona da. I do know what Abhisek will say as we debated it elsewhere and he said the same on the top at 1:08PM. This is the ambiguity common man has to leave with everyday in India. In one situation you take action and get applauded while in the other one the whole Left storm into action stating free speech is being violated. This is hypocrisy and very lately people started pointing it out. If this gives rise to intolerance, I welcome that type of intolerance. We are hypocrite for a long time, let real liberalism blossom where only equity, logic and sound reasoning will stand true, not opportunisms or case by case ad-hoc action. Thanks Samiran.

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    14. Goodness, now, what did I say at 1.08 PM?

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    15. you said "Public slogans against anyone is not a crime.", which I agree

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    16. Gentlemen, I am sorry I had thought that no reply was necessary. I was merely respecting the freedom of Mr. Chaoudhuri and remained quite. But now it seems a reply is necessary. But, please accept my apologies, the reply will be a little late. Meanwhile, here is a video that may entertain while you wait for my reply.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLyUgMRGdNM&feature=youtu.be

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  6. Very well written, could not have expressed it so well, hence, going to share it if you don't mind!

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    1. Of course, Ma'am. Please go ahead. Do spread the message!

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  7. You missed a point though. You dont decide how the tax money gets to be spent. Your tax money goes into a pool. From that pool, the money gets allocated. So if what the govt brings to the table in the form of subdidies, then might as well withdraw it. Let azad kashmir fund it. Actually when you take the money away which they take for granted, they would appeciate it more. :)

    A private uni student body doing this is one thing, as they pay tuition from thrir own money. But a public funded uni students doing this id the height of ungratefulness. But then taking others money thru coercion and not feeling even a wee bit guilty about it is the hallmark of the Left.

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    1. My point precisely. Since it is my money, I should have a say in how it is spent. That holds true for all tax-payers in the country, which, unfortunately, is not a percentage as high as it should have been.

      Also, going by your point, if public-funded students doing this is ungratefulness, I would like to know your take on public-funded jawaans raping women, often minors. Google, and you will be surprised by the count.

      Just curious, if you have opinions so strong, why do you prefer to remain anonymous?

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  8. I am seeing this argument about these students being at a public university, and how that is supposed to make this worse. Somehow there is an assumption that for them to study in an institution that is publicly funded denies them of the right to have opinions, or express them. You have replied to this in your penultimate Q/A.

    But, in fact, i see no correlation whatsoever. They are in a public university funded by taxes, on account of their academic work. If students do not utilize that to do academic work, it is not the most effective use of such university. Therefore, the university should and does track the academic performance of students. On the other hand, studying at a public university funded by taxes does not in any way strip one of their rights as a citizen. So, they have exactly the same right to protest what they think is wrong, or express their opinion on any issue that any other citizen has. Their ability to study at such a university is a right they have, and paying our taxes is a duty (by law) we have. We don't (but I think we should) get to ask if our taxes are being used well in detail, but should not get to impose our views on people paid by taxes/studying in publicly funded institutions.

    Also, for people suggesting that students at a public institution should be beholden to taxpayers, may I remind them that the (among many things) the roads that we use to commute to work everyday are maintained using taxes. So, the same logic would apply to every Indian.

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    1. How, oh how I wish the world could see sense the way you do.

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    2. Of course they can protest. But they should give their subsidymonry first and then protest against the hand that feeds them. There is a word for this kind of ingratitude- namakhalal.

      If you really feel the state is culpable, please return the subsidy money. Otherwise, you are blind to your own hypocricy. The Left things they are unbiased, which is sadly not the case. The extreme left is just as bad as extreme right.

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    3. I had vowed to myself that I would not publish comments with, er, somewhat harsh words.

      But this had me in splits. Do you know what namak halaal means? :D :D

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  9. I have read the post and the comments too. They should have like button here.

    Regarding tax money: Last time I checked the parents/relatives/family members of the students also pay taxes. And I have seen how people try to bluff when the time comes to pay tax. We better shouldn't talk about paying our tax. It will bring out lot of anti-Indian story! :P

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    1. Ah, that is a point I should have made as well. :P

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  10. Very balanced and to the point writing. Some people have to criticize whatever be the reason. Education should have taught us appreciate the good and dissent on the bad. But only dissent or only appreciation is over taxing our society now. Intolerance is a big issue in India and it showed up clearly in FB in last few days. We are becoming intolerant and when I mean “we” it's everybody both chaddi and siculars speaking sets. Thanks. Samiran

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  11. খুব ভাল লাগল লেখাটা। :)
    সত্যিই, তোমার মতন করে যদি আরো কিছু সংখ্যক লোকও ভাবতো, তাহলে হয়তো অন্যরকম কিছু হলেও হতে পারতো। :)
    কুর্নিশ।

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    1. অন্ততঃ ভাবা প্র্যাকটিস করলেও তো পারে!

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