How a ‘Tolerant India’ Made Indians #AntiNational

Like an average functioning citizen I decided to let the JNU issue pass without a comment. It was supposed to be a students’ protest with university-level political parties involved. And with the BJP’s constant reminders that India is a tolerant nation, I expected everything to subside soon.

But I think Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have been proven true, if not fully, then very substantially.

SRK-Modi

The students are attacked because allegedly there were anti-India sloganeering (This of course, on the basis of a video which has now been proven to be a fake one). They also attack media because they can ‘even shoot anybody who goes against the nation’. They threaten the students with policing. They curb freedom of movement. They push and push until it recoils. A recoil, led by a revolution.

Of course, anti-national slogans are worth denouncing and condemning. Speak against it, write against it. Let an intellectual debate ensue. Let conversations break barrier. But some people only understand the ‘breaking barriers’ bit.

O.P Sharma and Vikram Chauhan are among the few names aligned to the right-wing political force that has hit the nation. It was a ‘Modi wave’ they said. Then they corrected it to ‘Modi tsunami’. I believe them now. It’s indeed as if a tsunami has hit us. We are all suffering from large-scale damages.

OP Sharma
OP Sharma (Left) and Vikram Chauhan (Right)

A country where I can be questioned because I ‘look like a JNU student’ or a member of any other community is not only a deeply disheartening scenario, but also scares me from getting subjected to this ‘witch-hunt’ in my own country. And for what? For voicing dissent against the sarkar. What avenues would you reach out to, for justice, when the judiciary is itself involved? Who would you seek protection from, when the police has its reigns in the power of the ‘all knowing, and all powerful’. Who’s God?

Thank God, for giving us the power to suffer, to reason, and to stay resilient. Erupting on February 9, 2016, there’s a clear fault-line along which India has been divided. One of it claims that Afzal Guru was glorified and Anti-India slogans were raised. The other downplays the incident, calling it a mis-interpretation, and a fabricated story. The slug-fest is on. And it’s a very thin line to walk. But a line nevertheless.

Perhaps, it’s a free world for the media because the line has been crossed ruthlessly in multiple reports of a very contained, very objective issue of student politics. All the big political parties, whether BJP, Congress, AAP or the Left unit share almost equal blame to fuel the controversy even more. The murder of an RSS worker in Kerala is another shameful incident, which shouldn’t have happened. The anger is getting further and further incited and tolerance tested. Intolerance is a myth, as you say.

It has become a media circus with clowns jumping in from the corners. Their faces red, accents funny and acts ridiculous.

Talking of a clown, I have only seen Arnab’s show through memes and jokes on social media. I have never tuned in to Times Now. I don’t feel like missing out on something. If you’re watching it, contributing to the TRPs, enjoying the noise and then complaining about the degrading quality of journalism, I request you take a step back, and introspect.

To report without a bias is a very tough job, and what’s tougher is to not forget your ideals and the principles your profession is based upon.

On February 19, Ravish Kumar, a Hindi journalist dedicated almost an hour of his primetime program to show a black screen. A very symbolic protest, speaking specifically for the kind of journalism being practiced at this critical moment. Kumar constantly discouraged ‘debate-oriented journalism’ which solve no issue and are just to churn TRPs.

A screengrab from Ravish Kumar’s Primetime show on NDTV

As soon as the JNU controversy broke, news channels pushed hashtags declaring their nationalist stance and terming everything, and everyone else, ‘anti-national’. It’s us, who have given them this authority to label us howsoever they please, sitting in their glossy studios, without even visiting the streets. It’s completely fine. We are all doing it. Journalism from the armchair is plush, comforting and largely self-satisfying.

Who gets to define nationalism for me, and who gets to label me as a nationalist? Do the members of the ruling party have the authority to judge and execute decisions based on their perceptions? What happened to upholding the very constitution they want to protect? The media trials are happening with government’s representatives participating, shouting, crying and calling each other names.

Pushing down dissent with a #TricolourForUnity is an absurd motion, not fitting for a democracy. You cannot be a flag bearer for nationalism, and see everything as either black or white. Let there be scope for grey-areas. Let there be room for a healthy discussion, without pre-conceived conclusions. Long respected as a protector of free thoughts, let our tricolour not become a symbol for suppression. Let it not become a trend where people reject ‘nationalism’ when it’s just to protest your tyrannical ideology.

To put things in perspective, in the United States, the FBI, a government organisation, and Apple, a private firm are locked in a heated controversy. The government wants Apple to unlock the iPhone of an alleged terrorist. Tim Cook, Apple’s head has refused to do so saying it’s against their company policy. The debate is on, but nobody has termed Cook or Apple as an #AntiNational. Nobody wants to send all their iPhones and iPods to the neighboring country. But in India, we are giving examples of justice in Russia and China, because, finest example of democratic countries, you know.

Free speech and tolerance would remain a jumla unless effected in real life through the promised ‘maximum governance, minimum government’. There were a lot of promises though, but the report card has already been discussed and ‘Achhe Din’ are supposedly in process. We’re perpetually in wait.

Or we can strike a deal. Let’s just discount the promises of better days. Keep your government, just bring back the days as they were before you took over. Or at least speak out, Mr. Prime Minister. Your silence is deafening. The shrill voice, controlled and carefully manufactured for your pet project, ‘Mann ki Baat‘ is eagerly awaited by your ‘Sava-sau crore‘ ‘bhai, behen and mitron‘. I sincerely believe that a firm statement by you can do wonders. Our country needs miracles right now.

Another point worth pondering over is what would drive a country of happy citizens to protest on the streets. What could make members of a strong, developing nation to take pride in calling themselves ‘anti-national’? Something must be rotting. Make sure it’s not your soul, that died a blind death.

You’re entitled to your opinion. Definitely. Let’s just not get swayed by our political views. For those in power will do whatever it takes to retain it. You and I will shout, fighting a lost war, for a lost cause.

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