Sedition – a Shillong discussion

On the 4th April 2016, the term “Anti-Nationalist” was assigned a number of meanings at ‘Campus Talk’, which was an initiative of the Model United Nations Society of St.Anthony’s College, Shillong. It was organised to voice student opinions on the “Anti-National Sloganeering” and the arrest of student leader Kanhaiya Kumar on grounds of Sedition at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus earlier this year.

The panellists defined “Anti-Nationalist” in many elaborate ways. It was said that any person, showing disrespect against the country or its government could be branded ‘anti-national’.P_20160404_162707

The panel was, according to me very biased in the sense that all speakers voiced opinions against the whole issue. It seemed that saying anything in favour of the protestors was anti-nationalistic. All views that were more or less sympathetic towards the incident came mostly from the audience.

We need to remember that Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on grounds of Sedition which were the same grounds on which Bhagat Singh was executed by the British. Do not believe that speaking up against the Government is anti-nationalist. There is nothing un-patriotic about speaking against something which you think is unjust.

But there is of course, a limit. We must understand that just because we can protest, we might do it without completely understanding it.

Take the example of the JNU incident. The slogans like
“Bharat ki Barbadi tak Kashmir ki Aadi tak jung karenge jung karenge; Bharat ke solah tukrade honge Insa Allah Insa Allah; Kitne Afzal maroge har ghar se Afzal niklega; Afzal hi hatya nahi sahenge nahi sahenge, halla bol halla bol, ladkar lenge Azadi, cheen kar lenge Azadi, Azadi Azadi, Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad…”

I do not know what emotions were possessed by the students of JNU at that time, but every time something of this sort starts budding, there are ceasefire violations in J&K. Such incidents are capable of de-stabilizing the already fragile border tension.P_20160404_160013

Also, if these students were sympathizing with Afzal Guru being a pro-separatist, there is nothing wrong with that. If they agreed with his views of a free Kashmir, all okay there too. But calling a terrorist who took innocent lives a hero – as a law student from the audience did – seems to be on the extreme side. Would he still think of him as a hero if his own family or friends were killed?
Another catalyst in this whole row is the media which went on to give these protests prime time coverage, dramatizing them in debates and selectively quoting almost everything. This made a simple issue much larger than it was supposed to be.

When the discussion was opened to the floor of the house, many speakers brought in important points like asking the panel what they thought of “Anti-Nationalism” and Sedition being a draconian law.P_20160404_161120

One speaker who seemed absolutely enraged by comments of the panellists asked if there is any law under the IPC that defined an Anti-Nationalist, to which the panellists could not give a concrete reply.

Others also expressed how protesting against the government can be helpful and how the government has acted high-handed in the past, quoting some sensitive issues like the Maoist movement and the ostracization of the North-East.

Two points by the panellists that I disagreed on were that the people of a democracy MUST accept the law of the land. I was most disturbed by the usage of the word ‘accept’. This brought in a ton of feedback from the audience. Expressing dissent for any law which fails to fit into the present societal paradigm is not a crime. It is democracy.P_20160404_155909

The second point made was that students should abstain from political activity in universities. I believe that students should in fact be a part of active politics at such a level. They being the intellectual strata of our society must take up the political baton so that in the future changes can be brought about.

All in all I found the whole discussion quite fruitful in the sense that a lot of awareness was spread among those who were not well informed about the subject, and gave a few people something to think about.


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Siddharth Barua Written by:

A St. Anthony's College, Shillong student

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