Sunday, February 14,2016
NEW DELHI: The mainstream media–with just a few exceptions– is either taking sides, or pitching those opposing the charges of sedition slapped on Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar with positions taken by the Delhi Police and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. This, when the answers are contained in a speech made by Kanhaiya just before his arrest and at the venue where pro-Pakistan slogans were allegedly raised.
A video recording of Kanhaiya’s address is available all over YouTube.
As is a second video that ,of course needs to be verified, a job that a cub reporter can do, portraying alleged ABVP activists from the University shouting pro-Pakistan slogans.
Both these videos requiring just basic investigation by a reporter can answer the main question: is the government justified in slapping sedition charges on Kanhaiya and the other students? A job that the media, in the search for truth, is expected to do and/or at least present the evidence provided by the ‘other side’ as against the statements put out by government and police.
Significantly the video capturing the entire speech by Kanhaiya has been ignored by the media. Why? After listening to it the answer is simple: Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech refutes the charge of sedition under which he has been arrested entirely. There is not a single word in his long and passionate address that remotely suggests sedition, and is instead an assertion of the Indian Constitution and a definition of patriotism and nationalism as arising from democracy, rights and equality.
The questions a beat reporter is expected to raise and get answers to in such circumstances are basic:
1. Are charges of sedition justified?
2. What did Kanhaiya actually say?
3. Were the JNUSU students actually involved in raising pro-Pakistan slogans?
4. What has been the role of the new Vice Chancellor and the University authorities?
It is strange that in the big debate that the media has unleashed on JNU and sedition, there has been little effort to get the facts right. The answer to these questions can be found from the campus, the students, the teachers and the video recording of the JNUSU Presidents address. And instead of just reporting the one side of the view against the other, the job of the media is to gather the facts of the case and present these to the people.
The nation wants to know the facts, not the views of opposing sides in the news-turned-reality shows. And in traditional journalism the facts are gathered by the reporters to the best of their ability, credible and clear, and presented to the readers and viewers. Interestingly in this case the charge of sedition was slapped on Kanhaiya for raising slogans in favour of Pakistan, and against India. The video recording of his speech cuts into this claim, and presents a completely opposing picture.
The points that the young and rather brilliant orator placed before the students can roughly be summarised into the following points:
1. These (RSS/ABVP are the chelas of those who had apologised to the British.
2. Their government in Haryana changed the name of the airport from Bhagat Singh to that of a Sanghi (RSS):
3. We do not want a certificate of patriotism from the RSS;
4. For us nationalism is to fight for the rights of the 80 per cent poor of India;
5. We have full faith in this country’s Constitution, if anyone raises a finger against India’s Constitution, be it of the Sanghis or anyone else, we will not tolerate that finger;
6. But the constitution that is being taught at Jhandewala or Nagpur, we have no faith in that constitution;
7. We have no faith in caste discrimination;
8. We want to uphold the rights we have been given under the Constitution of India;
9. The ABVP claims of standing for the students will be exposed if there is a debate on the basic issues of constitutional rights;
10. (Subramanian) Swamy says jihadis live in JNU, they believe in violence; we challenge the RSS and its supporters to come and debate on this.
11. They have problems when the poor ask for their rights, when the minorities, the women ask for empowerment;
12. They have difficulty in accepting when people talk of democracy and right, when along with Lal Salaam we add the Neela Salaam, when with Marx we take the name of Ambedkar;
13. Check my phone friends, my mother and sister are being abused. They talk of bharat maata but if my mother is not included in their concept I do not accept it. If the poor mazdoor woman, who works to get the Rs 3000 a month that finances my family, is being abused by them how can I or anyone accept this;
14. if you have the courage say inquilab Zindabad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ambedkar zindabad;
15. We stand with India, with the dream that Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar wrote; we stand for the dream that all get their rights to live, to food, to expression; Rohith sacrificed his life for this dream;
16. We challenge the Central government, we will not allow you to do what you did to Rohith to JNU;
17. We have to ensure justice for all , and that will come from Parliament, from the Constitution, from democracy;
18. JNUSU is against violence, against terrorism, against anti -national activity, the unidentified persons who have shouted Pakistan zindabad slogans, we condemn this completely,
19. Look at the slogans that the ABVP raises: communist kutte, afzal guru ke pillai, jihad ke bache. if the Constitution has given me the right to live, then can you call my father a dog, is that not against our rights;
20. Don’t hate these people, recognise their reality, i feel sorry for them, they raise slogans as they think that this will get them jobs. Their desh bhakti stops at a Pakistan cricket match.
There is not a word of sedition in this speech, but actually an assertion of democracy and the Indian Constitution.
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen speaking at a meeting organised by the Editors Guild in New Delhi recently pointed out to the old draconian laws being used by the British to suppress the Indian resistance wondering why these were still in force. He said, as Indians supporting freedom and liberty:
First, we should move away from blaming the Indian Constitution for what it does not say.
Second, we should not allow colonial penal codes that impose unfreedoms to remain unchallenged.
Third, we should not tolerate the intolerance that undermines our democracy, that impoverishes the lives of many Indians, and that facilitates a culture of impunity of tormentors.
Fourth, the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have good reason to examine comprehensively whether India is not being led seriously astray by the continuation of the rules of the Raj, which we fought so hard to end. In particular, there is need for judicial scrutiny of the use that organised tormentors make of an imagined entitlement of “not to be offended” (an alleged entitlement that does not seem to exist in this particular form in any other country).
Fifth, if some states, under the influence of sectarian groups want to extend these unfreedoms through local legislation (for example, banning particular food), the courts surely have to examine the compatibility of these legislation with the fundamental rights of people, including the right to speech and to personal liberties.