Since Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest we have seen a wholesale vilification of JNU by mainstream media which portrays the entire university as some kind of anti-national space. The alternative classroom is one way in which a university can respond in an adequate fashion. Universities are not like mass media. You don’t have rely on an Arnab Goswami shouting model, so the only way that you can actually respond is by opening out the debate in a public manner, in an open space that invites all members of the public to see how debate is carried out.

People assume that these universities are breeding grounds for all kinds of seditious thinking. Everyone is free to come to these public classes and debates and the reason that they are called “What the nation really wants to know” is too demonstrate that complex issues cannot be reduced to sound bytes, they require a nuancing and thats universities provide. There has been an unfair question of the taxpayer’s money being wasted. All these classes are available on Youtube, so let people judge whether that is indeed the case.


First lecture in the series of lectures on Nationalism which was  delivered by Professor Gopal GURU on 17 Feb 2016

Talking about symbolism, Guru said there was a choice between following the symbolism of the Chakra or the symbolism of Bharat Mata. “Every spoke of the chakra has to go up and come down at some point. It is more egalitarian in that sense. We need to see which symbolism is better, the Chakra or the symbolism of Mother India


Professor Ari Sitas, a South African sociologist, writer, dramatist and civic activist from the University of Cape Town, speaking. In his current visit to JNU, he is exploring with the students at the Centre of Historical Studies “the histories and theories of nationalism”. outlined the emergence of South Africa as a nation after a long struggle and many movements. The story of colonisation and the emergence of a nation state seeking equality has parallels with the Indian journey. “The concept of nationalism in colonies emerges in two ways. The first is an idea of nationalism that come as a response to the rule of colonial powers where the individual and collective view is that enough is enough. The second emergence of nationalism is a work of imagination where movements and steps are undertaken by the masses which shape the process of freedom from colonial forces and the creation of a nation state.

G- ARUNIMA ON NATIONALISM- Prof. G. Arunima also spoke on national and nationalism. “I am an Indian. My parents are Indian. But I don’t have to wake up every morning and start swearing my allegiance to the country.”


P-.SAINATH– This criminalisation of dissent and curbing of voice have now come to the elite circle, whereas it has already been there for over two decades in different states. An innocent common man who has never, ever been to any police station, one day finds himself being slapped with several criminal charges.


Citing Socio-Economic Caste Census data, Sainath said, “90% of the total rural household earns less than Rs 10,000 per annum. India ranks fifth in dollar billionaires list, where as in Human Development Index, it’s ranking is 135, Sri Lanka, Vietnam are much above us. There’s a chaos in every front. Beef and cattle slaughter issues led to the collapse of India’s indigenous Kolhapuri chappal (footwear) industry and as a result, Dalits are suffering. No one understands the role of cattle in rural economy and it’s the fundamentalism that is overpowering



The attack on “inclusive nationalism” historically adopted by India may lead to “social disintegration” of the country, warned noted academician and Professor Emeritus of JNU Prabhat Patnaik.

“I believe this, that if the sweep of the nationalism agenda of these Hindutva forces continues, this kind of destruction of inclusive nationalism will lead to social disintegration of India,” Patnaik said while addressing students at JNU.

“It is not just bad morally, then India will join the ranks of the ‘failed states’,” Patnaik said slamming the “Hindutva forces” who he said were trying to substitute “democratic egalitarian system” with “modern capital oligarchy”.


Efforts are being made to change the country’s national anthem and replace ‘Jana Gana Mana’ with ‘Vande Mataram’ as has been demanded by the right-wing groups, historian Tanika Sarkar said on Friday.

“The right-wing groups have been demanding since long to make ‘Vande Mataram’ the national anthem. So, don’t be sure that ‘Jana Gana Mana’ will remain national anthem forever,” Sarkar,



There is a systematic attempt to elaborate and instill a very anti-democratic, intolerant, belligerent and aggressive nationalism to which we have to respond with a much more humane, democratic and inclusive nationalism,” he asserts.

In his talk Vanaik links nationalism to culture, and then explains different possible meanings of the terms.

He says there are four approaches to understanding the beginnings of nationalism.

First, changes in social structure, where industrialisation necessitates nations.

Second, changes in political structure – the idea that the modern nation state begins in 1648 with the signing of the Peace of Westphalia treaty.

Third, changes in political consciousness, where a certain kind of cultural nationalism precedes political nationalism.

And fourth, the most important, changes in social consciousness.

Vanaik refutes the first two approaches, saying that even countries without “serious processes of industrialisation” have nationalism, and that the nation state was not born in 1648 because those states were absolutist states that were centralised but also personalised and sacralised. “The modern system nation state comes through after 200 years of also imperialism, colonialism, and exploitation.”

“The power of the nation state comes from the fact that it’s supposed to belong to the people,” Vanaik points out.

Explaining changes in social consciousness, Vanaik refers to Benedict Anderson’s book Imagined Communities. Though the best definition of nationalism came from the liberal tradition before him, Anderson developed it and made it much more powerful and effective, Vanaik says.

According to Hans Kohn’s definition of nationalism from 1944, “Nationalism or the nation is a cultural entity lodged above all in consciousness striving to become a political fact.” Vanaik says this is important because that means there is only one thing common to all nationalities and nations, and that is the question of consciousness.

Common territory, common language, or common history are not what makes for this political consciousness. “The only thing common is that in way or other… people come to think of themselves, the imagined community, as belonging to some kind of nation and that’s the key…”

“In order to understand nationalism we have to understand culture,” he says, which is also a very complicated term. He explains culture with five adjectives: plural (the aspect of being shared), open, ordinary, changing, and expanding. An essentialist view of culture is what leads to the labelling of people as anti-nationals, and doesn’t agree with the idea of a secular nation state.

“You can think of the nation in two ways – either you can think of nationalism as an inheritance of the past, or you can think of it as something that belongs to the present and the future. If you say it belongs to the past, that it’s an inheritance, then there will always be disputes about what the proper inheritance is and who the proper inheritors are.”

“It belongs to the present and the future, and what that means is nationalism is what we will make of it.”

“There must be different ways of being Indian and feeling Indian,” says Vanaik. People from different parts of India can feel Indian if they feel that the state respects and acknowledges their language, their history, their culture.



Indian position on the relationship between free speech and subversive speech. Indian courts explicitly rejected the ‘clear and present danger’ test arguing that the doctrine cannot be imported into the Indian constitution because fundamental rights guaranteed under Art. 19 (1) of the Constitution are not absolute rights and subject to the restrictions placed in the subsequent clauses of Art. 19.The rejection of American standards by itself does not solve the problem of where the line between speech and action while interpreting Art. 19(2) is drawn. Unlike the relatively straight line that can be drawn to trace the doctrinal development of subversive speech and action in the US, in India it emerges more as a criss-crossing set of lines that move between different standards and across different forms of speech.

If the ‘bad tendency’ test established a loose nexus between speech and effect, and the ‘clear and present danger’ test demanded a closer proximity between speech and consequence, in India we find a slightly different spectrum which runs between ‘bad feelings’, ‘bad tendency’ and the standards of ‘clear and present danger’. The interpretation of sedition during the colonial period tended towards a narrower space for any subversive speech and in that sense the Romesh Thapar and Brij Bhushandecisions of 1950 were rather remarkable for their ability to distinguish between different levels of threat and impact in assessing speech in a postcolonial context.




“In some ways it is a good thing that the death of Vemula, the arrest of Kanhaiya and the witch hunt against Umed Khalid, have actually led to a public debate about the definition of national and anti national, as also of the deeper and more intractable issues around caste, religion and discrimination in our society. The linked question regarding who, if anyone, has the right to decide on my nationalism or lack of it, is equally vexed and needs a longer, more mature discussion. To the best of my knowledge this has not been done since Independence. The existing laws and practice on this are largely inherited from the colonial period and were never addressed in a contemporary framework. This is critical for a mature democracy. Jingoism, waving the national flag, and shouting slogans , are not equivalent to a certification of patriotism.”

“Far more than saluting a flag [which of course I continue to do with honour and respect] – it is the thoughts articulated by young idealists like a Rohit Vemula, a Kanhaiya Kumar, a Shehla Rashid and yes a Umed Khaled all of whom together with the many unnamed and unsung women and men across this country, embody the true spirit of nationalism and patriotism. We must collectively ensure that we not only protect those who have not yet been pushed to take the extreme steps like Rohith Vemula, but ensure that justice is promised and done to those presently in custody or forced into hiding, for fear of their lives. In the ultimate analysis , human security is the best guarantee for National Security.”



PROF SANJAY SRIVASTAVA on MASCULINITY AND NATIONALISM – Consumer is the national hero (at present) but it also causes certain kinds of muscular anxiety. How do you call for being global but also promise to not allow the globalism to affect our deep-rooted ideals. Masculinity offers the prospect of best of both the worlds. Modi offered that. Srivastava pondered over the idea of a possible relationship between the changing perception of masculinity throughout history and consequently, the fluctuating notion of nationalism


A person can’t be anti-national, but policies could be, noted economist Jayati Ghosh said Saturday while addressing students at the administration block of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) during a ‘nationalism class’.

“A nation is ultimately its people. And with recognising that a nation is its people, you also recognise that a person can’t be anti-national… in fact, the only thing that can be anti-national are policies, especially state policies,” she said.


The Preamble of our constitution ensures citizens something — justice… social, economic and political, liberty, equality, and fraternity — first in terms of dignity of individual and then in terms of unity. These are the essential building blocks of our nation. I would argue that policies and processes that undermine those are anti-national. They are against the idea and the promise of our nation,” she said.The Preamble of our constitution ensures citizens something — justice… social, economic and political, liberty, equality, and fraternity — first in terms of dignity of individual and then in terms of unity. These are the essential building blocks of our nation. I would argue that policies and processes that undermine those are anti-national. They are against the idea and the promise of our nation,” she said.

APOORVANAND-He asked the audience one simple question — If one wrote a letter to Gandhi today, where would it go?
“Gandhi’s mail from around the world had a single address — his name, Gandhi, Bapu, India. If a letter is written to him today, where would it go? Where will the letter reach? It is a question worth pondering over,” said Apoorvanand.
Talking about how the ashrams and trusts Gandhi lived in couldn’t represent his last address anymore, the professor said one had to look at the leader’s last years to find his mailing address.
“Gandhi had lived in Sabarmati Ashram, but when hapless Muslims went to the ashram to seek refuge during the 2002 riots, the door was shut on their faces. That couldn’t be Gandhi’s last refuge… A lot of trusts are run in his name, but that couldn’t be his last address either… But if one has to find his true address we need to go to the last years of his life… From 1915, he was essentially a wanderer, never staying at one place for too long.”
Touching upon the time between 1946 and 1948, Apoorvanand spoke about Partition and how Gandhi tried to douse the effects of communal conflicts wherever he went.



Today efforts are being made to obfuscate the existing definition of nationalism. The nationalism draws on reliable history and not just on anyone’s fantasy about the past.

“Critical enquiry as we all know is essential to the advancing of knowledge, it is expected of the university to critically enquire into what public may claim this knowledge to be,” she said in her address to the students at JNU.

“Nationalism draws on the identity of a citizen which is pre-eminent but cannot be an identity claimed as superior by any single group, it has to include equality of all the equal rights of citizens. Incisive debates on this are part of the nationalist enterprise which is part of the ongoing enterprise of the relationship between history and nationalism and universities are obvious place for such debate,” she said.”Nationalism doesn’t exist on one identity, it is all inclusive. National history of course has its moments of joy, it goes to the past and golden age and utopian age but whatever national identities superseded existing identities, if it is inclusive it is generally much healthier but if it pretends to be much exclusive then it could be a disaster,”Nationalism has a lot to do with understanding your society and finding your identity as member if that society. History is essential to a national ideology, but it has to be a shared history. It cannot be a history based on one identity, but has to be all inclusive.


“Questioning someones idea of nationalism, doesnt make you anti-national, questioning someones view on patriotism doesnt make you anti-patriot,” he said.

“Nationalism is still a debatable concept even in advanced nations of the world. It is not a settled concept and it is our duty to question it,” he added.

Warning against the habit to “essentialise” things, Mukhia said, “Whenever we talk of Kanhaiya, we tend to essentialise him as a Hindu boy above being anything else. Umar Khalid has been declaring from house tops that he is an atheist but we connect every dot with him being a Muslim because of his name.”




NANDITA HAKSAR ON SEDITION-What is sedition and what is not in law is just the matter of who is the master. We need a much deeper understanding of nationalism, of sedition and their subtleties. Even lawyers only look at individual rights and media sees things in black and white,” she said.

When I did the case of Afzal Guru and Gilani that was to prove to the people of Kashmir that there is a space. Do not identify this country with Modi. Please identify this country with all of us Indians who are willing to listen,” she said.

Haksar also asserted that questioning the shady acts of Indian Army personnel should not be disallowed under the garb of “nationalism”.

“Of course our soldiers are there and they are defending but who are they defending it against? Are they defending it against militants who come inside or are they defending it against our own people who are alienated? The fact is that the only security India can give is that people inside the country are not alienated,” she sai

BADRI NARAYAN- “Dalits and the Hindutva Agenda of Nation-making”

The basic imagination of the agenda of Indian Hindutva nationalism is based on hatred. The hatred which is targeted against Muslims and there are talks of forming unity in which Dalits should fight with them like a martial race and die,” he said.

Narayan also accused the “Hindutva hardliners” of trying to alter the “memory and history” of Dalits “for their own selfish reasons.”

“Dalits are being told that Ghazi Saiyyed Salar Masud Ghazi Miyan killed the ruler of Lucknow which was under their rule. History is being distorted in other places too to pit Dalits against Muslims.

“The politics of colonisation of Dalit memory is to transform the Dalits as soldiers who should fight and die for them. They (dalits) should have no desires, no feelings, no aspirations but they should be ready to fight with Muslims and die for them(Hindutva nationalists),” he said.

Narayan also slammed the “Hindutva forces” for “trying to appropriate BR Ambedkar for their own political benefits.”

“The basic imagination of the agenda of Indian Hindutva nationalism is based on hatred. The hatred which is targeted against Muslims and there are talks of forming unity in which Dalits should fight with them like a martial race and die,” he said.

Narayan also accused the “Hindutva hardliners” of trying to alter the “memory and history” of Dalits “for their own selfish reasons

JAIRUS BANAJI – “In this country, we are today living in a climate of violence. ‘They’ are the upholders of the law. This climate of violence has emerged in the last so many months and it’s really dangerous for us,” said Banaji.

“It seems to me that explosions of violence (communal riots) that happen from time to time have nothing spontaneous about them. They are the works of organised groups and have very careful and intricate planning. The violence is the product of these organisations wanting to create a climate of violence and fear and triggering,” he added.

He said that the citizens living in a country constitute the nation and the concern for them should always supersede the idea of dehumanised ‘nation’ itself.

He went forward with this idea and suggested that people like Shahid Azmi and Irom Sharmila, who were fighting for the “real concern of real people” were “the real heroes of Indian democracy”.

“They are the real unsung heroes of our democracy. Democracy is the backbone of our “nation” and there are agendas precisely to destroy and uproot that democracy,”

Satish Deshpande
विश्वदृष्टि, विश्वविद्यालय और राष्ट्र (Worldview, University And Nation)

Satyajit Rath
विविधता और एकता का व्यविज्ञानिक पहलु (Scientific Aspects of Diversity and Unity)