Dear Barkha Dutt,
About two days back I came across a letter written by you to the Prime Minister of our country. The letter was titled A Letter To PM Modi From ‘Anti-National Sickular Presstitute’ Barkha Dutt. Before I put forth my opinion, let me introduce myself (since I am not the Prime Minister, I will surely need an introduction). I am a University student who can be considered as young enough to articulate my views, studying in one corner of our country, which you may not even heard of. I also tell you upfront that I do not have any political affiliations (except that I am a member of AAP, and doesn’t know how to quit that membership!!). I do not belong to an ideology. Period.
Given these facts I do not expect you to even read this, lest expecting any point by point reply. You must be really busy reporting very important news for the people of our country. In fact, if you are reading this post, and if you are not Barkha Dutt, then I won’t be surprised at all.
Your letter was in the context of what most people now know of as the JNU row. This university, as many of us know have given us some of the most respected people in the society. There are army men, politicians, intellectuals, writers, journalists, activists and whole lot of others who have graduated from JNU. Many of them have contributed immensely in writing our school textbooks. Many thoughts and views have been soaked and fine tuned in this campus. Well, JNU is not an exception. There are many other campuses which has contributed in similar ways to our society. I firmly believe that all of us have the right to debate, discuss, dissent and deliberate any idea in any campus inside our country. This is one of the key enablers for a thriving knowledge-based society. As many human minds, so many different ideas.
As a society, we have been able to accept each other’s view, through we may not agree with them. Without this acceptance, India would have long ago become a monolithic and semitic society. The diversity in our thoughts, culture, language, race, ethnicity, color, food etc. has survived without much conflicts till now. In comparison, there is not a single civilization in the history of mankind that has been able to accept and assimilate such diversity. This is in stark contrast with what has happened in the western civilizational history (where cultural invasion was accompanied by cultural annihilation).
Given this background, let me start by expressing my opinion about the views that you have expressed in the letter. In your letter, you have called for pardoning the youngsters who had shouted slogans for destroying the country (“bharat ki barbadi”), and in support of the terrorists who were mastermind of the parliament attack. You would know that these slogans were shouted not by kids but by mature citizens of our country, who are studying in JNU.
When we look from the perspective of an open idea based society, there is nothing wrong in students expressing their views openly in such manner. Just like my own view, and your’s, their’s too need to be respected. Their idea of a nation is different from mine and your’s. One way to see this could be that – in order for a civilized society to grow and evolve, such dissent is necessary.
However, we have forgotten one fundamental principle in putting foward such, rather liberal-looking, arguments. For a civilised society to exist, the first and foremost condition is peaceful co-existence. Without the freedom for one’s own life and livelihood, all other freedoms makes little sense.
Now, let us see what has given us this fundamental freedom for life and livelihood. Till about 1,000 C.E, these fundamental rights were assured by the Kings of the land, who had dharma as their guiding principle. Since the Muslim invasion and then latter the British occupation of our country, these rights have always been at the mercy of the select few, whose principle of governance was either spreading a monolithic belief system or complete political, economic and cultural exploitation of the people. Humanity and values were far from their guiding principles.
In this backdrop, let also remember how we regained these rights. There were multiple resistances in all parts of the country starting from the late 16th century. It is pertinent to point out that over 100,000 people were publicly executed by the Britishers during the first war of independence. Also, much before that millions of Indians were executed, raped and humiliated in public by the Muslim rulers (in very similar ways to how IS is trying to spread it’s wing across the middle-east). Over the late 18th century and early 19th century another million Indians were killed directly. Indirectly (through man-made famines), the British empire was responsible of killing another few millions. Added together, the repression wetted out by the British and Muslim empires would dwarf the criminality of Hitler.
A groundswell of resistance across the then poor nation of our’s resulted in the independence struggle and the final political freedom of our country. 1947 gave us the right to decide our own destiny. Fortunately, the leaders of our independence struggle were visionaries par comparison. They were torchbearers of our ageless tradition and universal outlook of our seers and sages who declared to the world the principles of humanism, love and respect – not just for each others but towards everything in nature as well. Through the immense exercise of writing a constitution for our country, these self-less leaders, not only gave us a rule for our land, but also brought about the unity among more than 500 princely states. We also take pride in the fact that, this unification was done without a grand bloodshed. This was also an accomplishment with no comparison in history. It is evident that the struggle of millions of people, known and unknown, have given us the right to life and livelihood. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have not been part of that struggle. I can only imagine their struggle from the comforts of life that I have been blessed with.
By the virtue of being born in this geographical area and being born to Indian parents, I am also an Indian. I have all along grown up eating the food grown by our farmers, who ploughed this soil of our country. I have been financially supported by my parents, who were employed by the government. By having spent 12 years of my school in a central school, I have received more from this nation than many others of my age. I have travelled on roads created by the collective contribution of millions of tax payers. I have worked on Govt. funded projects in Universities. In short, I have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the collective contribution of millions of Indians. All this has been possible due to the sense of duty and sincerity of millions of Indians, who knew that fundamental rights can only be enjoyed in a law-abiding, value conscious society and not in an anarchist rebellious state.
Now, when I analyse the attitude of those students, I am pained and at the same time alarmed. Because, fundamental right to life and livelihood is assured by a society that respects law. All of us make many small sacrifices to make the society happy and peaceful. However, when a handful of people propagate anti-constitutional ideas, I fail to understand the logic or the emotion that can be used to justify them. When slogan is shouted against the country, it is not just against a “word” or a land or the people. It is against the idea of a peaceful India – the idea that we the people of this country can decide our own destiny through democratic processes.
When a student leader supports others who shout “destroy India”, I fail to understand the magnanimity of your heart that calls for pardoning them. Aren’t you sending a message that destroying our fundamental right to peaceful living is itself a fundamental right?
Freedom for free expression comes only after freedom to life and livelihood. I fail to understand your arguments, because I can’t think of allowing my own children to spit on their mother. I will punish them, so that they learn a lesson and never do that again. So, that they don’t ask others to also spit on their own mothers. Tough punishments are necessary when the conduct is destructive. I feel that this is an alarming situation, where a journalist like you, who has great powers to sway public opinion is overtly supporting anti-social, anti-human ideas to perpetuate. I also fail to understand, your rather contradictory statements about how you feel pride in hearing national anthem, and your support to students who stand to destroy the idea of a peaceful country. These two statements are either coming our of illogical mind or crooked interests. I fail to understand which of these does your opinion reflect.
In my view, your support to these students would send a wrong message across the nation. Especially, when we hear of soldiers dying to give you, me and even those students, the right to live and shout slogans, our patriotism shouldn’t be limited to standing up for national anthem, but should be extended to understand these hard-earned rights can be protected. Symbolic expression of patriotism is one thing, while standing up for the country is another. I hope, through standing up for the country, we can gift a better, peaceful, humane society to the coming generations. A society that is focused not just on it’s rights, but also on it’s duty towards the world, the nation, the society, the family and their own self. I hope and pray that you are able to guide the nation and the countrymen away from separatism and violence, towards unity and humanism.