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Season of impotent rage

By Prem Chandran This, here, is a season of impotent rage. Have a look at the tone and tenor in .....




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Thumbs up Season of impotent rage


By Prem Chandran

This, here, is a season of impotent rage. Have a look at the tone and tenor in which the National Green Tribunal is going hammer and tongs at the spiritual meet organised by Sri Sri, or the happenings in JNU, or in UoH that preceded the events in JNU, or the return of awards by a set of eminent writers and artists a while ago. What’s happening around here? Clearly, attempts are on to rake up issues where none existed, and pull things in different directions. Not an ideal situation for a nation to move ahead.

Can a simple JNU arrest, or a few blows here and there, make a hero out of one who, by latest reports, had been fined sometime ago for misbehaving with a female university student, or out of the ones who raised slogans praising the confirmed terror-activist Afzal Guru, leave alone the pro-Pakistan slogans raised thereof, which was provocation of a high order? Or, can a student’s suspension from a university hostel supposedly leading to his suicide end up in a kind of martyrdom (and nothing less) in a land (Telangana and AP) where student suicides are one too many? Indian politics and public life are passing through strange times, with the role of the electronic media that whips up instant passions coming into sharp focus and resulting in pathetic and perilous after-effects undercutting the national cause.

We are quick to run down Smriti Irani, a forceful debater in Parliament, though her aggressive postures against the Opposition there could have been avoided for the fact that she’s not just a member but also a minister. But, we found fault with her, and the Hyderabad local MP and Union minister Dattatreya too, in relation to the UoH incidents and the JNU flare-up. Not many in Delhi have a high opinion about JNU or about those who used it as a base for their activism. But the students in JNU think high of themselves, as is evident from the claim, "You are afraid of us because we think." Well, it is common knowledge that not just the students but also everything about JNU has a self-imposed intellectualism about it. The bushes there "think", the grass there "thinks", and there is a familiar, somewhat disturbing pattern to it. That invites only contempt. More so when suspected anti-national activities take place. That was evident also in the lack of response from the student community as a whole in Delhi to calls for protest against the JNU arrests.

This writer, in Hyderabad for the past few months, has had occasion to watch the scenario developing at University of Hyderabad from close proximity. UoH, or what is now known as Hyderabad Central University (HCU) has been a hotbed of politics, leftists from West Bengal and Kerala in the forefront, and academic exercises taking the back seat. Those who disrupt classes, much to the worry of the science stream students, are the humanities stream heroes, and the ones who call the shots there from the front are of the Ambedkar Students Association, of which the student who committed suicide Rohith Vemula was an activist. A research scholar, he and some of his associates were asked out of the university hostel after they bashed up a student – an ABVP activist—in his room for writing a social media protest against “goondas” (thugs) ( a reference to the ASA activists) creating problems in the university.

It is common practice that those who pick up a fight in a university hostel are asked out and you cannot blame the VC for this. However, even before this happened, the local MP, Dattatreya, wrote to Union HRD ministry stressing the need to enforce discipline in the university where activism had taken the upper hand. Can all of this, per se, end up in a suicide? Or, should Irani, who asked for a report from the university head, or Dattatreya who sought to enforce discipline in the university, take the blame for the suicide?

There was a familiar pattern. If the JNU students hailed Afzal Guru, the HCU students held functions to hail both Afzal Guru and the Mumbai terror convict Yakub Memon. We know both had been convicted by the higher courts of the land before they were raised to the gallows. Was there a real reason to whip up the issue now? Clearly, there was external prodding to which the Ambedkar Students Association students fell and were made a scapegoat of. This external prodding was what raised the BJP hackles in Hyderabad. And, the scene got reenacted on the JNU campus, where too the script was more or less the same, other than that a ‘Kashmiri’ hand was seen behind the Delhi protests. Any government worth its salt cannot ignore such things, especially as diabolical plots from across the border in the west are one too many these days. Who should sit on judgment on whom? The court on us, or we on the courts?

Rohith Vemula was a bright student, and he wrote poems, and he also wrote critical comments against the SFI and the Marxists in the recent past. There was no politics behind his suicide. But, the first politician to reach the campus, having been airlifted from Delhi, was Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M), to extend moral support to the students protesting against the death of Vemula; followed by Rahul Gandhi who made two visits to upstage Yechury. It is important for Sitaram Yechury to demonstrate that there is still life left with the Indian Communists. And the route he took was the same route he traveled 30 years ago – as a student leader at JNU. He has not grown from those days. Nor has he intervened in any of the pressing issues of the day, including the large number of farmer suicides in the Telugu states as also in Maharashtra. Nor did he show up when nearly 20 students committed suicides in a series of incidents in his own family backyard –what is now AP—over a period of a couple of years, over personal or other issues. Scores of youths committed suicide ostensibly to push the Telangana cause in the past, and no Yechury was there to provide moral support to their families.

But, in Rohit Vemula, he being a Dalit, it is safe to suspect that Yechury saw an opportunity. India’s electronic media, waiting for issues, caught on it, and it became a national sensation. Rohit’s mother was paraded in Delhi weeks later, at the behest of the same political forces, to draw more political mileage. However, Rahul Gandhi sensed problem for his party from the overindulgence, especially after the series of byelection defeats, and toned down his university activism. Yechury has nothing to lose. He is sitting at the apex of a party that is a total washout -- except in Tripura, where it survives by the charisma of the CM, and in Kerala by its organizational strength and appeal of local leaders. CPM’s desperation can be seen from the way it cobbled an electoral tie-up with the Congress party – which was nothing less than devil for it for two generations. Backing Afzal Guru or Yakub Memon was no simple act of compassion. There are electoral dividends to be drawn in the assembly polls in West Bengal and Kerala – up for polls in the coming months – where Muslims formed strong vote banks. Now, Yechury and Co will only have to wait and hope to reap a harvest of what they sowed on the two campuses.

The National Green Tribunal is well within its limits to raise questions over what happened on Yamuna’s sands in Delhi and punish the guilty. But, should it demonstrate a classical aggressiveness in the way it responds to situations? The tone and tenor of its responses, and of the way it replied to Sri Sri, reflected a lack of mental maturity. Its benches consist of bureaucrats and those from judiciary. The composition needs be broad-based. This should not be an ego trip, as was the case when Jairam Ramesh went about doing things under UPA II. NGT should take realistic stands, and bureaucratic attitudes should not come in the way of its functioning. Sri Sri is an institution with a high reputation. If it unknowingly did a wrong, it would not be one that will shy away from taking responsibility or in making amends. But, the bravado with which the NGT approached the issue is a commentary on our times. It is that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are found wanting in their responses to such situations.

Modi cannot be another Manmohan Singh. People elected him to show results and prove there is governance in this country. The two years that he is at the helm has not been a period of reassurance. He is not seen today as the tough leader that one expected of him to be. Extreme situations call for strong actions. The chatter class on TV shows can keep yapping against this and that. They do not reflect the public opinion. Nor are the writers who got governmental awards and favours the conscience-keepers of this nation. These worthies were the integral part of the establishment that was rooted out of power in 2014. What else does one expect from them – other than a return of the award citation and not the money thereof? About talk shows. Most of them making noise are sitting in glass houses, cut off from the real life, and are eager to pass judgment on every issue under the Sun. All these wise men need not desist the Prime Minister of this country from doing his job; or the BJP or the RSS for that matter. They have a mandate to change the course of this nation from the depths to which it has fallen post 2G, CWG, Coal Scam etc, which were only open manifestations of the rot within.

A sense of fear is integral to keep a society moving in the right direction. Indira Gandhi used it to best effect. Strike when the iron is hot. A “good boy” image might not take PM Modi far. Rather, the NGT and the like would only be encouraged to take the wind out of his sails. There should be no space for impotent rage, be it of Communists or the NGT. premcee@gmail.com; www.indiahereandnow.com

Last edited by Premchandran; 08-15-2016 at 08:12 PM
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