Writers are an imaginative breed but are no match against the rumour mills. The Indian writer lacks the imagination of the Indian State. All manner of plots, all fantastical invention, seem to be the property of the police. And, their friends, the lawyers. Not to mention the media. Should we stop writing then?
I listened to Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech on YouTube; I’d like to have students like that in my class, those who were most concerned about the poor and the oppressed in India. My first set of tweets below are aimed at pointing out the limitations of what had become a slogan, the cry of the goons who were accusing everyone of being an anti-national.
One Arnab Goswami is bad enough, but on Twitter there are a million Arnab Goswamis. It can be a toxic medium, filled with the clamor of screaming, self-righteous, self-appointed guardians of society. Umar Khalid might be doing his PhD on the condition of Adivasis, but he is quickly branded a terrorism sympathiser.
These anchors sitting in their studios – how easily and irresponsibly they make their pronouncements! When I wrote my tweets about the Indian writer lacking the imagination of the Indian State, I was admitting defeat. And in that gesture of surrender, I was hoping to find a small space from where one could say I can think, I’m alive. And to the students on the streets, I support you.
Every day opens with a new set of reports: on the one hand, the assault on JNU and its students has resulted in intelligent protests, teach-ins, introspection, but on the other hand, there has been a fresh spate of wild accusations, depressing signs of police ineptitude and collusion, and madness in sections of the media.
I’m not only a writer – I’m also a teacher and a father. This I’m concerned about the young students who have either been arrested or are being harassed. I’m seized with anxiety when I think of Umar Khalid. We cannot remain silent. We have to continue to speak out. We #StandWithJNU.
Amitava Kumar is the author of several works of non-fiction and a novel. His latest book is a collection of essays, Lunch with a Bigot: The Writer in the World.