A peaceful gathering of students to discuss the worrying state of the world they lived in was about to turn violent, in the blink of Mad-eyed Moody’s single working eye. The air crackled with menace and the youngsters felt their skin prickle in warning. There were Death Eaters amongst them. It was evident from the icy atmosphere in the innocuous enough spot the students had chosen for their meeting.
The young men and women, scared as they were, were not going to back down. They hugged their books a little bit tighter, raising their voices in unison in a promise to fight for the world they lived in, hands straying to their most important weapon, tucked away behind scholarly robes – their valiantly beating hearts. One of them spoke up in encouragement, “Anything’s possible, if you have enough nerve.”
But then the Dementors came, the Death Eaters’ horrific henchmen, swooping down from the shadows to suck the soul out of the students. There was no escape. So the youngsters reached for their wands.
Or they would have, had this been a scene from a Harry Potter book and not Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Could anyone have stopped their tormentors in their tracks? Did anyone have experience of fighting the forces of evil with just a student army behind them?
We all know just the person – a student wizard, an indomitable fighter for minority rights, vanquisher of the Voldermortian aka the ruthlessly oppressive. Any Potterhead will tell you that if anyone can sort out the situation at JNU, it’s The Boy Who Lived.
Here are five times (out of many), he proved he could:
The scenario in the second book of the series, The Chamber of Secrets, for example, is not all that different from what’s going on in JNU.
Students were attacked, even spirited away, leading to Harry’s having to enter a clandestine chamber of horrors where deadly things lived and breathed, in order to put an end to the reign of terror. At the Hogwarts of northern India, students going about the business of saving the world (that is what students do, and should be encouraged to do) were first attacked verbally by an opposing union and then with sticks, boots and fists by lawyers (violent lawyers are like big snakes in the grass – old Muggle saying) as they entered our very own chamber of horrors, the Patiala House.
And just as the second book is rife with rumours and deliberately spread lies, so is the case against the students. It does not require Aurors to spot a clearly doctored speech! Like at Hogwarts, where the custodians of the students’ security (especially self-absorbed Gilderoy Lockhart) looked away when they should have helped, Delhi Police watched smilingly from the sidelines as the students were beaten up at court.
And those who had created the imbroglio smirked like Tom Riddle as it went their way again. But wait, Riddle’s slimy schemes had come to naught in the end as Harry unravelled the chamber’s secrets and bested the monstrous snake. Our student army could have done with a smidgeon of Harry’s help and a great deal of his luck.
In the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, “mass-murderer” Sirius Black escapes from the dreaded prison of the title and is expected to turn up at Hogwarts. But the nightmarish Dementors who guard Azkaban fortress are now outside Hogwarts gates, “threatening to suck the very soul from those whom they encounter with a deadly kiss”. Sounds familiar?
The BJP/AVBP had similarly been circling JNU for a while, hoping to make an example of its free-thinking folk. After their assault on another educational institution in the south proved successful, the time seemed ripe to move in on this northern preserve of liberal thought. Whether they succeed in sucking the life out of that august institution or not remains to be seen (though the prognosis is encouraging after Thursday’s ten-thousand-people protest march in its support).
There are other similarities too. This book introduced the Animagi – Lupin, Black and Pettigrew – the shape-shifters of the saga, with most of them on the side of good. In the real world, shape-shifters are generally those who backstab their own from behind a veil of camaraderie. The ABVP are the Peter Pettigrews of JNU. Peter aka Ron’s rat Scabbers framed Sirius Black for murders he did not commit.
And let’s not forget the unfair detention and stayed-at-the-last-moment execution of the innocent Buckbeak. Kanhaiya Kumar is our Buckbeak and his incarceration smacks of the same brand of “justice” at work. Harry and his friends, of course, do save the day and the students of JNU, with a little help from friends outside their institution (and the powers within), should do too. But taking a leaf or two out of this Potter book wouldn’t hurt.
The fifth book, The Order of the Phoenix, more than any other, bears a startling resemblance to the very real events unfolding at JNU. This is the book where Albus tells Harry he will triumph not because he is flint-hearted but because he “cares so much he feels as though he will bleed to death with the pain of it”.
This is also the book in which we meet Dolores Umbridge for the first time. Slowly and insidiously, Dolores takes over Hogwarts, with the backing of the Ministry of Magic. Once she has established her sway over the famous wizarding school, having pushed out Albus Dumbledore, its greatest champion, through means most foul, she begins to crack down on the liberties of thought and action enjoyed by the students.
Dolores is every reactionary organisation rolled into one. She is quite naturally the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher because those who stamp out freedoms do it on the pretext of protecting people and the things they hold dear, whether it’s Hogwarts or India, from forces that (they claim) seek to subvert.
Dolores not only disposes of Dumbledore, but she also punishes Harry whom she’s out to discredit by making him write “I must not tell lies” repeatedly with a cursed quill that carves those very words into his hand as he writes. Harry is tortured further in the course of an interrogation by Umbridge. And when she refuses to teach the children defensive spells, they form an union of students which teaches itself magic that can protect their beloved Hogwarts. They are Dumbledore’s Army, blossoming into the force that fights and destroys evil in the seventh and last book.
In the climactic scene of the final book, The Deathly Hallows, a nearly invincible Voldermort is ultimately defeated. Amidst the noise and fury, important lessons are also taught.
Just before the last tumultuous battle scene, Harry goes into the Forbidden Forest to face Voldermort and certain death so that the rest of his school may survive. Death Eater Narcissa helps Harry escape this sure death at the Dark Lord’s hands by pretending he had died after that first assault when he hadn’t. She does it so her son Draco, also at the school and at Voldermort’s mercy, may live. When the school hears that Voldermort has killed Harry, it rises up against him and so starts the most momentous battle. None of the fearsome curses of He Who Cannot Be Named works on them anymore, because they have refused to bow down to him.
Not only is he no longer so terrible he cannot be talked about (“Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself” – JK Rowling), he can even be fought and killed. And he is! But not before Harry has told him some home truths, which is the earful he would have given to those involved in the (mis)governance of India right now, had he been here.
Then we are transported nineteen years into the future to see a settled, happy Harry and friends. Settled and happy because they fought the battles of conscience they felt they needed to fight to make their world a better place to live in when they were younger. Not so different from the students at JNU.
But take a step back into the sixth book because that’s where the real Potter magic, which the current situation in India would benefit from, resides. In The Half-Blood Prince, the author’s own favourite, Harry uses a particular kind of magic that involves little wizardry and a lot of love to put his world to rights. This kind of magic we could do with in spades in our country right now. Particularly in our dealings with the young and idealistic who must be allowed to thrive if a nation is to have a future (whatever slogan they may or may NOT have shouted).
“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” Rowling wisely said. The problem in India right now is bigger than blindness. The problem is bigotry which runs so deep that those holding differing views are not just ignored, they are obliterated in the race to homogenise.
The sixth Harry Potter book is about just such young, idealistic students. All of them passionately involved with people, ideas and causes, like never before.
Harry himself learns the power of love and how to use it. When he goes on the road with Dumbledore to find the Horcruxes in which the Dark Lord had hidden shards of his soul, he learns to value humanity and love over attainments. And when Dumbledore dies and he’s bereft, his friends step forward to extend the same support Harry had given Dumbledore on their mission.
Of course, Harry would not have become The Boy Who Lived had his mother’s love not deflected Voldermort’s murderous magic. Had Harry been at JNU, he would have dealt with the bubbling flood of hate and bigotry with just this kind of magic. But Harry isn’t here and we must step into the breach ourselves. This is wizardry we are all capable of.