Chaos on campus

No one seems able to appreciate that when you qualify freedom of expression, you don’t have freedom of expression. No one is willing to accept that freedom of expression means that you will also hear opinions that you find deeply offensive. No one stops to note that while you can use force to stop people “saying” something, you cannot stop them “thinking” the same. No one stops to ask whether we really gain anything by enforcing silence through violence and the law.

One great virtue of freedom of expression is that it enables us to have an advance warning of things going wrong. If people are so unhappy with India that they shout “India ko barbad kar denge”, then we should take that as a warning and try and examine the reasons. If you stop people saying something because you find it offensive, then you won’t have the warning and the consequences can be disastrous. Ask our neighbours, the Pakistanis. For many there, the loss of Bangladesh still hurts.

There will be always be a few people making provocative speeches for no valid reason. But then, the correct response is to ignore them just as we do with internet trolls.

In the US, there are always people who, for one reason or the other, burn the US flag. Many find this deeply offensive. But no one beats up the perpetrators - they are allowed to do the burning and then they are ignored.

If we are to break up, it will not be due to a few students shouting anti-India slogans. We have survived worse things. I am scared, though, of the path down which we seem to be heading. M Suresh


The problem with JNU is that it’s not liberal or leftist, but opportunist. Hypocrisy and selective outrage is what they do in the name of rational thinking.

The president of JNUSU is in jail as per the direction of the magistrate judge not be some act of fascism by the government or police. By fanciful use of debates and speeches it doesn’t hide the fact that freedom of speech is not absolute and will never be.

Amid the arrests and protests, one must not forget how all this was started by the anti-national slogans. Rather than condemning the government, the JNU professors must first answer for the kind of education and ideology being propagated which has led to this behaviour.

When you can call all people who support the government (30% of the population) bhakts/RSS goons, why can’t we call a university anti-national using the same principle? – Sajal Manchanda


I am reminded of the agitation to carve out Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh. Agitators lost their patience and some of them starting shouting slogans such as “Delhi dur, Beijing nazdik”.

The authorities at the time did not consider this behaviour anti-national as they understood that it was prompted by a fit of anger. The same logic should be applied with regard to the JNU students. However, to be on the safe side, a watch should be kept on criminal elements. Rakesh


I come from Jadavpur University, a campus with a rich history of dissent, and I participated in a major protest during my time there. I understand the importance of protecting this trend because it is the youth who have the imagination to change the past and reshape the future. But I have concerns as well.

Never in the past have I come across student protests supporting “barbaadi” of the nation and calling those who attacked our symbol of democracy as “martyrs” (well, they may be to some foreign citizens).

While it is of small magnitude compared to the repercussions or the stability of the nation, I nevertheless think of the future. Take recent instances in the UK where educated people like doctors, engineers have joined up with ISIS. Therefore, such situations will create a rich recruitment ground for non-state agencies who engage in subversive activities.

I feel there is a fine line between dissent and radicalisation. Can you, me or anyone guarantee that there will be no infiltration?

While the Delhi Police may have resorted to excessive punitive reaction, I believe the state needs to send out a strong signal as a deterrent to agencies like ISIS, LeT or JuD. Please correct me if I am wrong. Arnab Biswas


In a mature democracy, all the stakeholders agree to disagree. The present happenings are the result of core intolerance of specific sections of our civilised society. Also, some of our governing bodies and systems do not have confidence in our constitutional values.

Instead of creating a conducive atmosphere for constructive discussions, people are the taking the law into their hands. There should not be an attitude of “kings cannot make mistakes”. Campaigns meant to unite people are of no use if there is no platform for democracy. – M Nagarajan


This is the mindset of students because of teachers. Naxalism and anti-national feelings spreading among the youth in universities shows how dangerous this trend of demeaning the unity of India has become.

These people consider Afzal Guru as a martyr and want “barbadi” from Bharat. Shame on the teachers who drive students to this behaviour. The government of the day is doing the right thing. They should do more and take stern action against professors who are responsible for this situation. Rajinder Kachroo


I believe in democracy and in the right to dissent. Your articleS on JNU presents an alternative view, but one of the points deeply concerns me. Since independence, the so-called Bharat - “jiski barbadi” these students have been demanding - has protected the borders.

The so-called democracy and right to dissent that you and your students have been given is also because of the armed forces, which are protecting you from becoming a state like Pakistan or Syria or any other country affected by fundamentalism.

Secondly, why only raise a cry for Afzal Guru and not countless other citizens who have been denied their rights, or the armed forces personnel who have been butchered by fundamentalists or terrorists?

There is always an alternative viewpoint about everything. Instead of raising slogans in favour of enemies of the state, JNU students should figure out the real intentions of these so-called harmless students without weapons.

Mind you that organisations such as ISIS are recruiting misguided youth and unless we don’t take steps now, we will have a grim future ahead. Abhishek Singh


My connect with JNU goes back to 1971 and still remains intact. My family was raised and grew up on the campus over decades. So, I can claim to have seen this great institution of learning from very close quarters.

The view that squarely brands JNU as a Left bastion and all its students as Left brigade goons is ill-conceived. Of course, the political flavour of the university has for long been leftist, but can it be denied that many other ideologies have also thrived side by side for years? ABVP too has won elections at JNU, so why then has this “Left stigma” been deliberately attached to JNU?

Debates and discussions have always been encouraged to put out varied ideas. To paint the entire student community black with a wayward presumption that all alumni read Karl Marx, followed The Red China and are a bunch of secessionists, is totally misplaced and against the interest of all those who hold different political views and do not necessarily subscribe to the isolated few.

The young minds should be allowed to think independently and rationally and shouldn’t be driven in a direction decided, dictated and driven by the state. Period. A reader