Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said the country must be “grateful for the government’s over-reaction” to the February 9 protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University, as this has spurred a much-needed debate on the meaning of nationalism. Tharoor was speaking outside the university’s administrative hall on “JNU and Nationalism”. According to The Indian Express, Tharoor emphasised the need for dissent and tolerance in a democracy like India, and critiqued the government for “obliging everyone” to sayBharat mata ki jai”.

“[The] debate is about what the idea of India is, and what nationalism means. We must all have a conversation about this, because diversity of opinion and culture is what India stands for,” Tharoor said. He added that the country is not “just 'Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan”, NDTV reported. He also praised the student movement at JNU, saying "you are educating us all in Parliament and the country".

Elsewhere on Sunday, another Congress leader, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi too criticised the government's view of nationalism, saying "What is anti-national? If I go by Centre rule, whole Assam would turn into a jail (sic)".

JNU has been at the centre of a nationwide controversy after students raised slogans against the judicial hanging of Parliament attacks convict Afzal Guru. Three students were charged with sedition, causing massive protests in their support as well as backlash from those who believed their actions were “anti-national”.