The term "anti-national" has been bandied about loosely in the case against the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. In a move to counter this superficial understanding of the terms "nation" and "nationalism", professors at the Jawaharlal Nehru University are holding a series of public lectures from February 17 to 24.

The first lecture by professor Gopal Guru (video above), a leading political theorist and Dalit intellectual, addressed the question: "What is the nation?"

"How does one really understand nation or nationalism? Is it something that belongs to emotions where easy free floating judgements are available? People of any kind can make judgements on JNU students and teaching faculty and non-teaching faculty, as if we don't understand nation, only they do. So one response is coming from emotions, where there is no argument, the other response is from here (JNU)..."

Guru adds, "For understanding nation I first have to imagine nation. Nation has to be understood on the basis of the promises it's making and the aspirations it is offering its people." The promise in 1947 was to create a "decent nation", one which is not based on rumours, insecurities, indignities and humiliation, he says.

"If you really want to sustain and harness this essence of nation which is normative, nation cannot do it on its own. Nation is an abstract category. Nation cannot be defined in terms of borders alone and the physical character of nation and that is what people do, that is the dominant definition they pick up, because that is easy for them, to construct the other."

Nationalism is not militarisation alone. Citing the Ashok Chakra as a powerful symbol of what the Indian nation promises and aspires to, Guru says, "The nation has to be made radical in terms of changing spaces." He contends that there has to be "radical rotation" in society, that the economic and social aspects of a nation should be considered together, and the economic should not get precedence over the social.

Guru also explains the difference between nation, state and government. He explains that the nation is a benign category, that in its essence is egalitarian. The job of the state is to ensure that this nation is maintained. And the government is an apparatus of the state.

Commenting on the current crises in JNU he says,"Those who are stigmatising our community on the campus are actually belittling our scholarship."

"The point we have to remember is, if the state is riding over the nation, what happens? Today it is being seen that state is becoming much more prominent than nation... For your own reasons you are actually trying to define nation. One government led by one political party is thinking that the politics of that party is much more important than the nation."