JNU. Jawaharlal Nehru University. One of the oldest, most prestigious, highly-regarded universities in the country. If you mentioned the name today, at this moment in time, you’d be referring likely exclusively to the obsessively politicised issue that has seen reams and reams of newsprint and hours of airtime dedicated to it – and not necessarily productively.
The Telegraph ran a poignant cover a few days ago, but all photography and pithy headlines aside, the true worrying fact that we are ruled, and sadly, surrounded by jingoistic ‘nationalists’ persists.
That persistent rhetoric – of ‘nationalism’, ‘patriotism’ and ‘country-love’ is one best served only in the history books, which have shown us exactly how this has turned out in the past. Badly for those who stand against it.
And yet, for a country that would like to describe itself as having ‘arrived on the world stage,’ with big-money mining projects, invisible Foreign Direct Investments that our leaders are bringing in, projects that are yet to entirely materialize but come guaranteed to adversely affect the environment.
To those who are not as yet completely abreast of the situation at JNU, a group of students held a demonstration allegedly condemning the hanging of Afzal Gru, who in 2013 was hanged for the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament.
That case is itself shrouded in mystery, and whether one agrees or disagrees is a new can of worms entirely, and its own separate debate, one that will not be alluded to here.
This, and alleged ‘slogans’ that were chanted at the college, were described as ‘anti-national’ by politicians who have opinions on every issue that goes on in the country – barring those that actually matter and are truly consequential.
These ‘anti-national’ statements led to police action. Delhi Police, who I presume are a bit short on work considering how women are incredibly safe in the capital and need no police assistance whatsoever, that there is no gun (or other violence) in the capital, you know, the things it has become notorious for worldwide, picked up on this and promptly took a student leader into judicial custody, in the sort of speedy action perpetrators ofsome seriously heinous crimes seldom receive.
And therein lies the first problem. Whether or not one agrees with their statements, personal opinion of no kind should be able to have you imprisoned.
Being contrarian, and now labelled controversial instead has had student leader Kanhaiya Kumar arrested. The same political figures who are shockingly mute when issues need to be addressed have, in the past few days, done various things, each of them vocally.
They have cried themselves hoarse reiterating the same nationalistic, jingoistic rhetoric that had them elected in the first instance. The irony being that these very same parties, back when India was still under colonial rule – as was the case not too long ago on a historical timeline – did nothing for the freedom struggle, for the actual nation.
These parties, and the members thereof, were the ones who insisted on wanting to remain under the Raj. It is then a bit odd that they have somehow successfully (at least to their worryingly unthinking target demographic) marketed an ideal of being the one true upholder of freedom ( a concept they have completely misinterpreted, incidentally) and nationalism (a concept that really should not exist.)
Would those who fought for our nation’s freedom in the many years gone by have condoned the fact that those very freedoms, freedoms the Raj tried to quash – the ability to express oneself without the fear of legal retribution, without worrying about arrest, bodily harm and with true freedom – of expression and speech, none of which have been given to protesters.
Upholders of the law (at least on paper), in their black robes, have reduced themselves to what the bulk of our political parties have all always been – a bunch of weapon-wielding, non-cerebral goons who want to impart vigilante justice with no real understanding of the issues, but carry out what those who are playing them so conveniently mention.
In the day since student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested, he has been called ‘seditious’, a traitor, words politicians in India have used for anybody who disagrees with their views. Contrarian? Seditious. Anti-establishment? Traitor. The responses roll off forked snake-tongues like oil off a duck’s back.
(For more, see Arundhati Roy, Aseem Trivedi)
Our ministers have, in joining with the goondas, nay, being them in full force, failed us entirely in upholding what our country – and really, any democracy – should really be about.
So when a BJP MLA says he was ‘upholding his duty’, an MLA who happens to be a lawyer, that duty he refers to is not justice – it’s goondagiri and hooliganism.
Perhaps a step back would be in order for the same netas who are so proud of our nation and all things saffron (which incidentally, Iran is the world’s biggest producer of). In aggressively marketing their own brand of nationalism – waving what is simply a gigantic orange dick at the general public, some of which holds on tightly to it, they have failed the ideals we fought colonial rule in the first place for.
Of the ability to think, to speak, to exist for oneself and not as an instrument, an extension of the powers that be.
We have been told how to love, whom to love, what to eat and why, how we must behave and dress (to prevent rape, of course! If we women dress ‘provocatively’, we’re asking for it because those poor men can’t control themselves!).
We are now being told what to say, and what we cannot, and shown exactly what the consequences will be if we do.
The terrifying thing here is that it is not just political hardliners (but considering our powers, everyone is a political hardliner, now) but even our home minister and ministers of state, people who should in fact distance themselves from this, the most vocal of all against the students at JNU.
When even those who protest against this manhandling, this throttling of our freedoms are routinely beaten by police, it is more than worrying – it is the proverbial Grim Reaper come to visit, telling us to bid our liberties goodbye.
Instead of an unhappy public expressing dissent with the government, it is now the government that has expressed that dissent. In ways that should not be legal and have no place in a democratic society.
And therein, dear politicians, ministers, and those who do not stand with the students, lies the real terrorism. It is when the police see the student who was attacked identify his attacker and let the man walk out scot-free.
Not in a political rally at a college where students are encouraged to think critically – a skill it appears you will never possess.
That word, nationalism? I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Recently, Free Thinkers, a group of Facebook users, organised the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement. The kiss of love was floated in social media by a group of youngsters known as free thinkers, in protest against Bharathiya Yuva Morcha attack on a hotel in Kozhikode last week, alleging immoral activities.
The movement, in which people who signed up decided to have a kiss-a-thon in Kochi, a major city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, was intended as a symbolic message to the police…the moral kind. The kind who persist in bandying about that oft-repeated turkey, “Indian Culture”. The self-appointed upholders of what is truly Indian. Morally. Sex sadly is not one of these ‘moral’ things to them. However, it is deemed perfectly acceptable to urinate, defecate and masturbate in the street. I have personally seen a street masturbator and multiple street urinators and defecators in the past week.
These Indian religious nuts are probably all living in Biblical times, then. The times of immaculate conception, over and over and over again. The sort of immaculate conception that is repeated in every corner of the country. The kind that has got us to a 1.252 billion strong population as of last year’s census. [Probably higher this year.]
But no, let’s get back to how sex is bad and immoral and corrupting people, shall we? Nobody’s having it, how dare they? It is against the culture of the country with the world’s second-highest population.
Kissing is a beautiful thing. So is sex, but it is possibly too ‘scandalous’ for our upholders of tradition and culture to discuss (the stork dropped them all from the sky, of course), so let’s start small. Kissing. Affection. Love. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a sexual context, but is a thing of beauty even then. Sexual =/= bad, dear desi culture upholders.
This movement was meant to show two fingers to the moral police, comprised of individuals, groups, families, and scariest of all, political parties. [I say the scariest because of the sheer monetary and physical power they hold and wield as dangerously as an unsheathed sword.]
Trolls to the Facebook page for supporters of the Kiss of Love movement have variously posted things such as these
“will you marry the ‘thing’ you brought to kiss”
“I don’t have a problem. But everyone should take those ‘things’ you kissed back home with you”.
But dear man, you do in fact have a problem. The same problem far too many people in India face. That rape, sex and ownership are all somehow interconnected. And the topic that interconnects them in your mind is that timeless Indian favourite, virginity. Specifically, female virginity.
Countless films, instances in real life and suggestions by ‘well-meaning’ MORONS suggest to survivors of rape that they marry their rapists. Marry the people who chose to violate them and their space to exert power.
Their ‘logic’? That the rapist has already ‘taken’ this girl’s virginity, which of course is the entire deciding factor in her value as a woman and human being, so he might as well keep it. This patriarchal, backwards mindset is sadly echoed by women nationwide, women who write into advice columns asking about ‘how to hide from my partner that I have had sex with my previous boyfriend’.
Nobody should need to ‘hide’ anything. And by nobody, I mean no woman, because this ‘sexual shame’, this stigma women are made to feel if they are even the least bit free with their sexuality, is suffered by them and them alone. Men wear their sexual prowess like badges of honour. Women are slut-shamed instead.
Religion divides our nation, and has done so for years and years. However, causes like these seem to unite every regressive, extremist religious wingnut against one massive cause, in their quest to both decide and enforce what is ‘moral’. Freedom. Self-expression. Feminism. Nationwide equanimity.
India does not talk about sex nearly as much as it should, and this is very likely one of the causes for our uncontrollably high population. Nobody TALKS about sex or the issues that come with it. STDs and Venereal Disease. Pregnancy. Family Planning. Safe sex. EQUAL PARTNERS in sex and the fact that it is not just for ‘male pleasure’. The whole she-bang.
The prudish and religious both like to pretend sex doesn’t happen, exist, is ‘western’, the result of a foreign invasion. Ironically, it is possibly due to repeated foreign invasions that a liberated, mentally, physically and sexually free country became the nation of prudes that it now is. Victorian ideals have been left behind while conquerors left for their own lands, their own countries now societally liberal and their people liberated.
Unfortunately, this specific colony has decided to keep these classically ‘Western’, colonial ideas of propriety and prudishness, adopting them as their own, and becoming resistant to freedom of thought or expression, or the expression of sexuality, which to them is inherently baaaad. Here, however, is an excerpt from a book by a very non-Western man. A certain Vatsyayana. The writer of our lovely sex manual written nearly two millennia ago.
In the style of one of my favourite comic-book villains:
Riddle me this, prudes who’ve appeared, who’s afraid of the big S-word?
I had the opportunity to speak to organisers as well as representatives of the movement. Several organisers and participants in Kochi were taken into custody by local police in what they described as ‘preemptive action’. To ‘prevent disruption’. Disruption of what, exactly, they did not mention. Several religious extremists attempted to attack them as well. The movement, however, has gone from strength to strength. The Facebook page for Kiss of Love was reported by the cultural torchbearers I have expounded upon, and was subsequently shut down. Support has multiplied since, however, with a burgeoning number of subscribers to a new page that has since appeared.
Reflective movements are now happening across the country – one of the country’s leading educational institutions, IIT Bombay, held its own kiss of love movement, which was a roaring success, and supported by the faculty at the institution too. Under conditions of anonymity, one of the organisers of a specific city-based movement shared with me the sort of language that has been used against him: he and his fellow protesters have been described by “the majority of people [who] called this movement as “drunkards and drug-addict” movement”.
Not one of these people has been able to articulate why exactly this movement is so offensive to them, what they think will happen as a result. Meanwhile they have no public outcry against rapists who roam free and assault women and children with absolute abandon, and question women on what they are wearing, if they ‘dare’ to report sexual assault.
Support, however, is growing among the rational, by leaps and bounds. We are now in exciting times. Free Love movements may have happened half a century ago in the rest of the world, and we are behind by all means, but it is incredibly exciting that it is now actually, actively happening here.
This support has, contrary to cultural torchbearer belief, not been restricted to ‘educated’ ‘westernised’ English-speaking intelligentsia. Translated below, a post off the site, originally in Malayalam:
In public, in police station and even in front of police station
We have unity
Unity that can never be broken
You are the ones who have lost and not us.
We have created history.