India

The Anti-National Debate 2.0

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The last time India was throwing around words like “anti-national” and “sedition”, we were talking about JNU’s Kanhaiya Kumar. This time 2 new names – Gurmehar Kaur and Ramjas College – have been added to the mix. Here’s what’s going on:

Let’s begin with some context

Back in 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar had become a household name, thanks to the JNU controversy. Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were his associates from the JNU Students Union. According to the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), a student union in Delhi, Kanhaiya, Umar and Shehla were involved in the anti-India sloganeering that took place at the University, while they were protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru, a man who was convicted and eventually sentenced to death (hanged on 9th February 2013) for his involvement in the 2001 attacks on the India Parliament. This accusation got the students into a soup of sedition charges last year.

Fast forward to 21st February, 2017

A seminar, called “Culture of Protests” was scheduled in the premises of Ramjas College. Guest speakers invited for this event included Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid of JNU. The student members of the ABVP came out in protest over the inclusion of the 2 as speakers at the seminar. This started a scuffle between the ABVP and the AISA (All India Students Union), which erupted into major violence on campus. On the 1st day of the protests, members of the ABVP not only blocked the entrance of the conference hall but also started pelting stones and breaking window panes. Amid the escalating tension, the police allegedly refused to intervene and many students, including women, were manhandled.

Enter Gurmehar Kaur

ABVP faced major flak for the violence at Ramjas College and an online campaign was started by the students of Delhi University against them. The campaign used the tag line “#FightbackDU”. People and students from all over the country came out in the support of AISA. Gurmehar Kaur, 20 year-old student of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College did the same. She posted on a social media platform stating that she is not afraid of the ABVP. This put a spotlight on her.

And the plot thickens…

About a year ago she had posted a video on Facebook calling for peace between India and Pakistan as her father Capt. Mandeep Singh was martyred in the 1999 Kargil war. In the video, she displayed a total of 34 placards. One of her placards read ‘Pakistan did not kill my father, war did.’ This year old placard was circulated all over the social media, with many calling her anti-national for not taking a stronger stance against Pakistan.

The Reaction

Gurmehar began receiving death threats and even rape threats. Many celebrities like Virender Sehwag, Babita Phogat, Anupam Kher took potshots at Gurmehar, while Javed Akhtar came out in support of the young girl. Some politicians even compared her to Dawood Ibrahim.

What could have been a debate on the existence of hooliganism in Delhi University politics, or even a debate on war, turned into a debate about “nationalism vs. anti-nationalism”. This debate cannot be truly won on either side as definitions of nationalism and anti-nationalism vary from person to person, as it should in a true democracy.

What’s your stand on the subject?

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