Debate and death threats

The Nationalist versus Leftist debate is degenerating into calls for violence and murder. A student of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, received rape and death threats because she had dared to say that her father was the victim of the Kargil war. She was forced to leave the university and return to her home in Punjab after a public statement saying that she was withdrawing from all protest movements. Now the JNU and the Delhi University have turned into battle grounds for the ABVP and the Left students, the former declaring a war on the latter. The President has already expressed his anxiety over rising intolerance. On top of it has come the news of an RSS leader of Madhya Pradesh announcing a reward of Rs. 1 crore to anyone ‘beheading’ Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for the alleged killing of RSS workers in his State. No trial but a summary execution. This, incidentally, is the practice of the Islamic State terrorists. And BJP spokesmen have explained it away as an expression of anger.
There can be differences on the definition of nationalism or objections to the Leftist ideology. But in a democratic society these differences are debated openly and freely. Murder and rape threats to opponents are never issued. Every critic of the ruling party and its government is now being damned as an anti-nationalist or a pro-Pakistani or a traitor. This is something that has never happened in free India. If this tendency grows and spreads, no sober and rational debate on any political issue can take place.  Fury and fanaticism will replace debate and discussion. Those associated in any way with the ruling establishment will suppress every dissent by force.
What is surprising is that the ruling party and its leaders are not condemning these incidents. Union MoS Home, Kiren Rijiju commented that the JNU girl student’s mind had been ‘poisoned’. But in a TV interview later he admitted he did not know what the girl had actually stated, that his denigrating comments were based on hearsay. What is more, he did not have a word of condemnation for those who gave death and rape threats to her. Many will be inclined to interpret it as the minister’s silent endorsement of the guilty. The situation is turning uglier by the day. It is time for the Prime Minister and for the BJP president to restrain these elements and take action against them under the laws of the land. Keeping silent will be disastrous.

Sunday, 5 March, 2017