Demand for nation's disintegration, simply not acceptable

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Demand for nation's disintegration, simply not acceptable

The likes of Umar Khalid have chosen to embrace the Western notion that the nation is an imagined community

In the aftermath of the Ramjas episode in University of Delhi, violence has suddenly become unacceptable to certain political activists who otherwise routinely justify its use even by the perpetrators of cross-border terrorism, pretentiously portraying them as home-grown insurgents and freedom-fighters. These activists have brazenly celebrated on many occasions the gruesome killings of paramilitary forces by the Maoists. This is not to suggest that violence is acceptable as a means of protest or counter-protest. I unequivocally condemn the acts of violence which took place at Ramjas College where an Associate Professor of English department suffered a great deal.

The university is a space which should have zero tolerance for any violent activity. Peaceful debates and discussions are the lifeline of a university system in which the freedom of expression for the generation of dissent, not to disintegrate but strengthen the nation, would be extremely valued, and its nurturing appreciated. No ideological dispensation is expected to take liberty with this idea. The reason I need to underline this is that the Left has consistently preferred to follow the logic of convenience on the questions of freedom of expression, dissent, the culture of protests and the deployment of violence to support such culture of protests.

The history of Indian academia has to tell us many stories which make it abundantly clear how students, researchers and even teachers — whoever wished to academically engage with Right-wing thinkers such as Savarkar, Deen Dayal Upadhaya and others — were secretively identified and surreptitiously targeted so as demotivate them to pursue their academic interests. Those who, despite all odds, persisted with their preoccupations with a nationalist point of view, were brutally discouraged. Both covert and overt attempts were deliberately made to deny them teaching assignments. Those who somehow managed to get jobs were ignored and sidelined to the extent that their own colleagues often looked down upon them as communal beings and almost never encouraged them for an open, forget fruitful, dialogue of any kind. Sometimes even a simple conversation was made immensely difficult.

Over many decades, the academic Left successfully managed to throw the freedom of expression or dissent for the Right out of the window. And they kept claiming the selective dissent available only for their supporters, as the representative one for all in the university. Such hypocritical claim has already exploded since many young students, scholars and teachers are no longer listening to these ideologically-inclined intellectuals who harbour almost incorrigible distrust and disrespect for the idea of nation. In a way, the overwhelming majority is returning the contempt that the Left has had for the academic issues like Hindutva, Hinduism and nation, while secularism and Marxism, for instance, held the centre-stage.

Nobody can argue that secularism and Marxism should not be critically discussed and for that matter, the nation is immune to academic critique. Indeed the nation has been put to the serious sort of scrutiny by academic scholarships of different theoretical persuasions. For more than three decades, these diverse, at times quite conflicting and contradictory approaches, have brought the concept of nation into the bar of judgment. None of us raised our eyebrows over such interrogations even when they were sometimes very provocative and controversial. In fact, all of us who have made some investment in academics, have carefully listened and responded to these perspectives in our own different ways.

Moreover, we have revisited the exciting debates between the philosopher and anthropologist, Ernest Gellner, and his illustrious student, the legendary Anthony D Smith, who disputed the views of Gellner and argued that nation does exist and has a pre-modern history. These debates took place much before the advent of Benedict Anderson and that of Partha Chatterjee. The native perception about the genesis and growth of Indian nationhood is similar to what Smith does suggest.The Left has either ignorantly or arrogantly lost sight of which Smith offers us and apparently displayed an exclusive and rigid mindset on this issue.

Part of the problem with the likes of Umar Khalid is that they have chosen to embrace and rather make themselves subservient to a particular line of thought which evolved in the West and which emphasises that nation is nothing else but an invention or an imagined community. It actually does not exist and all national boundaries are basically the shadow lines, as author Amitabh Ghosh wants us to believe. These activists have sought to suspend their critical faculty while taking this version of academic thinking as the Gospel truth. They have actually gone way beyond this, as their endeavours over the years clearly indicate that, for promoting their conspiratorial agenda, they are willing to not only weaken the country from within but also destroy the nation from outside. And they have done whatever they can to misuse the space of the university for their nefarious designs.

It will do these people a lot of good to remember that not only the nation but also the idea of university has an indigenous connection. We have our own autonomous ways of looking at both the concepts. The idea of a university, which developed as early as seventh century BC in India, drew upon the notion of effectively integrating all kinds of knowledge systems with the project of nation-building. The Ramjas issue is an extremely important reminder of the indisputable fact that the academic Left should abandon its deeply internalised prejudice against the nation, shun the binary of  essentially oppressive nation-state and the always oppressed people and engage in a genuinely productive dialogue with the right to contribute to the betterment of the university and in turn to the development of the nation precisely because the circumstances which Delhi University is undergoing, have made the writing on the wall categorical: University space cannot and will not be allowed for the encouragement and abetment of those acts and activities which, in the name of the cultures of protest proactively work for the disintegration of India. 

(The writer is Assistant professor of English at Rajdhani Collage, Delhi University)

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