In the past few days, there has been a huge debate between freedom of speech and anti-nationalism, especially in our national capital of Delhi. A very prestigious college of Delhi University has become a battle ground for students with varying ideologies. But what led to these events? For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me give you a quick recap.
Last year, some students in Jawaharlal Nehru University (famously known as JNU) decided to hold a protest against the death penalty given to Afzal Guru, who was proven by law to be one of the conspirators in the attacks on Indian Parliament way back in 2001. Now, I am not even going to get into why these students opposed this decision, but apparently during these protests, anti-India slogans were chanted. One of the person who initiated these protests was Umar Khalid. Later on he was arrested by the police and even some charges were pressed against him. But again we won’t mull into the details as my objective is to discuss a far more pressing question here – how to know when freedom of speech and expression becomes too much?
Very recently, the same Umar Khalid was invited by students from another college for a seminar, and this is what sparked outrage among some students. Now, many of you might be on the opposite sides of this debate and I am not here to settle it for you. I just want to ask a very simple question. When we live in a nation which is relatively peaceful and stable than so many other countries, don’t we have a moral responsibility towards it as well? I agree that there should be a freedom of speech and expression and that’s why it has even been enshrined in our Fundamental Rights. But indirectly endorsing people who in turn have glorified ‘terrorists’, is that right? Aren’t we insulting our nation’s soldiers and every person who has laid down their life for this country?
It is always easy to read a few books and debate on a subject. What is not easy is facing the consequences or even knowing the ground reality. We all have a view on Kashmir, even though majority of us haven’t lived there, or even been there. Our soldiers are spending every day of their life in inhumane and extreme conditions, away from their families, so that we can have these debates. Simply saying the army is wrong or right is a foolish conclusion to reach. The problem lies in the comfort zone we reside in. This gives us the privilege to comment on anything and everything. Young students today have no experience of the real world but simply relate to some fancy terms and use them as a speech tool. Even the student who has been in news recently said that she’ll take a ‘bullet for this country’. Once again, I am not doubting her intentions but when it actually comes to that situation, trust me, her reaction will be very different.
Freedom of speech is every citizen’s right, but in turn if you are insulting the country, then you are definitely tilting towards anti-nationalism. Yes, it does sound arbitrary and archaic, but you as a citizen have a duty towards the nation. The problem is that our Constitution makers made the rights enforceable by law but not the duties. And that is why we take it for granted. To all the advocates of free speech, I request you to go down to our borders or even a middle eastern nation and say the same things you are saying now. Only then will you understand the real meaning of words like intolerance, anti-nationalism and their consequences.