New Delhi: What has been happening in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is not “freedom of expression” but “expression of freedom from India,” a BJP member told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, referring to campus events where students allegedly voiced support for Kashmiri separatists.
“Freedom of expression is there in the Constitution. But what happened in JNU, was it freedom of expression or expression of freedom from the country? Was it freedom of speech or speech for freedom?” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Bhupendra Yadav said in the Rajya Sabha.
Pamphlets were distributed in the JNU that said Kashmir did not belong to former Indian prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru or Manmohan Singh or to incumbent Narendra Modi, claimed Yadav.
“Kashmir did not belong to Nehru, nor does it belong to Manmohan and Modi who keeps flaunting this crown to the whole world… what they consciously keep invisible is how the occupation of this territory has taken place through brutal force, rewriting of history, obliterating memories and facts,” Yadav quoted a pamphlet as saying. He claimed it was distributed during an event on the JNU campus.
This caused a mild uproar in the Rajya Sabha, as members of the opposition parties questioned if the source and authorship of the pamphlet have been verified.
“How can such a statement be made without authenticating,” CPI-M member K.N. Balagopal said.
Congress member Anand Sharma joined him, and said: “Verify who is the writer and put it on table of the house.”
Leader of House Arun Jaitley intervened and questioned the opposition’s “intolerance to the alternate point of view”.
“Nobody disputed we have to protect the constitution. Nobody disputed we have to protect the academic credentials of the university. Nobody disputes we have to allow freedom of thought in that university. Having said that, there is an alternative view point… Why should there be intolerance to such alternate view point,” Jaitley said.
“We heard half an hour of the debate without a reference to what actually happened in JNU. This debate is not taking place on some theory or abstract idea. When Mr. Bhupendra Yadav wants to refer to that incident, you display that level of intolerance. He will authenticate the document and the author,” Jaitley said.
Yadav then resumed his speech and questioned why there was a commemorative event at JNU for Afzal Guru, a convict in the December 2001 attack on Parliament HOuse, and Maqbool Bhat who belonged to separatist group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front.
“Did Afzal and Maqbool Bhat fight for Dalits? You do the Mahishasur puja in JNU and go to (Durga Puja) pandals in Bengal to seek votes,” Yadav said.
Yadav also quoted from a pamphlet which he claimed belonged to the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the CPI-M.
Quoting from that pamphlet, he read: “The religious fundamentalists, bolstered by an ideology propped up by the petro-dollars of Saudi Arabia, masquerading as radicals, serve only to undermine the genuine struggle of Kashmir…”
“We cannot allow sedition in the name of freedom of speech,” he added.