Now the Apex court is seized of the JNU matter, it is time to reflect as to what has been the biggest blunder when it comes to this episode. Was it arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar or disproportionate use of law to arrest him under the charge of sedition? Was chanting and shouting azadi by JNU students the biggest blunder? Or was it the hooligan lawyers of Patiala roughing up journalists the nadir of this story? In my opinion these episodes are tied with a common thread inspired by deafening silence from the top. It is the Prime Minister’s silence that has been the biggest blunder of the JNU episode.
Prime Minister of the country is supposed to be the moral compass of our political life. He belongs to all the Indians and not to one particular ideology or party. Whether silence was cultivated or unintentional is a matter of debate but the consequence of it is being felt by everyone. What is surprising is that despite being engaged on social media and TV, PM displayed cold indifference to the most raging controversy in the country. It is possible that he might have addressed this issue with his colleagues during a closed door meeting but public by large is unaware of as to where his Prime Minister stands when it comes to the issue of sedition, debate on nationalism, campus unrest and media assault. The first consequence of his silence was intervention on part of BJP by taking up the role of guardians of nationalism and patriotism.
It would have been okay if this would have been a first. On major issues starting from Dadri lynching to cultural intolerance to Rohith Vemula’s suicide and now JNU, Prime Minister’s intervention has always come at fag end of the debate. More like a post script. That is why silence of the Prime Minister on matter such as this has raised pitched questions. So the question is as to why PM on all occasions failed to change the course of debate and only interceded with concluding remarks when the damage was already done. I will not dare say that it looks pre meditated but then it does enough to raise eye brows. Is it because that cultivated silence by the PM gives him six degrees of separation from the agenda of Sangh Parivar affiliates?
What is required is the intervention of the Prime Minister at the right time so that discourse is shaped and influenced by him. Even a tweet can convey strongest of sentiments. It’s his silence on crucial occasions which has surprised many. Even the argument that PM does not need to engage on all issues doesn’t hold good. Most of the controversies mentioned above have been about the idea of India and speaking about the idea of India or his idea of India will convey a strong message of engagement. The debates in Parliament should happen, but that too often becomes a post facto event. Let’s see as to when Prime Minister breaks his silence on the recent JNU episode.
(Views expressed by the author are personal)