JNU incident pulls me back to an unconventional but one of the most interesting subjects I got to opt for in my b-school. JEM (justice, ethics and morality) was a gem of a subject taught by one of the most amazing professors I have met.
What is the right thing to do? If the answer to this simple seven worded sentence was so simple, at least 4 in every 5 human being would have rested in genuine peace.
Personally, I am not very comfortable and can’t digest the fact of organizing an Event to support the infamous (at least in India) Afzal Guru in an Institute in India whose primary goal is to impart valuable education to the youth. The absolute scornful part is shouting anti-national slogans like, “India should get out”, “The war would continue until India is destroyed”. We definitely don’t own the right to make decision what is right or wrong. Nevertheless, there are certain universal activities which a majority of the mass would loathe and one of them is “disrespecting and humiliating your own parents, whatsoever!” The whole point of being “the student of JNU” itself makes the situation all the more ironical. JNU is an Indian Government subsidized University right in the heart of Capital of India. It would have been more sensible and acceptable if the student union President shouted out slogans like, “Death penalty be abolished!” along with his convincing explanations to defend the statement.
The hot debate currently out of this whole incident is the arrest of aforementioned heroes, who showed their extreme audacity to support anti-national culprit and on top of that displayed an extra courage to chant disturbing anti-national slogans. Article 19, Freedom of Speech and expression is in violent jolt this time. Article 19 founded in 1987 itself has always been an object of debate and bears a vast difference in implementations across borders, depending on the extent of liberalism of the Country where it is implemented.
Two biggest Philosophers of the history, John Stuart Mill and Joel Feinberg had their share of arguments regarding the limitations of “Freedom of speech and expression”. John Stuart Mill cited in his book, “on Liberty” that these limitations can simply follow the harm principle. He argued, “There ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered”. The only limitation cited by Mill was to follow simple Harm principle. This principle states that the only limitation of the liberty to speech is to not harm the others. On the other hand Joel Feinberg with his offense principle argued that harm principle simply sets the bar too high simply because some forms of expression are too offensive and thus should be legitimately prohibited. He further stated that as offending someone is less serious than harming someone so the penalties imposed should be in accordance with the harm caused. He further suggested that during the application of harm theory, various factors need to be considered like social value of speech, the number of people offended, motives of the speaker, general interest of the community at large. Going by this argument, “sedition” is in fact can be considered offensive to a community at large. However, as rightly pointed out by another popular critical theorist, Bernard Harcourt, the flaw of harm theory is, “today the debate is characterized by a cacophony of competing harm arguments without any way to resolve them!” It is in fact an open ended debate, slightly impossible to have a conclusion for the society as a whole to decide what is the limit of harm or offense that can be considered as a factor to limit the freedom of speech.
However, my main concern about the turn of the incident is the insensible and indifferent attitude of the authority and biased opinions of a few towards the entire incident. I don’t even want to talk about Rahul Gandhi as I truly and sincerely don’t consider him for my discussion! Unfortunately, I can’t digest the fact that very interestingly, there was a huge silence observed among “good in debate” community called political parties. Not to mention the diplomatic tweets by some of them, mirroring their balancing act.
One of them is this (Disclaimer: I am not an anti-Kejriwal):
C’mon you big political parties, can you not focus on attacking each other for once, beat around the Bush trying to not jeopardize your vote banks and focus on the main problem. Can you try to probe once why this was encouraged and in the first place happened in the Campus like JNU especially when it is subsidized and ran by the Indian Government by the fund received from the diligent Tax payers like us? Can you for once be sensible and don’t take this lightly. It is a serious case of education system and quality of students produced by the Institutes which is going haywire. I had an impression that Narendra Modi (Disclaimer again: I am not anti-Namo either) gained some sense after losing Bihar elections by playing deaf and dumb on Dadri issue. Instead of getting to read the news of pelting stones on each other, we expect an assurance of in-depth investigation of the issue, assurance and a promise to ensure fulfillment of the primary goal of the educational institutes of the country and not focus on other activities which may hamper the actual nurture of the youth to run the nation in the future. Last but not the least, I sincerely condemn the violence on protesters and Journalists. Staying silent or getting violent is not the solution whatsoever.