The Price of Nationalism
Updated: Jun 28, 2019
UP’s new ordinance on colleges provides hope for regulated education and dismay for rationality and freedom of expression.
A few years ago our nation erupted in a great storm of anger, resentment and reactionary rhetoric when the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s student body was accused of organising an event that involved anti-national sloganeering. That event and the accusations around it have since been used extensively to point to the growing wave of “leftist” and “separatist” ideologies and their promotion inside campuses.
The UP government in an ordinance which provides for regulation of fees in colleges both public and private has also included a clause on the banning of “anti national” activities within campus. It has ordered colleges to ensure that such activities are not tolerated and events related to them are not conducted.
On the surface this appears to be an ordinance for the betterment of college education within the state and such a move would of course be welcome. UP is in fact 29th in literacy yet has a rapidly developing educational industry. The government’s move to regulate said industry and provide uniform fee structures for students and thereby facilitate fairer education has however been marred by the addition of this “nationalist” clause.
Opposition parties have already started blasting the government for “ideological apartheid” and “clamping down on freedom of expression”. In such a condition the ever sensational media of India has taken to ‘Prime Time’ debates and forums to bring this to the limelight.
The government says that of course anti nationalism is not to be tolerated and asks the opposition, what is wrong with promoting nationalism and patriotism within campuses and stimulate national unity within the youth?
If only things were as simple as this.
Firstly we must analyze the case being cited to justify this ordinance. The infamous J.N.U sedition case is...actually not a case as we know that the Delhi Police’s FIR against the accused was rejected by the court. No evidence has popped up to support the view that the organisers themselves were involved in sedition and activities such as those. Therefore said case cannot be used to justify a ban...since law enforcement authorities have been unable to prove the guilt of the accused in this case.
Secondly we must ask whether anti-national activities have been thoroughly defined in this ordinance. They have not; instead the vagueness of terms almost certainly ensures the abuse of such an ordinance to cow down universities and colleges from allowing alternative opinions to be showcased within campus.
The sensationalism behind this particular issue is completely unfounded. If there were strict guidelines given for Universities to determine what is anti-national this issue would not have come up, instead the UP government has only brought infamy to an otherwise perfectly alright ordinance which could have without controversy brought structure and order to the state’s higher educational mechanism.
We must collectively ask for clarifications on these issues and do away with state sponsored vagueness. The question is not of nationalism and anti-nationalism but is instead of ensuring that a government ordinance is not devolved into a gag order by virtue of the lack of clarity in its clauses.