A Crying Shame – Will Congress and the Communists listen

Progressive and liberal views are welcome in a democracy… Maqbool Bhat, Yakub Memon, Afzal Guru and Ajmal Kasab have been hailed as heroes in JNU. The legitimacy of hanging can be questioned and different views expressed, but making these criminals seem like heroes is another matter.

The recent Jawaharlal Nehru University campus happenings were followed by lawlessness and violence in Patiala House courts.

Winston Churchill, a dyed-in-the-wool imperialist, was totally opposed to India becoming independent. On the eve of India’s Independence, he wrote, “Power will go to the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters… They (the Indians) will fight among themselves for power and India will be lost in political squabbles.” Jawaharlal Nehru and the generation of freedom fighters proved Churchill wrong, but today there appears a ring of truth in what he said. We do still have political leaders who uphold high values, but they are very few.

JNU has been our premier educational institution of intellectual excellence befitting its great name. It has pronounced Leftist leanings, and so to an extent did Nehru. He was a great intellectual and a patriot who made a huge personal sacrifice for the nation. He was the architect of our liberal democracy. The chameleon-like Communists changed colours during the Second World War, and after it they were painting “Long Live Mao” on walls in Kolkata when our soldiers were sacrificing their lives fighting the Chinese on the Himalayas’ forbidding heights.

Progressive and liberal views are welcome in a democracy. Should this also apply to subversive thinking and blatantly anti-national acts? Maqbool Bhat, responsible for killing Kashmiri Pandits and their ethnic cleansing; Yakub Memon, responsible for 257 fatalities in Bombay in 1993; Afzal Guru, responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament; or Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani terrorist who killed innocent citizens in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks have been hailed as heroes in JNU. The legitimacy of hanging can be questioned and different views expressed, but making these criminals seem like heroes is another matter.

In the UK, John Amery, the son of Leopold S. Amery, secretary of state for India and Burma in Churchill’s War Cabinet, broadcast Nazi propaganda from Berlin. He was declared a traitor and hanged after the war. In the US, Julius Rosenberg, who spied for Soviet Russia, was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court. No protests were raised in either case. Perhaps our intellectuals will maintain that the UK and the US are imperfect democracies, while ours is a perfect democracy in which such criminal acts can be ignored and culprits glorified.

The unfortunate events at JNU campus on February 9 have dominated the media for a week and the first two days of the Budget Session of Parliament. It is a pity that our country’s leading university has got so mired in controversy. Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNU Students’ Union, may have been wrongly apprehended. Overnight he has become a “national hero”. I commend him for his forthright statement of loyalty to the Constitution. He is said to have made a similar statement in JNU when anti-India slogans like “Har ghar se Afzal niklega, Bharat ki barbadi tak jung rahegi, Pakistan zindabad” were being raised. I would have been happier if he had done something as president of JNUSU to counter such anti-national slogans or at least withdrawn from the scene as a mark of protest. I will not question these slogans being treasonable or seditious. Let legal luminaries split hair in regard to this.

The JNUSU under Leftist control has a dubious reputation. In 2000, it organised a mushaira, inviting poets from Pakistan, at which India was ridiculed and anti-India statements made. Two soldier veterans of the Kargil war objected and were beaten up. They were hospitalised. Sacrifices made by Indian soldiers in war with Pakistan count for little among our intellectuals at JNU. No wonder they eulogise the likes of Maqbool Bhat and Afzal Guru, but have no time for Hanumanthappa Koppad, who had survived miraculously after remaining buried in snow for six days, fighting for life at the Army Research & Referral Hospital nearby, or for the nine soldiers who perished in the avalanche and the other soldiers who risked their lives in such difficult conditions to locate the dead bodies. Possibly like a Cabinet minister in Bihar who said that soldiers are meant to die, they share such thinking. They pay homage to Maqbool Bhat but have no time for Maqbool Sherwani, a National Conference worker. In November 1947, the latter misled the invaders from Pakistan, comprising the Pakistan Army and Pakistan tribesmen, at Baramulla, delaying the enemy’s approach to Srinagar. He also tried to save Kashmiri Hindus from massacre. He was crucified on a wooden cross near Baramulla Convent. I saw this gory sight on November 7, 1947, when we liberated Baramulla. I had a suitable memorial to him put up in 2005.

Not only Maqbool Sherwani but the three lakh suffering Kashmiri Pandits, who continue to be refugees in their own country, seem to be not worthy of attention at JNU. Some of them live in Harijan colony a few thousand yards from JNU, some others a little further at Town Hall in Lajpat Nagar, and several thousands in Jammu, in most abominable conditions. On taking over as governor of Jammu and Kashmir my first act was to visit all these camps. No senior state or Centre official had visited these camps in 14 years. I did whatever I could to ameliorate their miserable living conditions, like providing water coolers for drinking or getting the Delhi administration to provide a dispensary with medicines and a visiting doctor. My state government resented this, alleging that I was interfering in the state administration.

JNU is named after Jawaharlal who was a Kashmiri Pandit. His kinsmen have been brought to such miserable straits. Their hundred odd temples in the Valley were vandalised much before Babri Masjid was destroyed in 1992 and condemned by all of us. The Israeli problem is of much concern to the worthies at JNU and our great secular leaders who have totally ignored the Kashmiri Pandits. The crown prince parachuted to the top slot for no other qualification other than his Kashmiri Pandit lineage follows suit. In his new incarnation after his mysterious sabbatical as a shouting and destructive Opposition leader, he exploits any issue that will fetch votes. No wonder he has been to JNU and University of Hyderabad.

The British treated a law court as a temple of sanctity. There was never any hooliganism in a court when Mahatma Gandhi appeared as a convict. At Ahmedabad, the British judge stood up to honour him as he was brought into his court. Despite the highly charged atmosphere outside, the dignity of the court trying the Indian National Army officers was scrupulously maintained. It is a pity that the Delhi Police failed to anticipate events and bedlam prevailed at JNU and at the Patiala House courts due to lack of suitable preventive action.

I may be dubbed an old fogey out of tune with modern times for expressing my anguish at these tragic events. In my defence, I can only submit that for 40 years I served in the Army in war and peace, facing risk and hardship. Cry, my dear country, cry.

The writer, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

Source: The Asian Age