Do you have the right to scream, “Kashmir ko milegi azadi” non-stop in your neighbour’s house? He has every right to kick you out. His right to privacy is greater than your right to speech.
Can you go into your boss’ cabin and start shouting “Bandook de dum par azadi” repeatedly? He has every right to sack you. His right to conduct his business is greater than your right to speech.
Can you stand in the middle of the road and scream “Bharat ki barbadi tak, jang rahegi, jang rahegi” in front of a car for even five minutes? The driver has every right to call the traffic cops and chase you away. His right to drive the road is greater than your right to speech.
Can you go outside a residential complex in the middle of the night and shout loudly, “Afzal Guru amar rahe” for an hour? The society has the right to call the cops and send you packing. His right to peace is greater than your right to speech.
Similarly even if students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) keep disrupting their premises and hold processions round the year shouting apolitical things like: “Banana ko milegi azadi” or “Apple ke de dum par azadi” or “Mango ki barbadi tak, jang rahegi, jang rahegi” or “Baingan amar rahe”, don’t the authorities have the right to kick them out on the basis of gross indiscipline?
Don’t the authorities have a right to maintain decorum in the campus? Don’t they have a duty to give the best education to all the students? Don’t other students have the right to peace and the right to be apolitical? Doesn’t actual studying precede everything else?
Which business establishment, school and residential colony in India tolerates the kind of nonsense that went on in JNU recently where students went on the rampage and shouted anti-India slogans non-stop? What is so special about students of JNU? Don’t they have to follow the same decorum and duties that the rest of India observes?
Which educational university in the world will tolerate such kind of nonsensical behaviour? Students have been expelled for far far less.
There’s no end to it. If someone wants to glorify Afzal Guru one day, it may be Ajmal Kasab the next, Mao the day after that and then Stalin… There’s no shortage of causes from Palestine to Syria to Climate Change to the European refugee crisis.
There are umpteen student unions and what if everyone if them wanted to take up all the causes? Academics could be disrupted 24X7, 365 days a year. Rights of students and their university problems one can understand, but what is the purpose of bringing things to a halt over a terrorist who has been convicted by the Supreme Court and his pardon turned down by the President of India?
Another point being missed is that freedom of speech and expression does not mean you can say “anything” “anywhere” at “any time”.
It means that you can say “anything” “somewhere” at “some time”.
For example if you book a private hall you are at liberty to say anything in front of the audience. If they are offended, then they can leave and you have a right to speak in front of an empty hall.
But here’s the thing. If the very same people who are supporting the JNU students find what you are saying is not to their liking, they will expect the police to stop you from speaking and if you continue then they will support arrest. What is more alarming is that if a crowd came and bashed you up, they would support the crowd.
For them, the rights of the mob suddenly become greater than your right to speech.
Again you are free to write whatever you want in a book. What if the book offends you? Writer Salman Rushdie said that in that case all you had to do was simply close the book and throw it away.
Again, the very same people who are supporting the JNU students would expect the authorities to ban the book and if a crowd came and bashed you up, they would support the crowd.
These very people say: If the freedom of speech is to my liking, then you can disrupt proceedings as much as possible. I have a right to offend.
These very people add: If the freedom of speech is not to my liking, then you should be arrested by the police and beaten by the crowd. You don’t have a right to offend.
This hypocrisy is what is totally killing debate in India today.
My freedom of speech is absolute.
Yours comes with umpteen terms and conditions.
That’s the real problem with the JNU students. Their conduct is such that they can be easily expelled. But then if they did that they would go on the rampage and get full support from the so-called liberals, intellectuals and seculars of India.
So the issue is not freedom of speech. It is the freedom of violence that our students have earned through their political masters. That is what has to be curbed. In that direction, the arrest of the students of JNU is an extremely positive step and now the university can get down to becoming a real centre of learning and a world class university!
JNU students definitely have FoE or “Freedom of Expression”, but subject to the rules of the university. If they don’t like the rules then they are free to quit the campus and agitate 24X7 all their life elsewhere.
The JNU authorities also have another FoE or “Freedom of Expulsion” and if they exercise it judiciously, then sanity will return to JNU and we won’t have any need for the police to enter their premises.
© Sunil Rajguru