NEW DELHI: Even as Delhi University’s Ramjas College remained the epicentre of a bitter nationalism versus ‘anti-national’ debate with violent clashes between the right-wing ABVP and the Leftist AISA marking the beginning, President Pranab Mukherjee broke his silence on Thursday to virtually make a pronouncement: ‘’There should be no room in India for the intolerant Indian.’’
This is not the first time President Mukherjee has intervened in a raging debate on intolerance, to remind the citizens of the ‘Indian ethos’, raising what is intended to be a calming, yet cautionary note.
On Thursday, the President tweeted: “Those in Universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet.”
A point he reiterated later, while delivering the 6th KS Rajamony Memorial Lecture in Kochi.
Kerala got linked to the Delhi campus turmoil in another way.
ABVP student activists, who took out their second protest march demanding a ban on Left-affiliated student organisations across the country, held placards displaying BJP leaders allegedly “killed by Left Parties” in Kerala.
The President, however, advocated calm while reading the crisis in favour of free speech.
‘’India has been, since ancient times, a bastion of free thought, speech and expression. Our society has always been characterised by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate/discussion,” he said.
In words that could be read as a response to the threats Gurmehar Kaur received for her anti-ABVP stand, he wrote: “I do not consider a society or State to be civilised if its citizens’ behaviour towards women is uncivilised. When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilisation.”
Meanwhile, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu, taking part in a discussion on what construes nationalism, said the government was planning to bring amendments to make the sedition law more stringent. Naidu claimed that those who raised such slogans for Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand “believe power comes from the barrel of the gun.... that terrorism can bring azaadi.”
In Varanasi, Cabinet minister Arun Jaitley saw a political design behind the violence. He alleged that it was orchestrated by the Left and the Congress with an eye on the UP elections. The debate clearly has left the politicians divided, from the top to those in the campuses below.