Dr Vacy Vlazna
I have a book that I treasure, a timeworn copy of Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India written while he was imprisoned by the British in Fort Ahmadnagar charged with sedition.
I am grateful to the Father of Indian Democracy for the profound influence he had on shaping my fascination with the noble ‘panorama of India’s past’, culture and the modern noble resistance to the brutal and exploitative British colonial yoke. I also thank Pandit Nehru for his part in shaping my own moral principles and commitment to justice.
The magnifying irony
All people who challenge and resist fascism walk in Nehru’s footsteps towards equality, justice and the right to life of all humanity.
And today, ironically, it is India, not the British that persecutes Indian dissidents, such as Kanhaiya Kumar (and Rohith Vemula), who dare to denounce the racist nationalism and fascism creeping through the Indian government that is hailed by what Nehru (had) contemptuously called ‘governmentarians’ - the sycophants of authority “who hover round the skirts of government and echo the views which they think will be approved by those whose favour they continually seek.”
The lawyers who shamed their judiciary tenets by beating up Kanhaiya Kumar outside the Pataila House court belong to the lowly governmentarian tribe.
The irony magnifies given Kumar is the president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union; the university named after the great man who lived an ethical approach to life and believed in the ‘application of an ethical doctrine to large-scale public activity’.
The spirit of Pandit Nehru must be spitting fire for the wrongful arrest of Kumar and his student colleagues- an arrest that symbolises the public humiliation of India’s hard won dignity and the “coarsening and distortion of what had seemed so right.”
And Kumar’s crime? Kumar showed solidarity with the people of Kashmir by protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, who was convicted in the organisation of the armed attack against the parliament in Delhi, and hanged to “assuage the collective conscience of the nation”
Arundhati reminds of Nehru’s legacy
In 2010 the Indian government also threatened to lay the same charge of sedition against Arundhati Roy for her stand with Kashmir,
“I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.”
“After describing her meetings with people caught up in the Kashmir violence, she said: “Some have accused me of giving ‘hate speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one.”
“Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor roam free.”
And Nehru himself is closely linked to the political rights of the people of Kashmir: “Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi 1948, p. 46. Telegram, dated 25 October 1947, from Foreign, New Delhi, to C.R. Attlee, Prime Minister of UK. From Prime Minister of India.[Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru]
“I should like to make it clear that [the] question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the State to accede to India. Our view, which we have repeatedly made public is that [the] question of accession in any disputed territory or State must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people and we adhere to this view”.
‘Peace based on freedom’
Govt. of India, White Paper on Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi 1948, p. 55. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister, in a broadcast from New Delhi on 2 November said:
“We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given, and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not, and cannot back out of it. We are prepared when peace and law and order have been established to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations. We want it to be a fair and just reference to the people, and we shall accept their verdict. I can imagine no fairer and juster offer.” Wikipedia.
To this day Nehru’s promise of a Kashmiri referendum has not been fulfilled but, 49 years later, dissidents, such as Kumar, Vemula and Roy remind the Indian government and the international community of Nehru’s prophecy: “There is going to be no peace in India or elsewhere except on the basis of freedom.”
Countercurrents.org. Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was convenor of Australia East Timor Association and coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001.