Don't give in to ABVP's bullying: an honest taxpayer writes to Ramjas students
Dear Ramjas students,
I am not a student, neither am I an academic or an intellectual. I am one of those millions of office going professionals in this country who spend 10 hours a day eking out a living and two more hours commuting to work. Our kind spend most of their time worrying about the next appraisal, due diligence and compliance at the workplace. I haven’t known what “Azadi” means since I started working at a corporate office. The only time we are allowed to be free is once in five years, when we decide which section of the powers that be would be allowed to regulate our un-freedom for the next term.
I have fond memories of the time I spent at the Delhi University campus – a phase in my life when one could question any sacred idea or institution and get away with it. And yet, I am not the kind who questions everything. A person wiser than me once said, “those who question everything all the time end up achieving nothing”. I value the rule of law and recognise the significance of lawful orderly transformation of institutions and ideas that may have become redundant.
We earn our living through the sweat of our brow and pay our taxes. And yet, I feel that students shouldn’t be hauled before the media glare to justify the profitability of their actions in the market. A certain degree of recklessness, disregard for sacrosanct ideas and fearless zeal to doubt everything should be allowed, even encouraged among students. Yes, even nationalism can be and should be questioned. Most of these students would pass out to become wage slaves and join the ranks of corporate coolies. They too would eventually become taxpayers. Let them be while they can. Do we want centres of learning or assembly lines for our corporate masters? This is a difficult question that we would have to ask ourselves. I, for one, already know what my answer is.
I do not despise the research scholar who spends her life debating the most irrelevant ideas. Maybe she would end up adding nothing to our existing pool of knowledge but if she can add even one new idea to what we already know, it would be worth it. I will forgo one round of drinks when I visit a pub next time or eat one pizza less. Surely, as a society we can afford a few hundred research scholars who are paid a pittance of five-eight thousand rupees a month as stipend money. And I believe that I speak for the majority of people who pay their taxes. I refuse to believe that we have become so spiteful as a society that contributing a small sum to promote research should rankle us.
Secretly, I admire and envy the zeal for knowledge shown by these brave young men and women who despite being brilliant choose to become researchers and activists who dream of a better society. Praise be to these valiant young people who choose a path so unrewarding and dangerous.
It takes a great deal of courage to stand in the face of a frenzied mob and speak your mind. It takes no courage to be a part of the mob. I do not despise the intellectuals and I feel scared of the anti-intellectual frenzy that has today cast its shadow over every cherished institution of learning in our country. By listening to the intellectuals we might learn something, but by listening to the mob we merely hear what we already know.
To be honest, the attack on Ramjas College doesn’t worry me. If the path of a revolutionary was easy, she wouldn’t be called a revolutionary. The mob is almost always wrong. No great idea was accepted by the humankind since its inception. Democracy must be valued but we mustn’t make a fetish of it. Lynch mobs are extremely democratic. It’s a creature with many heads and minds but gripped by a singular idea shared by all of them. Thoreau rightly said, “Any man more right than his neighbours constitutes a majority of one already.”
It takes time for a revolutionary idea to grip the masses. If it is a just idea, it will prevail sooner or later. And if it is useless, sooner or later people would consign it to the dustbin of history. In politics, every individual is convinced that her ideas are the right ones and those borne by her neighbours are utter rubbish. And more often than not we are so preoccupied by the heat of the moment that our judgement is clouded. History pronounces its judgement only in retrospect. It is for this reason that no majority should be allowed to do away with the right to dissent.
Hold fast to your views but allow others to propagate their ideas as well. This is a rule of the game that I consider non-negotiable and no ideology, left or right, should be allowed to tamper with it. It's for this reason that I condemn what happened at Ramjas, and in the same vein I condemn any similar act committed by the adherents of any other ideology elsewhere.
Being a corporate slave as I am, I might not be able to participate in the students’ protest, but I swear to myself and the body politic of which I am a part that I will always take sides in any battle between those who want to think and the ones who desire to rule through decrees and fatwas. Do not concede an inch to the hooligans. Fight them through your writings, fight them through your speeches, try to win them over through dialogue, drag them to the court and, if nothing else works, pay them back in kind, with interest. We would be watching you with great interest because a lot is at stake. If we lose this battle, India would degenerate into a Hindu Talibanistan.
An ardent admirer of your courage and resolve.