Free speech and JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi ) teachers and students

Justice Markandey Katju-


Akhil Kumar’s article ‘ Chargesheet against JNU teachers will have a chilling effect on free speech ‘ published in the overlooks a vital point: free speech is not an end in itself but is only a means to an end. The end must be the welfare and upliftment of the masses. Free speech is a double-edged weapon: it can both serve that end or obstruct it. Treating free speech as a shibboleth and an end in itself reveals the shallowness of thinking of our so-called ‘intellectuals’, ‘liberals’ and many media persons championing free speech. Free speech should not be allowed if it harms the people, e.g. if it is used for inciting caste, communal or racial hatred, or spreading superstitions, or if it is used to disseminate bookish, sterile nonsense which most teachers of JNU have been doing since its inception.

Justice Markandey Katju

JNU is perhaps the most overrated University in India. JNU teachers admittedly had a lot of freedom of speech before the new political dispensation, against which they now cry hoarse. But how was that used? Was it used to benefit the Indian masses? Have JNU teachers seriously thought of a solution to the massive problem of unemployment in India or the sinking economy? Have they tried to find a solution to the farmers’ distress, which has already led to over 300,000 farmers suicides? Have they thought of solutions to the other massive socio-economic problems India is facing? It does not seem so.

JNU teachers seemed quite content with the large salaries and perks which they were getting. But these did not fall from the sky. They came out of taxes paid by the Indian people. Did these teachers not think it their duty to give something back to the people in return for what they get from them? What have they given back to the people except for bookish hi-fi nonsense which sounds high brow but is really useless from the practical point of view.

Not one worthwhile theory has come from them about how to solve the unemployment problem which has now reached record heights in India, as even the National Sample Survey admitted. Not one worthwhile theory has come from them how to revive the tanking economy, nor how to solve the farmers’ distress. So if these University teachers are sacked the people of India will lose nothing, rather they will gain as they will no longer have to carry the burden of this albatross on their necks by paying salaries and allowances to this tribe who give nothing back to the people.

As for JNU students, who have supported their teachers, the less said about them the better. When I was a Supreme Court Judge I visited JNU to borrow books from its library. Outside the Vice Chancellor’s office, I saw boys and girls shouting ‘ halla bol, halla bol ‘. No doubt this demagoguery proved they were great ‘revolutionaries’ on the model of Marx and Lenin. It is another matter that their education is heavily subsidized, and so the Indian taxpayer has to pay for this ‘leftishness’. Kanhaiya Kumar stood for Lok Sabha elections, and Shehla Rashid has joined Shah Faesal’s new political party. This gives an idea of what kind of ‘revolutionaries’ JNU is breeding. Far from producing genuine revolutionaries like Lenin, or great thinkers like Locke or Rousseau, JNU produces careerists like Kanhaiya Kumar. I am not aware of any JNU Professor who won a Nobel Prize like C.V.Raman or was an FRS like Ramanujan. Many American Universities have several Nobel Laureates on their faculty.

Once Umar Khalid, another great ‘revolutionary’ product of JNU, issued a statement calling Burhan Wani, the Kashmiri militant who was killed, as another Che Guevara. I asked Umar what was the ideology of Burhan Wani ? As far as I know it was feudal Islamic fundamentalism, and that is also the ideology of the present-day Kashmiri Muslims militants. Will that not take Kashmir back into the Middle Ages if it becomes azad, with revival of sharia criminal law including stoning a woman to death for adultery, and chopping off a man’s hands for theft? Will that not compel all Kashmiri women to wear the burqa ? And what ideas do these Kashmiri militants ( or others demanding azadi ) have about solving the problems of poverty, unemployment, etc in Kashmir ( assuming Kashmir becomes independent ) ? Umar Khalid did not reply, and it is evident these parrot-like chanters of ‘azadi’ have nothing in their heads about these matters.

It is evident that most JNU students, like most JNU teachers, have sterile, bookish, superficial knowledge. They shout ‘azadi’ for Kashmiris, without realizing the implications. Kashmir has a huge handicraft industry employing lacs of people, and the big market for this are in the Indian cities, all of which have Kashmiri shops. Even on Kovalam beach near Thiruvananthapuram in south Kerala, I saw two shops run by Kashmiris who brought shawls, carpets etc. from Kashmir to sell there.  If Kashmir is cut off from India, this huge market will be lost, the industries will have to close down throwing lacs of Kashmiris into unemployment. Do JNU students ever think of this? Do their teachers ever tell them this? Not that I know of.

So, what are the JNU teachers and students complaining about?


[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]


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