The laurels of a country rest not just on glorious moments that appear as newspaper headlines, but it is more significantly the grain and character of a populace that truly defines the measure of its greatness.
When Lord Macaulay spoke about India in British Parliament in 1835, he said: "I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country…”
The moral fibre of a people and their commitment to the idea of nationhood are the indissoluble chords of a nation’s resilience, and these are visibly palpable to an outside observer irrespective of whether he is an admirer, neutral spectator or inimical to the culture.
If India is strong in the character of its people and their pledge to keeping the length and breadth of the country united and prosperous, we shall remain a formidable nation.
Alas, the discourse that should be pointed to the sole goal of progress is too often shattered by petty, self-centred noises – Leftist and Right.
What we witnessed in the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University could be termed as the voice of dissent. In a democracy, space must be given to the alternative view else the breathing holes of a diverse multitude will be muffled. The problem is when border lines are crossed and simple opposition to a viewpoint turns rebellious and anti-national. While this is something that cannot be tolerated, the attempt to crush such dissent should not take us to the other extreme Right. The canvas of debate cannot be, at the end, only in black or white.
At JNU, we crossed the lines on both sides. Terrorists cannot be our idols and those who are doing disservice to the nation by calling them that cannot be beaten in court in a free for all by those very people who have taken an oath to behold the honour of courts of this land.
Importantly, what needs to be probed is mysterious appearance of outsiders on the JNU campus and who might have instigated the incident and disappeared quietly.
On the other hand, what happened during the Jat stir is a case study in naval-gazing. The agitation was aimed at demanding inclusion of the community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category so as to reap benefits of job reservations and educational quotas. It is debatable whether their demand was a valid one considering the Jats are relatively well-off, but what was intolerable was the deaths caused due to violence perpetuated by them, the loss of public property and the terrible inconvenience caused to those travelling on Highways, cancelled trains or those bearing the brunt of water shortage in Delhi.
As per a PHD Chamber of Commerce estimate, Northern Indian states suffered a dent of Rs 34,000 crore in the week of the Jat agitation. Of this, damages to the tune of Rs 18,000-20,000 crore had been caused directly due to loss of public and private property, halting trade, industry, small businesses and transport.
Amidst these sounds of discord was echoing a gun battle in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir. And taking the bullets on their chests were the brave soldiers of the Indian Army. The first officer to fall was Captain Pawan Kumar at the tender age of 23, fighting to save civilians in the 7-storey government building in Pampore.
A brave child of his Jat parents, his is an inspiring story. He volunteered to go into combat despite being injured in a previous anti-terror operation. And few know the truth, but there have been reports about how the attack in Pampore was more than just a gunbattle with terrorists. Newspapers claim that hostile civilians threw stones at our brave soldiers from the back and spewed the worst of invectives against them, all the while supporting the holed up militants.
Poignantly enough, this young 10 Para Special Forces commando by virtue of being a pass out of the National Defence Academy also happened to be a degree holder of JNU through a tie-up.
Pawan was a fun loving young man with usual interests of his age – motorbikes, jeeps and his pet dog. His straightforward thinking: “Kisiko reservation chahiye to kisiki ko azadi, bhai. Humein kutch nahin chahiye bhai, bas apni razai” (Some want reservation, some want freedom. I want nothing, only a warm quilt) could have passed off as that of any regular person his age.
But what his simplicity concealed was his crystal clear focus on his duty and one pointed commitment to his Military unit and the country.
It is values like these that inject cement into the edifice of this country. The honesty and integrity of the common man, and his unpretentious beliefs in what is right and wrong. The courage in the ordinary folk to come forth and give the ultimate sacrifice because India, where they have been born and breathed, is in need of their service.