Ideas often grow in spaces which celebrate freedom. These ideas, both radical and revolutionary are double edged swords. While ideas that led to the birth of Facebook and WhatsApp have the ability to change the world for the better, others like the holocaust, can leave a stain on humanity forever. Academic spaces are the best incubators for the growth of ideas. Hindu College’s annual literary fest Musha’irah is one such platform, where students come to celebrate literature and ideas. The fest is known to provide a conducive bed for the generation and propagation of liberal ideas, like that of Freedom, Inclusivity, Love and Compassion. But this time, one more idea made an appearance- Hate.
I have been a regular audience to events and programmes at Hindu College. Being a proponent of the democratic ethos that Hindu College has inspired since ages, through its elected Hindu college Parliament, I ensure that I don’t miss any popular events that happen around the college. But unlike other times, this time Hindu College had a speaker who is highly controversial. Tarek Fatah, known to host a show called ‘Fatah ka Fatwa’ on Zee News was the speaker of the session on day three of the fest. He is under police protection and this turned the college into a virtual fortress, with platoons of police all around. Nonetheless, he ensured that the 45 minute session during which he addressed the audience, albeit with police officials ambushing the area, was enough to incite the feelings of hatred amongst the students.
He started with denouncing the whole culture of a mushairah, a way to celebrate language. According to him the language Urdu, which caused millions of death during the partition and amputated the country, has no place to be celebrated in our country. Doing so, he said, was equivalent to confirming to the two nation theory, as propagated by Pakistan, and imposing the divisive lines on languages across India.
He went ahead and spoke about the politics of names, censuring the fact that Delhi had its famous gardens named after Lodi, who was an invader. While praising the recent order of the government to change the name of Dalhousie Road to Dara Shikoh, he went on to target Saif Ali Khan for naming his new born Taimur. He also took a dig at Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress, for naming his son ‘Saddam’, almost in the same breath.
Even after having written four books on different topics, Fatah choose to portray a name through the lens of history, rather than its conventional meaning in Language.
He also discouraged students from preparing for Civil Services Examinations (CSE), saying that in our country people spend so much energy and time to become a ‘servant’ at the end. In his entire speech, he made several responses to demonize Pakistan, claiming that it is a country which is dying to destroy India. His speech was filled more with political bashing than any inspiration.
When college unions aim to gain some goodwill from the establishment by allowing academic spaces to be used for bigotry, it is high time students realise that saffronization is not limited to ballots only. Now, it is coming for our books too. We, as students, should be aware of where to draw the red lines for ideas, to uphold the liberal ethos of our academic spaces.
In his entire session, the only point that I liked was when he asked students to be rebellious and embrace non-conformity with an iron will. As I Googled the meanings of names that he condemned in his session,I learnt that Saddam means ‘someone who confronts everything’ while Timur means ‘iron’. Such an irony.
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