Under the shadow of guns, students of Jamia Millia Islamia University are marching forward with their hands up in the air.
Whenever I forward this scene in my mind, the entire history goes into rewind mode. When this scene gets blurred, the past gets crystal clear. When the past is blurred, I can see with clarity the history being created at present. If you have not studied history at 'WhatsApp University', you will understand what I am trying to convey. I hope the students who were forced to march hands up, will not feel insulted and understand that this is the new face of the Indian state; and this face is slowly being unveiled.
The Delhi Police have tackled thousands of agitations in the past. People, who took part in these numerous demonstrations, often came face-to-face with the police. During the Nirbhaya agitation, protestors even marched to Raisina Hills, and slogans were raised against the police. The agitators, however, had a belief that police will not open fire at them. Watching students forced to move forward under the shadow of guns, that trust has been betrayed. The police have changed, as they don't spray cold water to disperse crowd; they have guns.
The police which had gone inside Jamia to search for outsiders, came out with students. If you can't find any wrong in their action, let me make this plain and simple for you: Your freedom of expression is being held hostage. The police are not ours, it is 'theirs'. By 'theirs', I don't mean the government, I mean the 'state'.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently talked about recognising people involved in Bengal violence by their clothes. The language used by him is not much different than the language and tone used on social media. It is obvious that this is the language of the 'state'. This is the reason why Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha tweeted comparing the agitation at Jamia with Muslim League's pre-Independence 'direct action'. He identified Jamia, which was founded by Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1946, Muslim League's call for 'direct action' resulted in riots in which thousands of Hindus were killed. Gandhi hadn't observed what the rioters were wearing; he had visited Kolkata and had put an end to violence. He also went to Bihar where Hindus had killed Muslims. He had stopped bloodshed there too. Gandhi didn't have much clothes on his body which is why he couldn't observe the clothes of rioters. He had discovered the beauty of minds and souls.
Rakesh Sinha's tweet says this is not 1946, this is 2019. Mr Sinha appears to be the 'Vice-Chancellor' of the 'WhatsApp University', who wants to change the understanding of history in the name of expressing anger over violence at Jamia. He is linking a university which has a national character to Muslim League. He seems to have forgotten that 50 per cent students at Jamia are non-Muslim. Even if there were 100 per cent Muslim students, would it have been right to link them to Muslim League? Are Mr Sinha and PM Modi not trying to recognise students on the basis of clothes and colour?
There is a grave problem in the way we perceive the country's younger generation. We believe the younger generation is lost in the world of smartphones. We think they are lost in their favourite songs, wearing their earpieces. But our perception of them is far from reality. Recently, in Gujarat's Gandhi Nagar, in the secretariat's exam, hundreds of students had gathered to protest an alleged fraud. They had used their smartphone screens as torches in the agitation. The state government thought the protest would die down in some days. But as the students remained steadfast to their demands, the government had to cancel the examination.
In Uttar Pradesh, the exam to recruit 69,000 teachers trends on Twitter every day, but the media ignores it. Nobody cares why the people who cleared the Railways' recruitment exam, which was announced during elections, have not received their appointment letters. You saw at Mandi House, disabled candidates protested over Railways' exam for several days. In Dehradun, the students of ayurvedic colleges protested against fee hike for 45 days.
When students protest in their universities, they are lectured that they are there to study. When they protest against the paucity of teachers, they are told they are not studying. When there are no teachers, how can they study.
When the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University agitated against the hike in hostel fee, they were mocked, called urban naxals. Nobody then says how students from poor background will study if education gets expensive. Nobody was concerned that the students of Indian Institute of Mass Communication protested against fee hike for 16 days.
Those who lecture students have a pattern - they hate poor and lower-middle class students. That's why they come forward with their argument that these students research till the age of 40 on their tax money. What has research to do with age?
Hence, nobody should fall into their trap that they are concerned about education. Their problem is why students of these universities raise their voices against the government. Political opposition has weakened but in these universities, the voice of dissent is gaining strength. Such people have a problem with this voice.
I am in touch with students of many universities for the last two years. I believe a large section of students has become communal, but in them remain alive tiny dreams of democracy. Sometimes, drawing strength from these dreams, they hit the streets against fee hike and for the declaration of their exam results. A day will come they will break free of their communal thinking. I get letters from students saying WhatsApp University had made them communal. They express regret. They are realising that India cannot develop if communalism persists. They were not there to see the horrors of partition in 1947, but they can very well see the horrors of partition in 2019. It is your fault that you are not able to understand India's young generation.
You saw how Jamia's students were evicted like criminals. There are two more photographs from Jamia. To save Shaheen Abdullah, Ayesha and Farzana took on the police. Girls are shielding a boy. They are standing taller than Jamia's Gaalib statue. Another girl Chanda Yadav is standing with them shoulder-to-shoulder. This photograph should be stuck in every room of girls' hostels. India will become as beautiful as their dreams and spirit.
If you want to understand the new India, watch these two images from Jamia. You will feel good. Good luck, India!
Ravish Kumar is Managing Editor, NDTV India
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.