One of India's greatest actors spoke on the recent events surrounding JNU, its students, its faculty and its general supporters. I heard and re-heard so as not to mishear anything.
Since I ave no direct access to him to tell him how I felt after hearing him speak, I decided to write him a letter on my blog.
Dear Mohanlal sir,
Some well-meaning friends of mine forwarded your audio speech via whats app today. I listened to it twice or thrice to make sure I have not misheard anything you said. It was a very emotional speech and I can see why some of my friends were moved by it. I was moved by it too. There are some parts where I got you, but for the rest, I was left feeling disappointed.
I got the part where you expressed disdain on the conduct of the government and the various political parties competing for attention. The utter chaos and apparent mismanagement in governance and the n number of scandals and incidents of corruption and violence plaguing us.
I also got your obvious pride over the armed forces. After all you are an honorary officer of the Indian Army as well. It moved me when you narrated the hardships the soldiers face while stationed in the most inhospitable of terrains. I am sure we all felt the agony when you talked about the tragic losses of the fallen soldiers and their families. But here's where our thoughts began diverging and I was left feeling disappointed:
I felt disappointed that you were able to see the bravery of the soldiers trained to kill and fight a war to protect the nation, who infact are doing the job they are trained to do. But somehow you could not see the bravery of the student protesters, protesting peacefully and holding talks and debates, asking serious questions with the intention of protecting the same nation from its enemies within (or outside).
I felt disappointed that you could recognize the inconveniences the soldiers face when stationed at Siachen, the highest battleground on the earth and face the enemy bravely, but somehow you could not imagine that many of these protesting students have also lived in very difficult and challenging social,economic and political circumstances and yet put up a brave fight for their rights and for the rights of others.
I felt disappointed when you said that students must go to the university to get an education and become cultured, and yet you couldn’t appreciate that they have indeed developed an educated mind that allows them to think critically and sometimes raise inconvenient questions and seek answers, all of which, they have been doing in a (fairly) cultured, peaceful way. In the process, they may have raised questions against the establishment. But in what way is this disrespecting the soldiers?!You accused these students of “disrespecting their motherland, calling them ungrateful children who have abandoned their mother”. Why such grave accusations against a group of educated, cultured students!?
I felt disappointed that like some others, you too were quick to judge their intentions and imply they are "anti-nationals". But really, what is wrong or anti-national in asking questions that may lead to bigger questions for us as a nation to ponder over; like- Why do we have to protect our borders so fiercely? Why are the relations with our neighbors so bad? and why are we not able to establish a relationship of trust with them? Why are we not able to solve our internal problems? Why we or (any nation for that matter) is pumping more and more money and resources into expanding the army while even the basic social/human rights of its citizens are being denied?, In what way does all these questions translate to disrespecting a soldier? A soldier’s life is also a human life (despite the fact she or he joins the services voluntarily and is being remunerated for it) and they are as precious as any other citizen of the nation (irrespective of class, caste, religion, profession, gender) and everyone must be able to enjoy equal rights, voice their opinions freely and feel safe.
With all due respect sir, I feel your beautifully rendered message, glorifying the armed forces while disapproving the actions of the students is sending a superficial and somewhat misplaced sentiment of nationalism and is less likely to have a lasting or positive consequence.