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The day dissent won the duel

Calcutta Club The Telegraph National Debate 2020 turns out to be a cracker
Calcutta Club The Telegraph National Debate 2020

The Telegraph   |   Calcutta   |   Published 15.02.20, 08:49 PM



JNU Students’ Union president

If in your country dissent is not in existence, then you must realise that there is something wrong with your country. Because there cannot be a democracy where there is no dissent. I am saying this because I believe that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.

Today, in the country, dissent in several places is being levelled anti-national. But today not only one or two select students of JNU are being labelled anti-national. Today, a 10-year-old child in Karnataka’s Bidar is slapped with sedition for acting in a play in school. So you need not get surprised. Today if anyone holds a road show and says that the policies of the government are flawed, he is slapped with sedition. This is the state of affairs in the country. The government is never ready to speak on what its people think is wrong because they want to bring a homogeneity: a homogeneity of Hindi, Hindu and Hindustan. I don’t want to be nationalistic in the name of this when in my country in Jharkhand in 2016 a girl dies crying out for meal and the government cannot ensure her a meal. I don’t accept this nationalism. If anything can be considered as nationalism, that would be to protect the secular ethos of the country, the democracy of the country.



Chairman, Subhas Bose Institute of Hotel Management

It is the need of the hour to debate if there is anything called anti-national given the current situation in the country. It is a great platform that enables us to understand how various sections of the society are thinking 


Chairman, Subhas Bose Institute of Hotel Management

This debate is the voice of the modern society, which is very important for democracy. We always honour and follow our rich Indian value system and that's why we are with The Telegraph National Debate 


Secretary-general, Shikshayatan Foundation

The man purpose for us to participate in such a debate is it helps to spread awareness among the people and there is a need to be vocal about certain things. The concerns of the people also comes out through such an exchange of words 


President, Calcutta Club

The club was formed in 1907 by gentlemen belonging to both Indian and European citizenry of Calcutta. Although they came from diverse backgrounds and vocations, these gentlemen had decided to meet at a common establishment where they could exchange their ideas and discuss matters of mutual interest. The spirit of camaraderie, which our founding fathers had imbued in this great institution, I dare, is still prevailing today. It is with this spirit that we hold this debate 


Diamond Harbour MP, Trinamul youth wing chief

Realise what dissent has led to. Rammohan Roy’s dissent led to abolition of Sati, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar’s dissent led to social acceptance of widow remarriage, Mahatma Gandhi’s dissent led to the Quit India movement, Subhas Chandra Bose’s dissent led to the formation of Azad Hind Fauj that shook the foundation of the British Raj and I am sorry to say but Jadavpur University students’ dissent led to Abhijit babu’s (former JU VC Abhijit Chakrabarti) resignation.

You talk about the Gujarat Model. What is the Gujarat Model? It is about putting up boundary walls because Donald Trump is coming and he will not be able to see those poor people.

You talk about the Gujarat model. You are letting young ladies strip to prove that they are menstruating.

You (Bajoria) said 22 crore people have voted for you, Sir. We have received only 2 crore votes. We are a small party. We are small states. You are a large party, you got more votes. That means you will decide who is a nationalist and who is not? You will decide what food will be there at my refrigerator…. You will decide whether I will wear green shirt or red shirt…. You will decide which language my children will speak? You will decide who will my wife meet? You will decide the future of this country? Who has given you this permission?

Save Air India. You are disinvesting LIC, an institution that has insured seventy per cent of India’s lives…. Why don’t you sell the Raj Bhavan. And since we are speaking about Raj Bhavan, I should actually ask the moderator did we take permission from him for having this debate at Calcutta Club? Because he might feel humiliated, you never know. I am just asking you, why don’t you do anything about the Raj Bhavan? In today’s times, Raj Bhavans are only being treated as BJP leaders’ post-retirement mansions and extended party offices.



I am a Bollywood actress and a citizen of this country. I cast my vote, I give tax and therefore I speak…

Don’t tell us what happened in the seventies; tell us what is happening today. I am seeing what the student today is doing. The students are sitting and studying in a library and there is tear gas being thrown at them. Those who are tear-gassing them are not students, not a cabal, not Leftists, not Naxals but Delhi police. In 2020, I am seeing that the police are attacking unarmed students.

I would like to very humbly and respectfully submit to the house that… in this beautiful pristine Calcutta Club, with all you good people of Calcutta and all these wise erudite gentlemen and ladies over here, half of this premise we are debating is a fallacy.

What does anti-national mean? National is an adjective. Anti-national is a noun that has been coined out of an adjective by a rabble rousing, fake news spreading, war mongering loudspeaker of the establishment to vilify students who did not agree with the official narrative of the government on the hanging of a terror convict. That is what anti-national is.

Dissent means disagreement with official narrative. In a country of 137 crore people where there are so many religions, linguistic groups, ethnicities, dialects, castes, subcastes, sex, gender, sexualities, dissent is natural. Dissent is natural in a country like India where there is so much diversity.

Panditji (Sushil Pandit) talked about how our Constitution is so liberal. Yes Sir, it is. The government you support hates that Constitution. The government you support is doing everything to undermine that Constitution. The government you support has passed a law that violates article 14, 15 and 25 of that Constitution and I am talking of the CAA, NRC and NPR. And that government today, anyone who protests those unconstitutional laws, that government and its loudspeakers are hell bent on terming everyone who raises a question anti-national. 

Moderator Kunal Sarkar

KUNAL SARKAR Moderator, cardiac surgeon

In this era, in a country that was born out of anti-imperial dissent, 73 years later… we are debating anti-nationality of dissent. Being from the medical profession, sometimes I feel that we the people of India are somehow poised on the brink of sedition as opposed to sedation. So where are we? Are we walking the path of sedition or are we veering towards a complete sedation of intellect and loyalties so we become an unthinking homogeneous mass.



BJP leader

Dissent is everywhere. In a government, in a club, in a political party, at our home. But then how do you tackle it?

For 15 years, I was in the Red party. My early days, I went and gave a suggestion for a particular programme. I was quietly called to another room by a senior comrade and he told me, ‘Comrade in future don’t give such a proposal’. Why? ‘Because we don’t go towards patriotism’. I accepted. I was in the party, I accepted. I am very please to see two days back outside of Calcutta University the same party with the netri (leader) sitting here leading the charge with our national flag. I applaud that. At least they have learnt the lesson . You cannot give up patriotism.

In a democracy, dissent is the cornerstone, it’s the foundation it cannot be anti-national. You can call it what you want. Yes, anti-national if someone says ‘chicken neck ko kat do Northeast alag ho jayega (cut off the chicken’s neck and the Northeast will be separated)’. Everyone in this house knows who I am referring to. That is definitely not only anti-national, that is sedition. 


Professor of electrical engineering at IIEST and former vice-chancellor of JU

Has it not become a fashion or a practice nowadays that whatever policies the government adopt, some unions of some universities express their discontent first and later it snowballs into indiscipline and unrest and sometimes it is fuelled by outsiders?

Is it not true that the objective of dissent in some universities, student communities, is heavily influenced by Left leaders who have lost touch with the society and are concentrating on the education sector by instigating student unrests?

Is there an attempt to destroy the education system by undercover anti-national forces or by ambitious Left and ultra-Left leaders to regain control over the education system after being routed in electoral politics?

Across our country, many incidents of dissent take place and in many instances they get solved with proper negotiation and flexibility of mind. But why in a few renowned universities the issues related to the administration sometimes get transferred to national issues and ignite students’ unrest? Is it because of subversive political aspirations of some student leaders or the influence of undercover anti-national forces?

Is it not the duty of the government to identify the motive behind this or the brain that is active in inciting such activities? We, the persons who have elected the government, expect that the government as well as law-enforcing agencies will identify the root cause of the anti-national activities and they (the anti-nationals) will be properly taken to trial within the law so that such so-called dissent and so-called anti-national activities can be completely eliminated from universities. 


Kashmiri Pandit and activist

Go back a few decades and you will recall that someone called Trotsky was assassinated and Solzhenitsyn was banished to the Gulag by the Soviets. A few decades later it was Mao and his coterie who purged Deng Xiaoping… but the irony is the comrades of Mao, Stalin, Kim and, not to forget, Pol Pot came and today are lecturing us on dissent, are trying to tell us what disagreement is. They are the followers of absolutist doctrines, do not forget that. And they are accompanied by their pseudo-liberal collaborators who agree with them on every point. They are the ones who crib the loudest about stifling dissent….

How can you forget our genocide in Kashmir? The largest ethno-religious cleansing after Independence in this country was from Kashmir and what you (Swara) said is “see, we condemn it. We never supported it”. And you are saying this after 30 years. You (Swara) said you were not born then. But the legacy you are following, all those people were there.

The people you are standing with saw this happen and turned their faces. People who talk about dissent, intolerance, right to protest — no protests took place 30 years ago. Five lakh people were thrown out of their homes.

The audience at Calcutta Club gave a decisive verdict in favour of the motion on Saturday. Put to vote by moderator Kunal Sarkar, the hands raised for the proposition (right) clearly outnumbered those raised against

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