JNU Lecture Series: Felix Padel on ‘Sociology of War on Terror’


Felix Padel speaking to a full crowd.

As decided, JNUTA will conduct a series of daily lectures on the idea of ‘nationalism’ called “What the Nation Really Needs to Know: India, the National and Nationalism” by various eminent professors in the campus, at 5 pm, at the Administration Steps, from 17th-24th February. Felix Padel’s lecture was delivered following the cultural event at the Admin Block, before Gopal Guru’s lecture on “What is the Nation?” Though not a part of the series, the tenacity of Padel’s arguments remain crucial to our understanding of the various facets of ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism.’ 

17 February 2016: Prof Felix Padel (Visiting Faculty at JNU) spoke on the issue of human rights, security and terrorism as part of the ongoing protests led by JNUSU and JNUTA. In a lecture held in the Administration Block today at 2 PM, he began by citing examples from his own experience as a British national. According to his lecture, the political atmosphere in India makes it possible to raise concerns like corruption, black money and taxation. On the other hand, the extent to which dissent is suppressed in countries of West Asia and the total genocide of original inhabitants in the USA are matters of deep concern.

“It (USA) is a country built on genocide. Similarly in India, the tenfold expansion of security forces within tribal areas has led to massive human rights abuses. It is in this context we raise the question—security for whom?”


Padel put forth the argument of ‘security leading to insecurity’. Resource wars over iron ore, bauxite etc. has threatened the security of ordinary people. He deeply condemned the ‘American model of securitisation’ and cautioned against the subversion of the ‘Indian model;’ built upon the values of Upanishads and Buddhist philosophy. Further, he protruded three possible explanations of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in the US; and fiddled with the idea of ‘orchestration of the attack by supra-nationalists.’ He also spoke of the Scottish Movement in Britain, in conjunction with the issue of Kashmir. According to him:
“If Kashmir (like any another state) is a part of India, we should let people speak. If someone wants Azad Kashmir we should let them speak.”

“What a country constitutes has changed in many ways. What we understand as our country and how we express our love for it are very different things. I don’t personally believe in the cause of the Maoists. But people who’ve faced that level of injustice, how do you blame them for losing faith in institutional justice and finding solace in terrorism

When in conversation with Prof Padel, he gave a brief sociological analysis of the recent students-cum-teachers’ uprising:
“We keep in mind the wider social structure for a sociological analysis. I’ve observed a kind of polarisation of social elements, not simply between the left and right but something much more than that. Further, the media is accentuating this polarisation. The focus has been slogans that question the territorial integrity of India. But why can’t this be discussed and questioned? These give rise to questions of local autonomy and local control over local resources. This also highlights the contradictory consequence of security leading to insecurity. Right to security is a basic right.”

In the context of JNU and recent developments in students’ politics, this is what Prof Padel had to say:
“We need to appeal to the best in people. We mustn’t label everybody as enemy. Let people love their land rather than hate somebody else. Do not demonise one country…. JNU is the symbol of free-thought and I feel proud about being in JNU. I am here because I love this country and free-thinking cannot be suppressed in this country or in JNU.”

Lest we forget, the dissent happening in other parts of the country, for rights over land and resources, where the Government is embroiled in suppressing down the largely marginalized voices. With JNU’s sovereignty under threat and large-scale demonstrations by various sections of the society to condemn and punish the activists for dissenting, the question resonated among those who were gathered there.
He concluded his lecture with the showcase of his musical talents and exemplary violin skills. He sang political songs like ‘We shall overcome’ and ‘Where have all the flowers gone’ along with the students.

A report by The Informer correspondent.


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