People celebrated Dussehra by burning Ravana’s effigies two days back, but the effigy that was set on fire in Jawaharlal Nehru University is still burning strong. Why? Because, the effigy included the ‘heads’ of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat, Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah among other party leaders or party supporters. The JNU students also carried placards with the slogan, ‘Truth shall prevail over evil’.

But the question is, Why is burning an effigy the talk of the town? It is not unusual for people to burn effigies to show their protest or disappointment. It is not specific to any particular party also. Whichever political party is in power or is in the line of fire, faces the fire (of the effigy). Former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s effigy was also burnt and that too, evoked similar emotions of criticism from all quarters.

Also read: JNU activists burn Modi’s effigy on Dussehra to celebrate ‘victory of truth’

Enraged supporters of the Prime Minister have jumped the gun calling the students (who are also NSUI activists) ‘anti-national’ for burning Modi’s effigy. A PM is a national figure, but is he above all criticism?

Also, is setting the effigy of a Chief Minister on fire a lesser evil? They too are elected representatives of the people.

Just few days back, Congress activists burnt an effigy of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal alleging that he was misleading the people of Punjab when his colleagues were mired in scandals in Delhi. Not just Congress, BJP activists too burnt Kejriwal’s effigy for “seeking proof” of the army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control.

The age-old rift between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the Cauvery issue also spilled on the roads when protesters ‘played with fire’. While Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa’s figurine was burnt by agitated farmers and activists belonging to the pro-Kannada outfits, Karnataka CM Sidaramaiah’s effigy was set on fire by Tamils in Karnataka.

In fact, not just Indian politicians, international leaders’ have also faced the wrath of the people. Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy had burnt an effigy of US President Barack Obama accusing him of continuing to shield Dow Chemical Company in the criminal proceedings on the disaster.

And how can you forget the burning of pictures of your cricketers when they lose a match! In fact, when Indian Test skipper was in a relationship with Anushka Sharma, fans even burnt the actor’s effigy holding her responsible for Kohli’s performances.

You may call it insane, but the question here is not whether the issues on which they were protesting against valid or not. Everyone is free to have their own opinion and everyone is free to lodge a protest, of course till the time it is non violent and does not instigate violence. And burning an effigy certainly does not fall in any of those brackets.

In a democracy, differing opinions must be respected. As former prime minister Manmohan Singh had said invoking Voltaire, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it”.