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India’s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) prides itself as a place where student activism and politics flourish. As a bastion of the nation’s left, it’s known, especially among the intellectual class, as fertile ground for liberal thinking.
But for about a month now, student politics on campus — and the state’s reaction — have put JNU in the crosshairs of a debate that has raged across the entire country about nationalism and freedom of speech. The controversy has exposed fault lines in the pluralistic society around what it means to be a nationalist, and renewed concerns regarding how the Hindu-leaning government of Narendra Modi responds to what it considers dissent.