Developments in JNU over the past few months have crossed the threshold of being tragic to being bizarre. Students & student representatives are penalized for going about doing what students are supposed to – raising their voice, demanding seats & fellowships. A student Najeeb is beaten up in full public view & is subjected to enforced disappearance for 9 months. Those who seek justice for him are fined exorbitant amounts while ABVP goons who beat him up roam free with complete impunity. The Vice Chancellor resorts to criminal acts of forging minutes of Academic Council meetings, and violates all democratic bodies and norms. When students & teachers raise their voice in AC meetings, they are heckled & then suspended from attending administrative meetings concerning crucial policy matters.
The total amount of money imposed as fines by JNU administration on students ever since M. Jagadesh Kumar took over as the VC is over 4 lakhs rupees. Students have been sent notices and have enquiries against them for pasting posters, for sloganeering against VC, for seeking appointment with the VC. Sham enquiries are conducted in vacations and after vacations more than 30 students are blocked from registering for the new semester citing disciplinary proceedings and pending enquiries. This is despite there being no rule in the university statute regarding such an action.
The tenure of JNU VC has been characterized by utter lawlessness and disregard for any democratic norms and values. And as a crowning glory, after doing everything in his capacity to destroy the democratic space and culture of JNU, the VC now wants an army tank to be installed in JNU!
Let be there no mistake, it is not to instil patriotism amongst students of the JNU. It is rather a marker of the proxy war that the regime is fighting against students and against higher education in the country. A former army personnel indicated this very clearly yesterday when he commended the VC for capturing the ‘fort’ of JNU, and declared that their next attack would be directed at HCU and Jadavpur University.
But the question is why should the regime single out students as an enemy, whose university campuses have to be captured and minds captivated? Why should a university need to constantly threaten students with punishments and consequences if they don’t fall in line and accept status-quo? Haven’t universities historically been sites of great intellectual ferment, churning and ideas, which a democratic society should actively nurture?
Policies of privatization and saffronisation and scuttling of social justice in higher education cannot be operationalized without suppressing the students’ movement. One of the first things that the government did after coming to power was to install puppet saffron heads in universities and centres of research. It has being followed by a systematic assault on fellowships, government funds for education, closing down of gender studies programmes in different universities and as in the case of JNU, massive reduction of seats for research. The latest move of the government has been the reduction of the number of JRF fellowships and making the bi-annual NET exam into a yearly one.
The imposition of an elaborate penal regime in universities and constant threats of violence to students is to browbeat all dissent, as the government and its puppets go about overhauling the higher education sector and strengthening Brahmanical control over knowledge production. The constant witch-hunt of student activists in JNU is far from an isolated case. Right from the witch-hunt of Rohith Vemula to the attack on JNU in February 2016, it is the same pattern in almost every university of the country. Several students of Punjab University from Chandigarh were beaten up, brutalized and then arrested, and sent to jail when they launched a movement against fee hike. Last month, 11 students of Allahabad University were sent to jail because they stood up against the goonda-Raj of Yogi Adityanath in UP. A month later, when the UP government announced its state budget, it slashed the funds for secondary and higher educations substantially.
The attack within the universities is then again only a manifestation of the attack on all democratic voices across the country. The Brahmanical Hindutva fascist RSS regime wants to create an environment of fear across the country – at times through its lynch-mobs and on other occasions by using the repressive arms of the state – to browbeat all voices of justice and democracy. The constant witch-hunt of students is intended towards creating that same environment of fear and silence the students from speaking up against injustice and exploitation. At a more immediate level, the VC is resorting to corruption and abuse of his power in appointing new faculty in JNU, who are affiliated to the sangh parivar. He does not want any opposition to that. By punishing students and blocking admissions, he want to sends a message to the students of the consequences that can befall us if we protest to safeguard our democratic space of JNU. Let us send him and his masters a message in return by standing up firm in defence of the democratic space and culture of JNU.