18 July 2019 02:05 AM



JNU: The Politics of Re-Education and Vendetta

NEW DELHI: In late January 2016 when the new Vice Chancellor Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar, an electrical engineer from IIT(D) joined Jawaharlal Nehru University we were dismayed.

IIT(Delhi) colleagues informed us that he was pro-RSS and had held no major position like Head of Department, much less Dean. They further directed us to Google Groups, 1994 where Prof. Kumar had published a post by HV Seshadri praising the RSS, and another sharply criticising Mother (Saint) Teresa. The latter was censured at the behest of others in the Google Group.

The die was cast exactly one year ago.

On February 9, the police and JNU security claimed that a pro-Kashmir separatist meeting and slogan shouting had occurred in campus. The so-called video of that incident was later found to be doctored. However, since the Delhi Police had joined the witch hunt, JNU students including JNU Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were found guilty of sedition.

Later, because of the lack of evidence, they were released by the court. Before they were jailed, Kanhaiya was beaten by pro-BJP lawyers outside the Patiala House court. Police Commissioner B.S. Bassi denied any injuries, but the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital doctors clearly stated that Kanhaiya was injured. In JNU more was to follow.

The area outside the JNU Administration building has been used by hundreds of students and guests for years. The VC and his largely pro-BJP coterie invoked a 1997 JNU Ordinance to rule that meetings must be held at a distance of 20 metres from the building. However, the VC who enacted this Ordinance in 1997, Professor Asis Datta barely used it, and his successors ignored it.

In December 2016 the minutes of the Academic Council were changed by the VC in his attempt to change the Selection Committees for faculty appointments by inserting his own choices. 34 members of the Academic Council wrote a note of dissent. Then a University Grants Commission circular came out in late 2016, removing reservations for Backward Class students in admission.

This is a violation of the Constitution which explicitly states that "socially and educationally Backward Classes" should get reservations. The Mandal award extended this to OBCs. So this is Unconstitutional and must be backed by the NDA government. There can be no compromise with the UGC on this issue.

The UGC has also tried to sharply reduce admissions and the strength of the student community, and even faculty strength on the grounds of lower requirements of teaching. It is quite bizarre. For example, the UGC wants a faculty to enrol 8 Ph.D and 3 M.Phil. students in a Centre (Department). But M.Phil. students are generally more in number because their degree takes 1 1/2 to 2 years, while Ph.D. students take 4 years.

In almost all cases an M.Phil. Degree is necessary for entrance to the Ph.D. But it seems JNU and the university system has been unlucky with MHRD Ministers and the UGC. Minister Jadavekar seems to have little idea how a university functions. He depends on politically biased and motivated VCs like Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar.

The JNU struggle will continue to save the university system. It is too precious to leave to the inept UGC and the politically motivated Minister.

(The writer is a senior Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has been the President of JNUTA earlier for three terms)