VC In JNU, ABVP In Jadavpur: Debate, Dissent in Universities Remains Under Relentless Attack
NEW DELHI: Jawaharlal Nehru University is feeling the heat post January with Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar moving fast to restrict entry into the formerly vibrant campus, even as he ignores demands from political leaders and academics to meet and speak with the students on hunger strike since almost two weeks now.
Senior and internationally reputed Emeritus Professors of Jawaharlal Nehru University have written to Vice Chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar protesting against the clamp down “on free discussion” by rusticating and restricting students and now prohibiting the entry of outsiders to the University.
The letter to the VC, signed by Romila Thapar (School of Social Sciences),Namwar Singh (School of Languages),Amit Bhaduri (School of Social Sciences),Sheila Bhalla (School of Social Sciences),Anil Bhatti (School of Languages),Utsa Patnaik (School of Social Sciences),Deepak Nayyar (School of Social Sciences),S.D. Muni (School of International Studies),Zoya Hasan (School of Social Sciences),Prabhat Patnaik (School of Social Sciences), reads:
As Emeritus Professors of the JNU we are disturbed by the turn of events at the JNU. The University has always been a space where we allowed free discussion of issues raised by students and faculty. In the course of such discussion whether in seminars or at other informal gatherings, speakers from both within the University and from outside were invited to participate.
The current administration has clamped down on free discussion by imposing severe punishments of fines and rustication on those who organised a meeting on 9th February 2016. This despite the fact that they were arrested and sent to jail. Now an order has been issued prohibiting the entry of outsiders to the University premises.
We are writing to protest against both these measures. We request that the University administration reconsider both these decisions neither of which is required, and act according to the accepted norms of the JNU.
There is a virtual battle on in the campus with the Vice Chancellor now having made new appointments to fill vacant positions and thereby, ensuring an iron grip on the administration. He is said to be asserting his position by one, ignoring the students and refusing to assure them of a review of the harsh notice rusticating some student leaders and imposing penalties. Like the FTII, Pune, the new tendency visible in the Universities, under the HRD Ministry, is to ignore students protests and refuse to give in to their demands. This despite the fact that the students health has deteriorated sharply, and senior political leaders have met the Vice Chancellor urging immediate remedial action. The issue has also been raised in Parliament but clearly the decision is not to listen to the students or the popular sentiment. Instead the effort has been to wean away individual students away from the hunger strike, with the VC claiming success in this.
In Hyderabad Central University Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula committed suicide because of similar restrictions imposed by the Vice Chancellor following letters from the HRD Ministry and BJP leaders. He was denied hostel facilities, and left to sleep in a tent outside.The University authorities had refused to intervene there, as they have now in JNU despite the letters and a delegation of senior political leaders who urged the VC to realise that he was in place to look after the students, not to be in conflict with them.
Entry of visitors to the campus has been prohibited with cars being checked and outsiders being questioned at length by the security staff at the gates. They are issued a warning, saying that their cars will be impounded if they are found to be near the administrative block where the students are on fast. As Professors within JNU said, “we have never seen this kind of restrictions before, a free centre of learning has been converted into a prison almost.” Students and others sitting around JNU’s famous canteens have found themselves accosted by “youth in Audis” driving into the campus, and abusing them to their face. Students have been asked by the faculty not to respond to this deliberate provocation and fortunately till now there has not been any clash.
Professors were recently surprised to get a letter from the Coordinator of Examinations in JNU asking them to provide the “key” (answers) to questions set by them for entrance examinations. This was an unprecedented request as it asked for answers to not just the objective examinations set by the science departments, but also essay answers from the other Schools in JNU. In other words, the administration was now looking for a “single answer” that was countered and resisted by the faculty over the days. The letter from the administration came just a week before the admission exams. ABVP is currently carrying coaching lessons for applicants to JNU that receives just under five lakh applications for admissions every year.
Students and faculty are feeling the pressure with the campus on turmoil ever since February 9 when the students were arrested and jailed. Lists of faculty members “on watch” are being informally circulated.
A dossier has been prepared and circulated by 11 JNU faculty members seen as sympathetic to the RSS/BJP. The group is led by Professor Amita Singh and the dossier states in part, “Over one thousand boys and girls (sic) students have been fined from Rs 2000/- to Rs 5000/- for consuming alcohol, for indulging in immoral activities in their hostels. On a casual glance at the gates of the hostel one can see hundreds of empty alcohol bottles. Sex workers have been openly employed in hostel messes, where they not only lure JNU girls into their organized racket but also pollute the boys. How come big and high brand cars are moving around the hostels particularly in the night hours. Some security staff is (sic) also involved in this racket. Freshers are particularly inducted in this ring of vice by luring through money, sex, drugs and alcohol, so that they become tied up with the cause of foreign agencies.”
The dossier goes on to name Professors ” …A few academics of JNU particularly Prof. Ayesha Kidwai, Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, Prof Nivedita Menon have been misusing JNU and their coveted position of senior teachers in the university for propagating secessionism in Kashmir and North-East, legitimizing and rationalizing terrorist activities in these states, stoking the fires of hate and anti-national sentiments by organizing seminars, lectures, issuing pamphlets, posters, publications and nukkad nataks, rallies, demonstrations, sit ins, hunger strikes and strikes in JNU for several years without any fear. The main goal of their activities is to attack Indian sovereignty in Kashmir, North-East, keep the Indian state in a destabilized state through Naxal, Maoist violence, secessionist movements. They are actively recruiting young minds in JNU campus and elsewhere by addicting them to night parties/revelries, alcoholism and cash payments to carry forward their agenda through mass campaigns, strikes etc. In this process JNU has become a den of organized sex racket in which some hostel karmacharis, maid servants, beauty parlours being run in Munirka village and the activists of DSF, DSU, AISA and other rogue elements are coordinating their activities. They have turned the autonomous body like GSCASH to strike at those students and faculty who do not fall in line with their nefarious agenda.”
In campuses where the Vice Chancellor is resisting efforts to homogenise the campuses into an authoritarian mould, the ABVP is leading the attack. As in Jadavpur University where tensions are spiralling as ABVP mobs have been trying to storm the campus. As agency and media reports state: “Tension peaked 200 metres from Jadavpur University in Kolkata on Monday as slogan-shouting members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP tried to march to the varsity gates but were stopped by a huge police presence.Hundreds of ABVP activists were seen crowding at the first of four police barricades. Some jostled with the police. Others climbed barricades and tried to jump across.
The ABVP, affiliated to BJP's ideological mentor RSS, was protesting clashes that had erupted at the university on Friday -- first over screening of the controversial film Buddha in a Traffic Jam and then over claims that ABVP men had molested girls on campus. Addressing the ABVP workers, state secretary Subir Halder threatened to "chop off" the legs of Left students. "The Leftists have turned the university into a den of anti-national activities. We will not allow this... If these Leftists dare to venture out of the university, we will chop off their legs," he said.
Students of the Jadavpur University crowded at their gate during the police-ABVP stand-off. "They wanted to come here and attack us. They were stopped by the police today. They will try again and we will be at this gate, ready and waiting," said Sounak Mukhopadhyay, a JU student leader.
Some students also criticised Bengal governor and University Chancellor KN Tripathi for saying JU was becoming a centre of disturbance. "Political statements at a time like this are unfortunate," student leader Shraman said.”
In this University Vice Chancellor Suranjan Das has been proactive in personally trying to prevent the clash between the students and BJP supporters led by Roopa Ganguly.
"Student unrest has become a common phenomenon in JU. The screening of a film, cleared by the Censor Board, was stopped illegally. The trend of CPM and Left-backed student unions of JU has been to stop anything that is against their ideology, which is totally against the country's democratic set up. We condemn it," state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh told PTI.
"Jadavpur University is a hub of anti-nationals. Left-backed students' unions are breeding ground for anti-nationals and that is why we have seen anti-India slogans being raised by a section of JU students," he alleged.
Accusing the university's VC of supporting anti-nationals elements on the campus, Ghosh demanded that his role be probed. "We will inform the Centre of the activities going on inside the JU campus," he said.