The Universities are Under Attack Because the Govt Does Not Want Students to Ask Difficult Questions
NEW DELHI: First of all I would like to address you with “jai bheem” “lal salaam” because I study in a university and our teachers have taught us that whatever you learn in universities you should teach others when you move out.
Today, we are being invited to talk about this issue and I want to thank the organisers on behalf of JNU student union for giving us a chance to provide our views. I will put forth my views and share my experiences on the topic that we are being given. The people who live in universities, be it students or the larger university community, they share a very deep relation. In order to recognize their students, university distribute identity cards but it is the student community which fosters the identity of university. It is important to note that the voices which are coming out of universities are not of students alone; it includes teachers, workers and others, who are all are coming together to raise their voice.
A question is being put in front of us and even we are asking this question -- why are our universities under attack or why there is an attack on our universities? We feel that universities are under attack because in universities we learn to ask questions and we ask questions not just to others but also to ourselves. We also question the established structure because when we enter in universities we get to learn that till you don't start questioning yourself you cannot develop enough understanding to question others.
I would like to share a few experiences. There are a lot of students who come from far flung areas and from deprived communities and start studying in universities so when they enter universities campuses they face a lot of question.
I strongly feel that the attack on universities is not new. Earlier universities were attacked to close them but today they are being attacked to bury the intelligence and intellectuality. The deployment of police and paramilitary forces in campus is not new. When police entered the JNU campus it became news but it is the harsh reality of this nation that there are a lot of universities in india where deployment of police has been there from years -- the campuses are turned in cantonments.
These attack is across universities, be it FTII, HCU, JNU or BHU -- where students are suspended for the library or take the recent police firing on students in Patna university. The dilemma is not just that in BHU students were suspended because they were demanding a 24×7 library but authorities are not agreeing to it. The dilemma is our leaders are not able enough to lead us; the dilemma is our Education Minister doesn't know what education is; the dilemma is our Home Minister doesn't know what security is -- what intelligence is; the dilemma is our police doesn't know what sedition is; the dilemma is our Prime Minister don't know what Somalia is. That is why it is our responsibility to make these people realise their responsibility. This conclave can be an initiative to move ahead this discussion.
When I say there are attacks on universities, I feel they are pre planned and organised. Look at the JNU pattern or the HCU pattern. What happened to Rohit Vemula? The same larger narrative played out in JNU where we were called anti nationalist and casteist. We are boycotted socially. We were forced to live outside of the college and then an FIR is filed against us and we are put behind bars on the charges of sedition. It is a deliberate attempt to malign JNU and the same pattern is followed in other universities be it Jadavpur university in West Bengal or elsewhere .
There are attacks on universities because the government doesn't want us to ask the 'difficult question'. I come from Orissa and I want to share my personal experience regarding why the government doesn't want us to ask questions. When I was a kid my grandmother used to tell me that ‘chanda mama’ is your mama and he is smiling at you so eat your food. Believing her, I used to eat all my food. But when I started school, my teacher told me that there is no ‘chanda mama’. I realised that my grandmother doesn’t have a brother named chanda; that there is no ‘chanda mama.’ It was then that I realised that there is difference between truth and established truth, and this is what we are taught at universities.
The idea of India is incomplete till the time we don't talk about justice for Delta. It will not be complete till it doesn't take in consideration justice for Rohith. It will not be fulfilled till we seek an answer to these questions. It’s imperative, therefore, that we try at every level to keep this question alive. Even today we are going to HCU because authorities have again started targeting students; they are evicted from hostels. Authorities are trying to destroy the shelter in which Rohith and his friends were staying during the protest. We will go there and ask the principal to stop this intervention and let these students do their protest peacefully . I would like to end my discussion with this and request all you people to stand against such incidents in the future.
(This is the text of a presentation made by RAMA NAGA at the “Idea Of India” conclave on “Two Years Of PM Modi: State Of The Nation”. It has been transcribed, translated and edited by SAGAR MAHINDRA)