JNU: Tarnished By The Misguided
The incident of February 9, 2016, in JNU, for all those who have been in the campus or know about the varsity, was nothing new as such incidents have taken place with impunity in the past. Just to recount, the hawala episode came to limelight after a terrorist Sahabuddin Ghori was arrested from the campus in the mid-nineties. In 1996, the then AISA ( student wing of CPI (ML) invited terrorists from the valley to address students in JNU only to be thwarted by nationalist in the campus. In the year 2000, two army men were brutally beaten up during a friendship mushaira organised by one of the left student’s organisations because they protested aganist the anti-Indian mushaira being rendered by the participants.
In 2009, when more than 70 paramilitary forces’ were killed in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, there was celebration in the campus and the Indian flag was burnt by the activists of AISA and other Naxal groups. Few years back, a student of JNU was arrested for having links with Naxals, who held many parts of the country to hostage. These are just a handful of many such instances, which have never got the limelight that it deserved. The readers would be surprised to know that no action whatsoever was initiated against all those involved in the incidences mentioned above mostly because they were patronised by vested interest in the campus and also because the media never took these incidences seriously. The recent case also would have met with the same fate had the media not picked up the issue and had it not generated the attention that it deserved.
Soon after the police action, the usual chant of freedom of expression being denied, JNU’s autonomy under threat rather JNU under threat has filled the air. Leaders of all hues have made a beeline to the campus against the arrest. The irony is CPM, which never believed in freedom of expression in Bengal, Kerala and anywhere it could manage to get a whiff of power, including in JNU, is now going length to lecture us on this. Congress party which imposed Emergency in the country, came down heavily on any dissent on many occasions during its 60 years of misrule including ban on Satanic Verses, brutalising students during the Nirbhaya incident and Anna movement, is lecturing on freedom of expression.
Given that JNU was set up to accommodate the communist it is but natural that birds of same feather will flock together even at the cost of national unity and integrity. For these political parties it is all about scoring brownie points even on this issue where secessionist slogans were raised, where Afzal Guru, Maqbool Bhatt were eulogised as heros. The explanation now being given is that the event was organised by a “fringe” left group, the question is who allowed it? The next question would be why did the students groups like AISF, SFI which are now distancing themselves from the organisers, not do anything to stop the events. Was it a case where one left group giving space to another in the name of left unity or is it a case where the malice runs much deeper and there is more than what meets the eyes? These are questions that need to be answered and can only be done by a thorough inquiry. If reports are to be believed, there are indications that the event had the blessings of separatist leaders in J&K and some reports also suggest that even Hafeez Sayeed blessed this event. If there is any iota of truth in these reports, the issue cannot be just wished away in the name of protecting freedom of expression. If these reports have any semblance of truth, it raises serious questions of national security and needs thorough investigation without being politicised.
The moot question: Is the teaching community, many of whom have got appointed because of their ideological leanings and many of whom were active members of the various students grouping of CPI, CP (M), CPIL (ML) during their student days and later on as card members of the main party, has provided a safe sanctuary to interests inimical to the cause of the nation? The oft-repeated explanation dished out after every such incidents have been that JNU is not like other places; here everybody has the right to say in whatever, wherever and whatsoever manner they want etc. This approach has harmed the varsity in the long run as this has been taken as a carter blanche to indulge in all kinds of activities being sure that there will be enough supporters in the teachers community to extricate them out of a tricky situation. Also this explanation and justification has meant that in the name of freedom of expression, the students can go to any length. In doing so the proponents of such a view have encouraged the students to take law into their own hands when things go out of control. Now we are witnessing all kinds of arguments and a campaign to save JNU. One would agree with the larger picture that JNU needsto be saved but the big question is from whom? Is JNU to be saved from the clutches of those who have always believed in a particular kind of world view and derided, demeaned and ridiculed any other world view and are well entrenched in various positions in the varsity for years together? Is it to be saved from the clutches of those who have used the varsity to propagate their idea, of India which is not a single nation but conglomerate of various nationalities? Is it to be saved from those vested interest who have institutionalised a system of appointment to the faculty and other positions where the adage is “you favour my students and I will yours”? Is it to be saved from all those who for a long time believed that the campus can be used to air anti-national view and used it as a command/control centre for all secessionist activities? We need to answer and make it clear as to what “Save JNU” means, as the clear intent seem to be saving the perpetrators of the anti-national event at any cost, which if allowed to happen will do a great disservice to the varsity and therefore it is essential that all those who have become united, including the JNUTA, must come clean on this issue. The JNUTA during a press conference today adopted an ambivalent stand that espouses the cause of the perpetrators, which leaves no manner of doubt as to what “Save JNU” means for them, at least.
The question that haunted me then and now is why the “JNU community” never think of isolating these elements? Why do the teachers never openly come out against such forces, if their arguments, as one has heard ad-nauseam in the past few days, is that the students who shouted anti-Indian slogans are a miniscule minority? Even today, posters seeking independence of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Kerala and Kashmir adorn the high walls of the varsity. The moot point is the secessionists and anti-national activities have been allowed to prosper for long and cannot be ignored any longer. The onus is as much on the political masters of the students groups like CPI, CPM, CPI (ML) as also on the teachers, who cannot shift the blame to an unknown and unseen hands, as has been the practice.
The bottom line is we as former students of JNU take pride in what we have got from the varsity and hence we do expect the institution does not become a launch pad for anti-national and secessionist activities. One has witnessed this from close quarters during my student days in the varsity where your grades, remember its an internal evaluation mechanism that is followed there, depended on your ideological leaning, so if you are from the ABVP, and if you get a B+ from some cardholder teachers, you are lucky and count it as an A+. Likewise, if you had the misfortune of being allotted to such a Guide, you could have imagined your grades.
By Sandeep Mahapatra
(The writer is former President, JNUSU.)