OPINION | Who is Demonising JNU?

Jawahar Lal Nehru University is one of the best educational institutions in the country. It has got the highest ranking in NAAC at 3.91. It was first in NIRF ranking in 2016 and second in 2017. It has produced many distinguished alumni, including the recent Nobel Laureate in Economics Abhijit Banerjee to the present union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, just to name a few.

It is a much-sought after University for students from all nooks and corners of the country. The same is true for aspiring professors who wish to join this University.

However, since the last few years, many disturbing news keeps coming from JNU that has tarnished its image. A small section of students have defamed the university, whether it is in Nov. 2019 or it was in Feb. 2016. While students have every right to protest a fee hike, the way the entire issue has been dealt by one section, supported by some faculty members, is utterly obnoxious.

Vandalism of university property, keeping professors’ hostages, manhandling of female teachers, female journalists, security guards, administrative staff and above all defacing international icons like Vivekananda do not match with the credentials of the university. It is unfortunate that such an image of the university is being spread among common people for the misdeeds of a few. On Feb. 9, 2016, the JNU had widely got a bad name due to a handful of students who allegedly raised anti-India slogans.

Choosing vandalism, confinement and hooliganism over decent, democratic ways of dissent and protest, has certainly undermined the image of the university. The administration had uploaded the revised draft hostel manual on the university website at least for 20 days for suggestions. Instead of giving concrete suggestions, the Left-wing students chose to gherao officials, take them hostage for hours, snatch car keys of one of them and lock down the entire area, etc.

The Delhi High Court had restricted the use of 100 metres area near the administration block for protests. The area has been marked accordingly and the protesters have been warned time and again to honour the court order. However, with utter disregard of the Court order, some politically motivated students have not only defaced the walls and floors with abuses intended at the V-C and other administrators, but even locked the administrative block. It means that the University has been put to ransom and it is not being allowed to function.

The university’s convocation function, where the Vice President and HRD Minister were the guests, was also disrupted. They too were taken ‘hostage’ for around six hours by a section of students. Police had to rescue the dignitaries from the unruly students. Many eyewitnesses felt outsider hooligans were present that day.

They also defaced the statue of Vivekananda, an international icon of Indianness, including in Russia and other communist countries. What has the defacing of the statue to do with fee hike? How are the curse words scribbled with spray paint near the statue related to fee hike protest?

These students have academically strangulated the university since October 28, 2019. Examinations are to begin from December 13, hardly a few days away. Majority of students come to universities to study.

What is being achieved by halting academic work of the University by locking down academic blocks? Should such academic strangulation be allowed by a few students under any pretext?

The University property has been vandalised. Name plates of administrators have been broken and thrown away. CCTV cameras have been damaged. Faculty house lawns have been destroyed. Is it not criminal to vandalise public property, acquired through tax-payers’ money?

Genuine issues like fee hike can be resolved through dialogue and appropriate procedure. The University has already partially rolled back the fee hike for economically weaker section students.

Nevertheless, students cannot keep administrators hostage and compel them to sign on resignation letters already prepared by them. Administrators cannot have a dialogue with a mob.

It may be recalled here that the JNUSU elections have not been declared yet due to a Delhi High Court stay (that has since been lifted).

In such circumstances, the University says it can only talk to legitimately elected hostel presidents of the 18 hostels of the university. There is an Inter Hall Administration (IHA) committee, with Dean, Student Welfare as its Head. All the three Associate Deans, five Provosts, 18 Wardens of all hostels and 18 Hostel Presidents (locally elected by all residents through due procedure) are its members.

The “hooligan elements” in the university did not let the meeting of this body of 45 members, including their representatives, take place.

The unfortunate part is that this section of students gets open support from Left-wing faculty and Left-dominated JNUTU. This is evident from the fact that the teachers’ body has not even once condemned the alleged confinement of a female colleague by students for 30 hours.

Should such be the behaviour of students of an internationally-acclaimed University? Is this the ethos and culture of Jawahar Lal Nehru University? The answer is a definite NO!

Hooliganism, vandalism and roguery cannot be JNU. Youngsters from far-flung areas of the country aspire to be a part of the university. What message is being sent across to them by the few who are working as pawns in the hands of politically motivated people?

Their slogans and actions explicitly convey a mindset which is certainly not academic. Handful of rowdy elements are trying to demonise JNU. They must be exposed and their efforts be thwarted at all levels to save an internationally-acclaimed academic institution.

The author teaches at Ram Lal Anand College, University of Delhi. Views expressed in the article are strictly personal.