THE election to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union held on September 12 resulted in a resounding victory for United Left Alliance of Students' Federation of India (SFI), All India Students Association (AISA), All India Students Federation (AISF), and Democratic Students Federation (DSF. Candidates of United Left Alliance have won all the four central posts with big majorities and have also got a decisive majority in the students council.
The elections to the JNUSU had a special significance this year, as it came in the background of a sustained attack on the institution in the past three years by the Modi government and the BJP-RSS combine.
Through the vice chancellor appointed in early 2016, an offensive was begun to subvert the very character of the university, to dismantle the democratic atmosphere and the ethos of questioning and learning which has made JNU such a distinct institution.
Currently, there is an authoritarian and disciplinary regime in place with leaders of the students union and other activists being subjected to fines and denial of academic and hostel facilities; teachers are also sought to be silenced with disciplinary action; there has been a drastic cut in the number of MPhil and PhD student admissions and compulsory attendance has become the norm.
The attack on JNU should be seen in the wider context of the attack on higher education in the country under the Modi regime. All the central universities are in the line of fire with the rightwing Hindutva agenda being sought to be imposed. However, since JNU has the strongest resistance to such a reactionary agenda and students and teachers are conscious, organised and vocal in their opposition, the ruling establishment is determined to carry on the war against JNU. This is evident from defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s absurd charge that there are forces within JNU who are waging war against India and they are seen with the elected representatives of the students’ union.
The victory of United Left Alliance in the students union election and the rout of the ABVP has been galling for the detractors of JNU. The incidents of assault on Left student activists and the constant attempts to provoke violence by the ABVP students are meant to vitiate the atmosphere so as to provide the university administration with grounds to further crack down on democratic rights and academic freedoms.
Such tactics must not be allowed to succeed. The struggle in JNU is a key part of the overall struggle against the efforts to destroy public funded universities and the privatisation-communalisation project of the Modi government. All democratic and secular forces should extend support to the students and teachers of JNU in their fight to preserve the unique democratic character of the institution.
(September 19, 2018)