THE visual images on television channels of masked goons attacking students and teachers in the campus and hostels of Jawaharlal Nehru University have brought home to many people the startling fact that the Modi regime is engaged in an assault on public funded educational institutions, particularly central universities.
The JNU has been a prime target of the Hindutva brigade. It is a premier institution which has built up a reputation as an academic centre where a democratic atmosphere of free speech, enquiry and reason prevails.
All this is anathema for the Hindutva forces who are out to destroy this very conception of a university. The appointment of M Jagdish Kumar as the vice chancellor heralded a systematic effort to destroy the secular-democratic basis of JNU. The progressive and inclusive admission policy has been scrapped; faculty appointments are being manipulated to accommodate RSS supporters; the elected students union has been under attack for the past four years with its elected representatives being victimised both through internal disciplinary measures and police cases filed against them; teachers were also served with show cause notices and disciplinary action. Finally, in the current academic year there was the savage increase in hostel fees, mess and other service charges.
The students and teachers have been fighting back against these arbitrary and undemocratic measures. The movement against fee hike has found support from all sections of students and from democratic public opinion outside the university.
It is the failure to suppress the united opposition of the students and teachers through threats and coercion that triggered this latest attack – the resort to physical violence – something unprecedented in the history of JNU. That the attack by the ABVP-RSS goons is a sponsored and planned one with the connivance of the JNU administration and the police has become amply evident. Sections of the television and print media have given proof of the identity of the attackers (ABVP and RSS) and the shameful role of the police.
Public outrage has grown that instead of pursuing the culprits, the police at the instance of the JNU administration has filed cases against a badly injured JNUSU president and other union activists.
The vice chancellor is the prime instrument for subverting and destabilising JNU. It is now known that the JNU administration wanted the university to be closed down after the Sunday violence. This was the overall aim – organise armed goons to go on a rampage, claim that violence had broken out due to “group clashes” and shut down the university.
That game has been foiled because of the outpouring of protests against the outrage in JNU and the exposure of the forces behind it. All over the country, students have come out in protest against the attack on JNU – a successive wave of protests which had already begun with the movement against the CAA-NRC.
A new beginning, as claimed by the vice chancellor, can be made only when he steps down. The ministry of human resource development must pursue negotiations with the students and teachers to arrive at a just settlement on the fee hike issue. This along with the bringing the culprits of the Sunday violence to book will contribute to restoring a modicum of confidence for JNU to continue fulfilling its role as a public-funded university of excellence.
(January 8, 2020)