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The University that Made a Difference

The assault on students and faculty of Jawaharlal Nehru University has raised a number of questions about politics on the campuses of universities. When students protest the massive hike in fees and other recently formulated regressive procedures of university functioning, it cannot be dismissed as student politics. It is as much a protest against a prime university being systematically dismantled. JNU is now being reduced to a teaching shop because supporting the advancement of knowledge that it pursued, is not on the agenda of those in authority, nor is it a characteristic of the ideology that is being sought to be imposed.

What happened at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on 5 January 2020 was outrageous and inexcusable. That the university administration and the local police could not have prevented an armed mob from entering the campus and beating up students and faculty, is hard to believe. What was the politics behind this? It can be seen as an escalation of the attack on Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. In the case of JNU, the intimidation was partly directed against JNUSU (JNU Students’ Union) and JNUTA (JNU Teachers’ Association)—the current office-bearers being described as liberal and left—and partly, the intention was to terrorise the university. Will there be further onslaughts on other universities, some of which have already felt the hostility of authority?

What is common in these attacks is the targeting of public universities. Private universities have remained relatively untouched. Is this because of a nexus between some corporates and the central government? JNU, over the years, has had little respite from hostility by various affiliates of the Sangh Parivar. This is not only because the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) has failed to establish a dominant presence on the campus of India’s leading university, but also because the intellectual foundations of JNU focus on ideas that are unacceptable to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Pre-eminently among them are the freedom of thought and speech, the right to dissent, an emphasis on the secular and the democratic, and the upholding of social equality. The ultimate goal of the Sangh Parivar is to establish a Hindu rashtra, drawing its legitimacy from majoritarian politics propelling a Hindu identity. This plan can only succeed by disallowing debate on the legitimacy of this idea in the context of the nation state, and by preventing dissenting views. It also requires negating the ideas that were debated in the founding of JNU, such as exploring the kinds of structures that would be appropriate for Indian society.

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Updated On : 27th Jan, 2020

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