JNU: A Wounded Space

On this fateful day last year, JNU witnessed an organized attack on students and teachers inside the campus premises. Even after a year, the question remains : can the spirit of the university be restored?

JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh. Image - The New Leam Staff

January 5, 2020? The goons entered the JNU campus, violated its sacred space, and brutally attacked students and teachers. Well, the cops waited passively outside the university gate; and the hired security guards preferred to witness this ugly episode as silent spectators. Time passes…Nothing has happened. No arrest. No apology. And the tragic part of the story is that the JNU administration remains as callous and insensitive as it was when this assault on one of the leading universities in the country took place.
It is not surprising. How can JNU be saved when the ruling regime seems determined to demolish the spirit of public universities throughout the country? Be it Jamia Millia Islamia or Aligarh Muslim University, or Visva Bharati and Jadavpur University: all attempts have been made to curb the spirit of critical pedagogy, the ethos of intellectual freedom, the culture of resistance, and the idea of a cross-cultural/cross-religious inclusive space. At a time when young/idealist students, teachers and intellectuals are suspected, humiliated and sent to prisons for their conscience; and the notorious troll army and sponsored media houses castigate them as ‘anti-national’, it is obvious that an attempt would be made to spread fear psychosis among the students and the faculty, and demolish what the Jawaharlal Nehru University was known for—freedom and creativity, dialogue and reflexivity, and civility and decency. In a way, what happened on January 5, 2020 was inevitable.
After one year, today when you enter the JNU campus you can feel the wound, understand the hidden pain, and realize what this unholy alliance of the brute administration and the ruling regime has done to this place. First, it looks like a prison. You understand what surveillance is all about. The security guards are never tired of harassing, interrogating and humiliating the students, the teachers and the visitors. Second, despite this all-pervading presence of the security personnel, there is no safety; in fact, a series of robbery cases has already caused widespread anxiety. And finally, the administration remains callous, insensitive and dehumanized. Today the university is in news for all wrong reasons—non-transparent administration, controversial appointments, faulty pattern of entrance tests, court cases and all sorts of silly ‘circulars’ approved by the ‘competent authority’.
It is difficult to say whether the spirit of the university can ever be restored.


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