Students as Enemy?

A post by a former JNU student

Almost all progressive movements, around the world, have been started from the University campuses or the students have played a significant role during its various stages. Globally, 1960s and 1970s had witnessed a large number of student movements across the world. Obviously, in the post-globalised world the number of such movements has been reduced; still students from some of the western Universities too have come out from their campus to express their protests over a number of important global issues like the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq etc.

In South Asia, Pakistan witnessed a strong student movement against General Ayub Khan in 1968, in Bangladesh the students from University of Dhaka played crucial role in its liberation in 1971, and in India movement against emergency in 1977 started from the University campuses. All the three have changed the history of the respective countries. The power of those movements was such that the successive establishment put all its effort to crush it. They created right wing pro-establishment groups and backed them to replace the progressive student organizations. In Pakistan, in 1970s and early 1980s during the regime of General Ziaul Haq, the Jamat-i-Islami was supported by the state to spread its presence in the campuses around the country. In post-liberated Bangladesh, the Awami League (AL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and JI supported students wing have their substantive presence. As a result, in both countries the public Universities have almost no autonomy, the number of private Universities has been cropped up, and their curriculum supports the state’s narrative of the history and present. The radicalization of campuses has also aggravated the degree of social violence in both countries.

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photo: V Arun Kumar

The present Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led Government in India is following the same trajectory. Its mentor Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) knows that it is difficult to attain power through democratic means so it is trying all non-constitutional and fraudulent means to impose its student group- Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP)- in campuses across the country. It started with Indian Institute of Technology (Madras), then the Films and Television Institute of India, Pune, followed by Hyderabad Central University, and now the target is Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). With student organizations under its regulation, it will be very easier for them to interfere in processes like recruitment of teachers, drawing curriculum, deciding on budgets, and mellowing down autonomy.

The dissenting students are being branded as “anti-national” “traitor” and “pro-Pakistani”. All these terms are highly saleable to the majority members of the Indian middle class for whom patriarchy, caste based discrimination, and consumerism are synonym of nationalism. Anyone who is against these archaic values is being termed as anti-national. In this exercise the TRP hungry media plays an important role, which they are doing in case of JNU. They are creating a hype to project themselves as the most ‘nationalist’ in compare to other by branding the students and other dissenters as “anti-national”.

In their ‘nationalist’ race, both the Government and media houses did not get time to make some investigations over well-known facts which almost all JNUite knows. The first is that a small group of radical left wing students have been organizing this sort of function since 2013. Every year they hold a small function where revolutionary songs are being sung, followed by slogans, and they disperse to their respective hostels. As a student in JNU, I had never witnessed the ABVP reacting to those programmes or slogans. Why it did in 2016? Second is especially for those, who do not know even the basics of left literature: No left party or a group can eulogize or glorify Pakistan because according to their literature it is a feudal state run with a support of military, so it is anti-people. If one has a close read on the slogans painted on the walls of JNU, he or she will find that they are pro-people and not pro-state or establishment.

The fight to save JNU is a fight to save the values enshrined in the constitution of India. If we fail today in our duty, history will remember us as “anti-nationalist”.

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