Mr Prime Minister,
As a girl from a middle-class family of relatively humble means, studying the social sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University has always been a dream.
When this lifelong dream got fulfilled a couple of years ago, it was a moment of joy for me and my parents alike. The acceptance letter brought with it the promise of education under the tutelage of eminent and exemplary professors, an intellectually rich atmosphere and affordable and inclusive living arrangements.
I must admit that JNU has delivered on all its promises right from the beginning.
I was overwhelmed not just by the sheer academic knowledge this place had to offer but also by the unique ways in which the impeccably crafted curricula helped me shape my analytical and perceptive skills.
The immensely helpful discussions with teachers, diverse groups of fellow students –both inside and outside the classrooms – have not only made me a more well-informed human being but have also taught me to strive to be a more honest and compassionate soul.
I have learnt all this without anyone forcing me to attend classes or dictating my movements within the campus or forcing a set of books down my throat. Like everyone else here, I have studied simply because I wanted to, and marks came as a by-product.
But the last few months brought a bitter end to a wonderful dream. With the imposition of several bureaucratic measures one after the other, I could see my university – my second home – turn into a war-site right in front of my eyes.
First, the implementation of the system of 'seat-cut' (that ensured 88% fall in the student intake in the first year of implementation) has shattered the dream of thousands of young boys and girls like myself who had simply wanted to get a good education. Repeated wails of the student community were ignored by the administration in this regard.
Second came the implementation of compulsory attendance, not just for students of Bachelors and Masters degrees, but also for research scholars.
This is a huge blow to the already established and successful methods of knowledge acquirement that JNU is respected for. I must bring to your notice that our curriculum is not restricted to classroom lectures at specific times from Mondays to Fridays. Whenever teachers feel that their students need more attention, lectures are organised after hours and even on weekends. There has been absolute cooperation from students in this regard.
In addition, teachers and students participate in individual and group discussions, field works and various techniques that help produce individuals who serve the society and the nation with utmost ability and diligence.
In such a system, the imposition of compulsory attendance not only seems unnecessary but rather stands as a hurdle to the cultivation of academic excellence in the university. For example, a research student who has to spend days in a library, or an archive or any other resource base which is not located within the university campus to complete his/her research would simply be wasting time and money if they have to report to their centre every day to provide a signature for the registers.
Apart from being averse to the idea of the unprecedented regimentation that the university administration (headed by the Vice-Chancellor) is imposing on the hapless academic population, these practical concerns also raise genuine concerns.
When genuine resistance to this destructive diktat was shown by a large chunk of teachers, several Deans and Chairpersons were ousted from their posts overnight. The continuous assault on democratic processes within the University thus far has deeply disturbed the academic atmosphere.
Third, the recently exposed case of sexual harassment against a professor by multiple women students and the continuous sidelining of the issue by the Vice-Chancellor, rectors and other top officials have also increased the insecurities and disillusionment of the students.
The deliberate incompetence of the University administration in taking any concrete action on the matter – all the while threatening students and teachers day in and day out – has proved to be visibly regressive for the society. It has also nullified your string of promises ensuring women’s safety, higher education opportunities and preserving their dignity.
These are but only a few problems among a plethora of other issues that are plaguing the University and turning it into a jail where the voices of students and teachers are being stifled by a few dominating and dictatorial administrators. The deployment of guards who are committing physical atrocities against peacefully protesting students, is a stark example of the sheer highhandedness of the administrators who have left no stone unturned in wreaking havoc in the lives of all stakeholders of the University.
Amidst all these issues, I can only reminisce the days when I used to hear your speeches that brought with them promises of a better future in terms of better educational opportunities, greater women's safety and more democratisation – among other things.
Today, when I see my university getting ruined brick by brick – bringing down the hopes and dreams of thousands of young minds, including mine – I am simply compelled to conclude that those promises were nothing more than hollow rhetoric.
Therefore, in these distressing times, I can only urge to you to save an institute which has served as a steady provider of outstanding personalities – many of whom have shaped the nation and continue to do so even today.
The disturbing atmosphere that the teachers and students are having to live in, simply because of the whims of a dictatorial and illogical administrative machinery led by the Vice-Chancellor M Jagdesh Kumar, require the urgent attention of your office and of the people of this country.
Today, I am simply looking towards you to fulfil the promises of ‘achhe din' that you had made to each and every citizen of India a few years ago.
A non-political and concerned student of JNU.
(Disclaimer: The claims, statements and views expressed in this article are solely of the citizen(s) who have written to us. The Quint does not endorse these claims, statements and views, and is not responsible for the same. ‘My Report’ is The Quint’s platform of Citizen Journalism. Share your queries or grievances with us at email@example.com)