The JNU That I Know Is a Place of Dissent, Debate – Not Violence

Author and former AAP member Ashutosh reminisces the days at JNU when violence and elections didn’t go together.

3 min read
Image used for representational purposes.

As an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the violence and chaos that ensued in the wake of its student body elections, have left me both sad, and shocked. It used to never be this way. Irrespective of how bitter or heated elections were, they used to never turn violent.

JNU, Then and Now

It is possible that JNU has changed in the last twenty years. It is also possible that its character might be entirely different now. But it is not possible that JNU has turned into a battle ground of sorts – that it resorts to guns and knives to solve a problem. It is hard to believe – and to wrap my head around this. But the incident that happened recently, is reality. According to reports, the threats have continued, even after the elections.

It is also true that JNU has transformed into a fortress since 2014. Preparations are afoot to conquer it. There have been many attacks. And since everything is fair in war, as a first step to conquer JNU, efforts have been made to completely decimate its image. In 2016, a video curiously reached the so-called nationalist news channels, in which some audio going ‘bharat tere tukde honge, humen chahiye azadi’ (India will be split into pieces, we want freedom) could be heard.

Then began the attempts to declare JNU a base for anti-nationals. Students like Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were declared ‘deshdrohi’ (anti-nationals) and ‘desh ke tukde karne wale’ (people who will partition the country).

It wasn’t long before TV media started calling the likes of Kanhaiya and Umar, members of the ‘tukde-tukde gang’. This led to the emergence of the debate on Nationalism vs Treason, that is yet to be settled. Those who don’t agree with BJP-RSS ideology are now tagged as ‘anti-national’.

Charges of Sedition, Attempts to Suppress Free Speech

Kanhaiya was jailed for 14 days on grounds of sedition in 2016, and was even assaulted by lawyers in Delhi’s Patiala House Court complex – even as the police silently watched. Interestingly, it has been over 900 days, but a chargesheet has yet to be filed against Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid. This, even as claims of ‘solid proof’ existing, continue to do the rounds.

So, what happened? Was there no evidence or the whole thing was staged?

This tussle, between the government and JNU, is an ideological one. RSS is not just an organisation, it is an ideological campaign that dreams of changing the fabric of our country. It’s here that they are in direct conflict with the Left; at an ideological level. JNU is one of the last remaining bastions of Leftist thought. The RSS knows only too well, that for its ideological domination, the Left (ideology) has to be defeated.

Back in the eighties, JNU taught me that we all have the right to question anybody, be it a minister or a world-renowned scholar.

Perhaps I have had to suffer because of this habit of questioning and fearlessly speaking my mind. But it has also taught me that where there is democracy, there will be debate and the spirit of inquiry. Today in JNU, amidst the efforts to establish a new ideology and root out the old one, this culture has all but vanished. The way Kanhaiya Kumar has recently been attacked in the name of nationalism, is an attempt to bury that culture of inquiry.

Has RSS Managed to Build an Institution of JNU’s Stature?

Despite not being a Communist, I have no hesitation in saying that it is because of Communism that JNU has become one of India’s premier educational institutions. Even today I am proud to call JNU my alma mater. But the RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has wreaked havoc on campus. The RSS has done all this consciously. The logic is clear: ‘if we can’t win the students’ votes, we can definitely defame them’. This propaganda is effective. JNU is being punished for not adopting Hindutva; punished for being friends with the Left.

It is worth noting that in the past four and a half years, the RSS has not been able to establish even one such educational institution of JNU’s stature. I even put this question to a senior RSS leader. But to this, the RSS has no answer.

(This piece was originally published in Quint Hindi and has been translated by Mariam Shaheen. Read the original article here.)

(The writer is an author and former spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at@ashutosh83B.This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. )

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