Aage Se Right
JNU Row: How can we eliminate student violence from campuses? Our political leaders do know
Student politics continues to dominate campus news instead of academic achievements because all political parties are heavily involved in student politics. And this has turned increasingly bitter and violent over the years.
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When I write my blogs, I usually do a lot of research on the internet, look through my saved files on the laptop, go to Google Scholar to check the research done on the topic. But for this issue, I don't need to do any research at all. In fact, I won't cite any external sources in this article.
I am an eye witness.
I am a witness to how several colleges in Kolkata and West Bengal turn into a den of crime during student elections. I have seen how college principals and heads of departments are harassed and insulted by a mob of students when they don't like the decisions they have taken. I have seen how sometimes, students physically assault their own teachers because their demands have not been met.
Those memories are tucked away in some dark corner of my brain because I don't want to be reminded of them.
But this recent tweet from the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) brought back those memories.
Few hundred students have broken into my residence at JNU and have confined my wife inside the house. She is alone at home and terrified. Very unfortunate.— Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (@mamidala90) March 25, 2019
I could almost see a lonely woman, trapped inside a house, helpless and desperate to get in touch with her husband who is at work. Her staff quarter is surrounded by angry students — all in their late twenties — raising slogans and daring the Vice Chancellor to come out.
I could almost picture the incident with other female staff members and wives of staff members entering the house from the back door and finally rescuing her from the angry mob, who are supposed to be students.
This incident didn't draw the ire of many of the prominent Left leaders — who are always first to comment on student politics. The student leaders, some about to step into national politics from JNU, maintained a stony silence, even as the Vice Chancellor declared that he is pardoning all students and not lodging a complaint with the police.
This evening few hundred students forcibly broke into my JNU residence and confined my wife inside home for several hours while I was away in a meeting. Is it the way to protest? Terrorosing a lonely lady at home?— Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (@mamidala90) March 25, 2019
Remember that we are talking about a Vice Chancellor — the highest administrative authority in a university. If he is treated this way, then what is the condition of the professors and college principals in other parts of India?
Ask any of the professors working in volatile campuses in cities like Delhi and in the states of West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar — they will tell you that facing a large crowd of irate students is regular for his colleagues in administrative posts (most have to take it as an additional responsibility). Most even regard such student protests as a part of the job.
Most of the professors are in their forties and fifties, and like many of us, suffer from diabetes, heart-related ailments, high blood pressure, etc. This is the reason that there are many professors who reject offers of taking up administrative jobs in volatile colleges or universities, where they have to take decisions that may affect a large number of students.
While last night's violent behavior by students in front my JNU residence is condemnable, neither me nor my wife will file a police complaint against the students. We have forgiven them. Wish them the best and hope they will reform and not repeat such acts in future.— Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (@mamidala90) March 26, 2019
Ask them personally — they will tell you that they are just saving their lives because campus politics has crossed all limits of decency.
They are not wrong.
The way some protests are held on these campuses cannot be part of the civilised world.
Consider these regular examples of 'protest' — surrounding the office of the professor and not letting him come out till he accedes to the demands of students, not letting the professor go home or take a loo break unless he or she agrees to the student's demands, accosting the professor on his way to work and chanting slogans against him, pasting posters with derogatory comments all over the campus seeking his removal, barging into offices in large numbers and forcing the professor to negotiate, catcalling a professor and raising slogans outside his/her classroom even as a class is in progress, terrorising his family members by staging a gherao at the staff quarters...
Are these forms of protests? Is this the way students are supposed to conduct themselves on campus?
JNU has marvellous people. Yesterday when students broke into my residence terrorising my wife who was alone at home, it was the wives of JNU faculty members who rescued my wife with the help of security guards and took her to hospital. Grateful to them for their kindness.— Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar (@mamidala90) March 26, 2019
In India, we have normalised these forms of protests and we have accepted this as part of our daily lives. It has been normalised to such an extent that even when an advertisement shows a college principal being publicly humiliated by a group of college students (apparently for imposing a dress code), we applaud the advert as a popular method of protest.
Really? Is this how students protest?
There is no one who has an answer to this question — no one ever even wants to answer this question.
But, when you allow violent behaviour on campus, it will beget more violence.
It will take only a tenth of a second for a crowd of protesting students to turn into a mob — and a mob into a violent mob.
Protesting student groups turning into a mob is not rare. On the contrary, it is a pretty regular occurrence in certain campuses of this country.
It is but normal that there will be times when these violent forms of protests will spiral out of control and will result in grave injuries or even deaths. There are instances of students gravely injuring their own teacher. There are instances of teachers getting killed on campus too. There are instances of professors, principals and heads of departments being rushed to hospitals after a violent student protest that hardly even makes it to the newspapers these days.
Have we gone from impassioned to out of control student protests on campus? (Source: Reuters)
Is this the way we want to run our campuses? Is this the way India wants its student leaders to graduate to the national stage?
I would like to pose this question to the veteran leaders who have come to the national stage after being a student leader.
Let's not rant about Committee reports, recommendations and court judgements — they are in plenty and all of them have said that campuses should be free from the influence of political parties and criminal elements creeping into student politics.
But most of these changes have just remained on paper.
The real reason why student politics continues to dominate campus news instead of academics is because all political parties are heavily entrenched in student politics.
Are our political parties ready to withdraw completely from our seats of learning?
That is, unfortunately, the only solution to stop what is going on.