JNU violence was an attempt to end the varsity's reflective character

The university, for the first time, has come under the administrative control of a formation envisaged by the right wing, which seeks to imprint the stamp of its authority on every single point of authority.

 |  4-minute read |   12-01-2020
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Modern universities, as the idea has evolved since the 13-14th centuries, are places of reflection about the human condition and possibilities of finding templates to better them by removing contemporary impediments in obtaining a better human condition. Anywhere, an attack on the university is a statement that someone somewhere wants to stop these processes of reflections on the human condition. The attack on JNU, too, is such a statement.

A crucial tradition

JNU, since its beginnings, has performed two important tasks. One, it carried forward the nation-making efforts that began in the late 19th century through enlightenment, education and social reforms. JNU’s cosmopolitan ambience and its progressive milieu have helped thousands of students transcend their local and parochial background. Its second contribution has been that it constantly debated and fought over any single meaning of nation-making and in the process helped keep the ever-expanding understanding of the nation, and brought it in conformity with the ever-changing world and more importantly how young India finds it from their perspective. It is this that has allowed the social and political economic agenda of the marginalised to refashion the idea of the nation. Thus, as a university, it occupies a space which is not merely a degree-awarding or mere professional development institution, but more: it is at the centre of the nation-making process.

In a society where a large number of people live in absolute inhuman levels of poverty, based on inequalities of birth, it is natural that there will be friction among parties and ideologies about these issues and ways of resolving them. One point of protest by JNU students for almost three months now has been an arbitrary raise in fees and other charges by the administration which they argued would forbid poorer students to come to the portals of the university.

A shocking turn

The entire issue was handled in a manner, like all other things are done today in the university, arbitrarily and though exclusivist ways, completely against the spirit and practice of JNU in the past 50 years. And the reason why insiders and outsiders wearing masks were allowed to attack the university on January 5 can be seen here: giving the diktat of the current regime the illegitimate power of violence when legitimate means are ineffective and subverted by strong and fearless young voices.

main_jnu-police_reut_011220110403.jpgPolice personnel in riot gear stand guard inside the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) after clashes between students on Sunday night. (Photo: Reuters)

The university, for the first time, when it has completed half a century, has come under the administrative control of a formation envisaged by the right wing, which seeks to imprint the stamp of its authority on every single point of authority. Every single administrative and academic issue is to further the grip of this right wing and its ideological formations for which there is a single definition of nation, and the agenda is to plant this definition in every heart, wanted and unwanted, and the university’s reflective spaces are the prime arena for this battle to be waged and won by any means.

The control at the local levels of administration has been taken over by younger elements of the formation that lack academic and intellectual credibility and the capability to enter into coherent dialogue, discussion and argumentation with a young India. The natural template of violence, therefore, came in handy for all such segments, which traditionally have demonstrated a hatred for debate on neutral or others’ terms. They thrive on emotional issues and violent means.

Few options left

So, the violence on that Black Sunday in JNU can be seen within this larger context, to provide us with a terrifying spectacle. Spectacle today does not provide us with any link to reality. It hides the reality more than it reveals. It was, therefore, no war between the Left and the Right. It was primarily a display of violating JNU’s reflective space. Violence always finishes the possibilities of politics. It also sends signals to the younger, questioning minds to keep away from the university. While the larger section of the university would love to live in peace and reflect in tranquillity, the powers that be want it to be on a perpetual boil, and thereby finish off its reflective character which has been so central to its nation-making efforts.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: JNU protests will fade. The average student will pay with her future



Rakesh Batabyal Rakesh Batabyal @rakeshbatabyal1

The writer is Associate Professor, Centre for Media Studies, JNU and the author of ‘JNU, the Making of a University’.

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