JNU's night of horrors extends beyond violence on January 5

Over the last four years, JNU has been moved decisively away from the youthful idealism of Yuva to the bleakness of Gulaal.

 |  4-minute read |   10-01-2020
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The night of January 5, 2020, in JNU was a night of broken glass shards strewn all around (Kristallnacht). From most eyewitness accounts, there was complete anarchy for three hours as a group of some 70 goons armed with pickaxes, iron rods and sticks went around the campus beating up faculty members and students cowering in their hostel rooms out of fear.

main_jnu-goons_india_011020114438.jpgMasked miscreants in JNU campus on the night of January 5, 2020. (Photo: India Today)

Downward spiral

The events of that night depict a particular dystopia for the youth of this country that is a combination of the familiar and the disturbingly unfamiliar. As far as the familiar is concerned, it is about the degeneration of the vast majority of our university campuses into dens of outright lumpenism, casteism, violence, and every other vice designed to prevent any possibilities of academic distinction.

It is a familiar scene straight out of the Anurag Kashyap movie Gulaal (2009), in which a provincial university campus is a den of murder, lethal campus battles, and an imbecile, anti-intellectual students’ union politics.

Many of us will be familiar with this. Despite the concerted demonisation of JNU as a waste of taxpayers’ money, anyone can honestly say that Gulaal was not JNU. The university would actually be better represented by the Mani Ratnam movie Yuva (2004).

There is the promise of progressive politics depicted in the movie in which Ajay Devgn plays the role of student leader Michael Mukherjee. 

The movie seems to be based on Presidency College in Kolkata. There is street fighting between students, but what prevails is a youthful idealism that ensures Devgn and three of his friends are successfully elected to the state Legislative Assembly. If Kanhaiya Kumar, the former JNUSU president, had been successfully elected to the Lok Sabha, then his entry into Parliament could have had striking parallels to the last scene in Yuva, when Devgn and his friends stride into the legislative chamber with their heads held high, rather than prostrate on the ground in a show of pretentious piety.

Diluting the soul

JNU has, over the last four years, under the tenure of current Vice-Chancellor Prof Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, been moved decisively away from the youthful idealism of Yuva to the bleakness of Gulaal. The current administration resorted to drastic seat cuts, has ended the time-tested JNU entrance examination that consisted mostly of subjective essay-type questions that gauged students’ analytical abilities and replaced this with a questionable multiple-choice format full of technical glitches, cleansed the walls of JNU by removing its famous posters, done everything to prevent the university’s famous public talks that happened in its numerous dining halls after dinner and stretched on late into the night.

main_jnu-vc_india-to_011020115303.jpgUnder the tenure of current VC Prof Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar JNU has decisively moved away from the youthful idealism of Yuva to the bleakness of Gulaal. (Photo: India Today)

The list of outrages goes on but needs to be capped with the most recent and incredible suggestion, at the end of the previous semester, that faculty members should conduct examinations by sending students questions on an email that would be returned by email or WhatsApp. Most faculty members and centres of study refused on the grounds of professional integrity to be a party to this farce of conducting exams.

Hard times

However, it is the unfamiliar part of the dystopia that is most frightening. This is the clear tendency of JNU and every other university in the country being reduced to dead spaces that zombie-like, accept and amplify the ruling establishment’s point of view, without even the slightest whiff of dissent. This is a road that we should not, repeat, must not go down. There are warning signals all over.

How long can we go on being blind, deaf and dumb? To quote Shakespeare: “Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.” We should, in the best tradition of our land, with each palm pressed against the other, plead with each other, not to take the path we are being led down.

Na samjhoge to mit jaoge ai Hindustan walon

Tumhari dastaan tak bhi na hogi dastaano mein

(If you do not understand even now, oh my country-people, your memory will be effaced

Your long-winding epics will no longer remain among the great stories of the world)

But is anyone listening in this enveloping darkness? There is still singing about the dark times. There is still light coming from a small diya lamp burning in JNU, in its famous emblem.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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


Amir Ali Amir Ali

Amir Ali is with the Centre for Political Studies, JNU. Earlier he taught at the Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, and was a visiting fellow at St. Antony's College, Oxford.

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