For those of us who have left the fiery days of university behind us, the past few days have brought back the privileges of campus life. The privileges of listening to the smartest men and women all day long. The vigour of debates. The rigour of argument. The sanctity of intellectual life. The comfort of being part of a larger discourse.
Clearly much of that in Jawaharlal Nehru University is sustained by the extraordinary people who are participating in the protest. Anyone with any humanity will be hardpressed to not get emotional by the rousing support the students, teachers and activists are extending to each other.
They are using the occasion to examine the idea of India, of nationalism, of patrotism.
As an exercise in broadening one's minds, I would urge everyone, especially the Union home ministry mandarins and BS Bassi's flock, to listen to these women.
They will find humour, sense, erudition, intelligence, and the most vital aspect of all - empathy.
The Teacher - Ayesha Kidwai
Professor at the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies at JNU’s Centre for Linguistics. This past week, she has been seen as the face of the JNUTA (JNU Teacher’s Association) voicing her solidarity with the students and protesting against the arrest of JNUSU president, Kanhaiya Kumar. Kidwai was member of the Saksham Committee that presented a report to the University Grants Commission regarding gender sensitisation in UGC affiliated colleges and has been vocal about her opposition to caste and gender discrimination and communal polarisation in university campuses.Here is Kidwai speaking on the behalf of JNUTA on the assault on the teachers at the Patiala House Court:
In her Facebook status, she writes with her trademark wit: "As teachers, we will not be intimidated by this attack on our academic freedom and will continue to teach and study with the critical, probing, questioning eye that our various disciplines hold in the highest regard. Big brother can watch us and we can only hope that he will go back better educated."
The Student - Shehla Rashid Shora
Shora became the first Kashmiri girl to win the student elections in the campus in September last year. Member of the left backed AISA (All India Students Association), Shora has been advocating for the rights of women and victims of acid attack in the Valley since a young age. She has also been vocal about issues of juvenile justice, freedom of speech and human rights. She has also strongly critiqued the Modi-led government for its policies of discrimination and is able to place the student rebellion in context of the larger struggle in the country.
In the absence of President Kanhaiya, Shora as the vice president of the JNUSU has been leading the student agitation.
Here is her stirring speech after Kanhaiya’s arrest:
The Political Scientist - Nivedita Menon
One of the leading feminist scholars in the country, Menon is the professor of Political Science at JNU. She has written widely about gender politics and her books, Recovering Subversion, Seeing Like a Feminist and papers have become a bible for those who study gender.
A commentator on socio political issues, Menon is perhaps one of the finest political thinkers in the country. Here is Menon addressing JNU students. “A nation does not predate its people. A nation is a daily plebiscite,” she says.
The Alumna - Kavita Krishnan
The last time Kavita Krishnan, former joint secretary of the JNU Students' Union and a politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, made headlines was when she accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of unleashing a campaign of stalking daughters through the "Selfie with daughters" initiative. In 1997, she joined a nationwide movement against the murder of a JNU student Chandra Shekhar Azad. She was also a key mobiliser of the anger against the December 2012 gangrape, inspiring men and women alike with her powerful words.
In the speech below, Kavita, who was denied a microphone by the administration, continued to address the students and spoke against the government’s attempts to stifle the voice of reason.