Why ABVP is the only hope to remake JNU in the true nationalist spirit

University political culture is on decline and competitive radicalism has reduced protests to predictable rituals.

 |  5-minute read |   29-08-2017
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The month of September is critical for university campuses in India given the deadlines for student union elections subject to the recommendations of Lyngdoh committee. The best thing the Lyngdoh report has done is to strike a fine balance between "academic and activism" in our campuses which, for long, had been lost due to "political clientelism" and "administrative negligence ".

As we look forward to Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) elections 2017, it is time to reflect upon how "nationalist forces" have contributed to re-branding the JNU image over the last one year. The February 9 incident was no doubt a bad taste of history but since then campus politics has evolved over real students issues under the larger "nationalist narrative" with contributions from the student leadership, the JNU community and administration.

JNUSU elections are still a role model for other universities — money or muscle power plays no role and a culture of debate and discussion thrives.

The creeping sense of nationalism is at three different, but inter-related levels of student politics — social and academic engagements and administrative behaviour.

abvp-embed_022717115_082917051310.jpgJNUSU elections are still a role model for other universities — money or muscle power plays no role and a culture of debate and discussion thrives.

While the forces of nationalism led by Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have been focusing on real student issues with slogans such as "parishad ki yahi ladai campus placement cell aur WiFi" and "Viva na ho shat pratishat hamari maang das pratishat". The bigger question in JNU is "what is left for the Left in campus..." as their confrontational politics and running away from the JNUSU mandate makes is unappealing and unconvincing to new entrants.

An annual convener report of School of International Studies (SIS), led by a radical Left-leaning group speaks less of achievements and more of diversionary tactics. The same is true for other General Body Meetings (GBM) going around on campus.

The combined Left had to face moral defeat last year and as the campus shows, real defeat is most likely in the future. To quote one JNU professor, “University political culture is on decline and competitive radicalism has reduced protests to predictable rituals”. (Indian Express, Nov 6, 2016)

This stands true in case of ultra leftist organisations that have built an unwarranted narrative and protest politics in the name of events that celebrate attacks on CRPF camps that killed 72 Indian soldiers, mourn the deaths of Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon, support demands of secessionists in northeast India or mark Mahisasur Diwas and beef festival just to flare up campus politics based on the most dreadful of ideas.

Firstly, at the level of student politics, the so-called principle of left unity has failed to survive the rising nationalist force at JNU. The former's untruths come from their reducing strength and influence among student communities. On the other hand, nationalist forces are becoming well-engaged and popular on relevant student and campus issues.

During the 2017 JNU admissions, they registered the highest number of students for admission assistance. The renaming and renovation of the JNU library, the protest for lowering viva weightage, revision in quartile weightage, the active placement cell and hostel allotment are some very relevant issues on which ABVP has been on the forefront.

Moreover, the nationalist forces in JNU have found support owing to popular government decisions like scrapping of Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT), revision of research scholarships, maternity benefits to women research scholars, which aid the student community at large.

The announcement of Prime Minister’s Scholarship scheme (PMSS) to 1,000 best innovative minds and the grant of Rs 70,000 as monthly fellowship to 2,000 PhD scholars across IITs and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to encourage higher research and innovation are steps in the right direction.

Secondly, on the level of social and academic activities, the narrative has shifted from politics of appeasement, secession and divisiveness to more activism and public talks on a range of issues like national security, border management,

Indian diaspora, Act East policy, inclusive growth and economy, global governance reforms and counter terrorism as well as Indian schools of thought like integral humanism, decolonising Indian minds, cultural nationalism and universal brotherhood.

Nationalist associations like My Home India and World Organization of Students Youth (WOSY) have been able to create a favourable impression amongst northeast and international students.

Similarly, activities such as Swadeshi Movement, Vivekananda Vichar and programmes by Youth United for Vision and Action (YUWA) have found space on campus, with academic discussions on labour reforms, economic globalisation, GST issues, and Indian spiritualism.

Thirdly, the administration of JNU has also acted tough, and promptly, by containing irrelevant protest politics and unnecessary disruption by radical Left groups on campus. The disruption in academic council meetings has been dealt with by the rule of law and due adherence to service manuals has brought more conformity of university rules and regulations.

Given the situation, the Left is facing a credibility crisis on the JNU campus. Even the call for a united Left with no clear agenda does not captivate. The "political temperature" on campus is headed for a paradigm shift in terms of leadership and ideas in the coming JNUSU elections.

With the consolidation and rise of nationalist forces at JNU, the student community seems more likely to choose the politics of development and dialogue led by nationalist forces under the banner of ABVP in the JNUSU elections of September 8.

Of course, change is a gradual process and at times it is inevitable.

Also read: BJP member Shaina NC shames victim on Twitter and follows it with a lame ‘hacked account’ excuse


Abhishek Pratap Singh Abhishek Pratap Singh

Doctoral Candidate, Centre For East Asian Studies,JNU

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