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A self-goal

JNU’s students need to think again: Do they really want to fight for the right not to attend class?

By: Editorials | Published: February 13, 2018 1:19 am
Delhi govt to introduce happiness in schools JNU’s students have helped reimagine and reinvigorate dissent at a time when the ruling dispensation seeks unquestioning uniformit.

After a short hiatus, strikes, protests and human chains are back on campus at Jawaharlal Nehru University, which had gone to the barricades in the recent past over one of the biggest political issues thrown up in the tenure of this government — the definition of nationalism, and anti-nationalism. Now, left, right and centre have found common cause and uncommon provocation in an order enforcing a 75 per cent attendance record. JNU was certainly not created to teach some of India’s finest minds to punch the clock in an orderly fashion. But at the same time, those agitated on this issue must ask themselves: Is this an issue worth agitating for? In a country where there is a growing lag between demand and supply, where there are too few opportunities and seats for a demanding young population, can there be a right not to attend class? For a campus that, for a while, became the epicentre of the debate on nationalism and competing ideas of India, is this going to be the petty, new fight?

In many ways, JNU’s students have helped reimagine and reinvigorate dissent at a time when the ruling dispensation seeks unquestioning uniformity, borrowing slogans and memes from all over and leveraging the mass media and social media far better than many political parties can. Other campuses in Hyderabad, Kolkata and elsewhere learned from the agitation in JNU, which helped when they came under pressure. The university campus is traditionally the safe haven of dissent, and JNU has contributed, in the face of massive intimidation, to keep it that way. The campus continues to play host to a vibrant culture of argument and dissent, and stratagems like the public inquiry initiated in October by the JNU Teachers’ Association against vice chancellor Jagadesh Kumar, which included important charges like the dilution of criteria for selecting faculty.

The attendance issue, which has now come up, could only risk undermining the students’ cause in the war of attrition with an unyielding administration. By all accounts, the entire student body, including postgraduates, is incensed about the imposition of attendance rules. Time spent in classrooms is not the best measure of higher education, where individuality and, indeed, idiosyncracies become engines of creativity. But there is a question of scale. Students and teachers who have served at the front in bigger contests of political visions in recent years should keep their powder dry.

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  1. S
    Sumit Bose
    Feb 18, 2018 at 8:56 am
    A humble plea to the education authorities, please cancel the stipend ( allowence) reimbursed to these wayward rouges (30 years old yet masquerading as students) that have somehow cornered seats, are most disinclined to attain a serious education. If they continue to protest for their "azadi" NOT to attend lectures/tutorials should then be stripped of their studentship and students who are more motivated to attain a serious education.
    1. J
      Jamai Raja
      Feb 13, 2018 at 9:13 pm
      This article is written by someone who has not done research. Asking research scholars to turn up everyday, so to speak, to sign the register is madness. No ins ution requires that. It may be feasible when the scholar is doing Coursework. After that requiring attendance is being dumb. There is a Seminar in Hyderabad Univ., and there is a Nobel laureate coming to lecture, but because I am required to sign everyday I miss the lecture. This is crazy. I teach in DU, and I do PhD in JNU, and because I must sign everyday I miss taking classes. This is madness. Lectures in DU, Jamia, Ambedkar, IIT, IP Univ. etc. keep happening, and research scholars go here and there, depending on who is coming to speak on what. Many a times Seminar/Conference happens for days. This is a reality. Asking attendance for each day is not reasonable.
      1. S
        Feb 13, 2018 at 12:50 pm
        All the top rankings given to universities like JNU,JD etc are due to science/technology/management faculty/students achievements. Even toppers in UPSC exms from these universities are people with science/engineeering/medicine backf ground who take humanities subjects to beat the lazy dumb original social sciences leftist minded students in same exms! The problem, is from leftist type students/faculty in soicial sciences who are burden on society with no contribution. They are ythe ones liek kaniah,umar or rashid who stay on campus for decades to complete degrees requiring three - four years! Studying some african culture in JNU by likes of kaniah for whose use? These are trhe fellows who want to go to streets to other campus for disruption and are opposing this mandatory attendance. Dont mix good students of JNU who have no time for any agitation with this leftist f!lth who have noihing else to do and want to live off tax payers subsidy!
        1. M
          Feb 13, 2018 at 11:51 am
          Right to attend class? I am a PhD student and as of now I can't figure out what exactly administration wants me to attend and for what to sigh attendance every day? Give me classes and I will attend them and I will sing attendance. JNU administration should do some research as well about what research means for humanities and not only for IIT folks.
          1. YAGNESWARAN G
            Feb 13, 2018 at 11:27 am
            Debate and dissent to favour only Left and Congress politicians! Breeding and grooming ground for leftists and at the cost of tax payers money. Doctorates for seven to ten years with stipend! Should not be allowed.
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