Protests, slogans, lectures and night vigils are not new to JNU. But the need to document such moments — which are often an integral part of a JNU student’s life on campus — is new.
After the arrest of three JNU students over an event on campus, and the surfacing of allegedly doctored speeches of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, the student community here took it upon themselves to become rapporteurs. They wanted to narrate their side of the story and build a counter-narrative.“We had to present our narrative,” said final year PhD student Subin Dennis.
He, along with other students, is in charge of posting content on the @standwithjnu Twitter handle and the movement’s Facebook page. “We had to take our story to the people. Who else would speak for us,” he asked.
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The ‘Stand With JNU’ campaign began shortly after Kumar’s arrest on February 12. “We took Kanhaiya’s speeches and put it out. Initially, it was just to put information out there, then it was about gathering support through social media,” he said. The ‘StandWithJNU’ handle on Twitter has over 3,000 followers, its Facebook page has over 43,000 likes and its YouTube channel has over 6,000 subscribers.
There are several groups involved in documenting events that take place on campus. A group of students with the YouTube channel ‘We are JNU’ have also been posting content from the university across social media. For them, this began as an effort to complete the JNU story. “News channels were taking JNU videos and using extracts of speeches to portray the story as they felt right. What we wanted to do was post raw, unedited videos to show the merit of an argument and not just a single sentence used to back a pre-decided notion,” said Sumya Mani Tripathi, a M Phil student at JNU.
There is no expensive equipment involved in telling this story. Handycams, point-and-shoot cameras and mobile phones are used to capture speeches, protests and lectures, which are then shared on social media. “It does not cost anything, apart from the Internet charges,” said PhD scholar Siddharth Chakrabarti.
Some students, not associated with any groups, have also been documenting events on campus and sharing that information. What started as an allegation against some individuals very quickly became an attack on an entire institution, and they wanted to respond to that.
“We live in times of digital technology and in this information age, an event of this magnitude can’t not be archived,” said a student.