Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit, an alumna of the university, Tuesday said that while she loves JNU as it is “the best university in the country”, she dislikes that it is a “delusion” – a place where freedom is understood as a lack of responsibilities and “everything is free”. She also said there should be no “hatred” for different ideologies in JNU.
In an interview with The Indian Express, asked what are the two things she does not like about JNU or wishes to change, Pandit said, “The two things I don’t like is, it is a delusion. Students think everything is free… When they go out, some of them psychologically get affected and they don’t want to leave JNU. Because the world is not like that… And we don’t make them realistic. We think everything is like JNU. You can walk around in shorts, you can wear any clothes, nobody bothers here. But that’s not the way the outside world is. Or even with freedom, they think whatever you do, no (police) case will be put against you.”
“And the other is, I think hatred should not be there. Have your ideologies, have your viewpoint but don’t hate. Hatred is something which is so negative, and I think because we are on taxpayers’ money and there are a lot of people who write ‘close JNU’, there’s a lot of animosity after the unfortunate incidents that took place during the last administration. I think the students also should understand that this is a phase of life. Live it, enjoy it and go out and do well like we did in our time. Don’t do something that will hurt you because you’re breaking your own leg, hitting yourself,” she added.
However, Pandit said JNU was the “best university in the country” and it opened up a world to her that “I never knew existed”. She also said JNU has “the best of professors that are committed”.
“I want that to continue. Ideologically, we may disagree. But as human beings we can agree to disagree and still stay together as a JNU community, epistemic community, knowledge community, working for the country,” she said.
Asked about the recent violence on campus during Ram Navami, Pandit said the administration had “no idea what the trigger was” and that a proctorial inquiry was looking into the matter. The Registrar earlier in a statement had said the “scuffle” had begun after some students objected to the holding of a havan.
“Basically after that initial violence, different interpretations are coming. Unfortunately, we don’t have cameras because it was broken by students within the hostels where it took place. Please understand that the Iftar party was going on for 10 days. Only one day, they wanted to do Ram Navami thing. So we don’t know what is the trigger,” she said.
Asked about the Registrar suggesting the trigger was the holding of havan, she said, “That is also true… There are versions, and we cannot take one side right?”
On the allegations that non-vegetarian food was not being allowed to be served on Ram Navami at the Kaveri Hostel, she said the “administration has no policy on who should eat what or who should wear what” and that people’s individual rights were respected.
Pandit also said she wants to change the image of JNU as an anti-national place. “I think it’s all right for a catchword, but in reality, I will tell you 90 per cent of the students are apolitical. They’ve come here to make a career and any such negative branding will affect them also to go out… Every university has a lunatic fringe and JNU is no different from others.”
She said dissent was “vital” and that Lord Buddha was “the first dissenter”. “We are a civilisation that celebrates dissent because from it creativity comes out. And something better can come out. But without being violent, that’s all we are saying,” she said.
With multiple complaints against security company Cyclops, especially with regard to thefts in faculty homes, Pandit said the company would be changed.
“We’re changing the security because we have realised that there are issues about the security on the campus… We are going to advertise and take the best. There have been thefts also, and there have been many, many issues. And last time, I was told that it was not done through a proper tendering process. So we are working as per government rules,” she said.
Pandit said all hostels will be “modernised” after the university received Rs 57 crore for maintenance and repairs from the Ministry, and that it would be done so without “touching the fee structure”.