The moment one enters the academic block of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), one is greeted by vibrantly coloured walls covered in political posters of various organisations from the Left to the Right. Soon, that may not be the case as the JNU administration has decided to do away with the posters, terming it “defacement”.
The move has not gone down well with the JNU Students’ Union. On Monday, there was “mass poster and banner making” in campus and on Tuesday, they will march through the campus sticking these posters on the walls as a mark of protest.
“The wall posters of JNU have always been a powerful expression of art, reminder of oppression and resistance across the world. The JNU administration is determined to destroy the thinking and dissenting spaces in the university and we are determined to reclaim it,” said JNUSU president N Sai Balaji.
The administration, meanwhile, has threatened action. P K Joshi, Director Swachh JNU, in a circular dated July 20, said: “It has come to the notice of the university administration that some students are planning to hold march across campus and stick posters on the walls of buildings. Attention of university’s campus residents is invited to circulars dated 10.06.2019 and 01.07.2019 issued by the Director Swachh JNU wherein all concerned had been called to strictly abide by the provision of Delhi Defacement of Property Act, 2007 and JNU executive council decision taken in its meeting dated 13.03.2018. Therefore, any person found violating above instructions shall render themselves liable for action/penalty in terms of the Act and university rules.”
Former student union office bearers have also hit out at the move stating that the wall posters are intrinsic to JNU’s culture and a part of the university’s ethos. The faces of Karl Marx, Periyar, Ambedkar and Lenin have always greeted visitors, they said.
CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat, who was the JNUSU president in 1973-74, said wall posters have been a part of JNU from the 1970s, soon after it was established. “This is yet another attack on democratic rights and freedom of expression on campus. Posters and wall writing have always been a unique form of student politics in JNU since the inception of the university,” he said.
Mona Das, who was the JNUSU president from 2004-2006, said wall posters could not be considered “defacement”. “It was always part of JNU student life and it’s what made the campus vibrant. We would make posters and stick them in July, just when new students are about to join. We also had poster workshops. They were about political education; highlighting issues in a creative way. It cannot be considered defacement at all,” she said.