Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have understood the message that the university is a place for a free exchange of ideas but it cannot be used for activities that are ‘anti-national’ or against the ‘interest of the nation’s sovereignty’, its chancellor V K Saraswat has said.
Saraswat, who is also a member of NITI Aayog, further said that in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), people have enough freedom to exercise their thinking processes and they are very vigilant about what is happening in India and globally. “It is a free-thinking society there. So, you will find a lot of contradictory thought processes, and a lot of contradictory ideologies, which people will nurture. So at times, there was a clash of ideologies, that is why you used to hear that there are problems,” he told PTI.
In recent years, the university has witnessed several instances of violence involving Left-affiliated student outfits and RSS’ student body Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). In April this year, two groups of students clashed at the varsity’s Kaveri Hostel allegedly over the serving of non-vegetarian food on Ram Navami in the mess.
“But we have now given total shape to this that you (students) have the freedom to express yourself, except that any activity which is anti-national, any activity which is against the interest of the nation’s sovereignty, such things should be dissuaded.
“And that message has been delivered to all concerned. I think, by and large, people have understood,” Saraswat said.
He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic also helped to a large extent because people started working from home and then they realised that the ecosystem of JNU is required for them to be more creative and productive rather than sitting at home.
“And, hence you see some positive outcomes,” Saraswat added.
Several JNU students and alumni, including Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, were arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for their alleged involvement in the 2020 Delhi riots conspiracy case.
Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita were later released on bail while Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam are still in jail.
Kanhaiya Kumar and Khalid, who were then studying at JNU, were arrested by the Delhi Police for their alleged involvement in the sedition case in 2016 over a campus protest. They were later released on bail. Kumar is now in the Congress party.
On January 5, 2020, a mob of masked men stormed the campus and targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods, hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings.
At least 28 people, including JNU Students’ Union president Aishe Ghosh, were injured as chaos reigned on the campus for nearly two hours.