Partial disclosure: I studied sociology in JNU for six years.
I voted for the All India Students Association candidates in the JNUSU elections. Every time. All the time. Trust me, I’m not anti-national. My university deserves to be nurtured. I don’t hold a brief for my alma mater. That is not me and I don’t do that. Facts are more important than feelings. My university taught me. A university that deserves to be owned and supported. By the state, the government, the market and civil society. Here is why. Here are the reasons.
One, JNU has never been a waste of this nation’s limited resources. It has been a value-for-money endeavour right from the beginning. No riders. No ifs and buts. Yes, preparing for the civil services examination is a priority for a sizeable percentage of students who get admission there. Yes, most students spend a considerable part of their waking hours participating in political activities. Yes, there is too much sloganeering out there. But, Arnab, my dear friend, what do you expect a university to be? A money-making enterprise? Like the business projects financed by NPA-laden public-sector banks and promoted by the likes of Vijay Mallya? JNU has always been one of the top two universities in the social sciences and one of the top five in the physical sciences in India. Both in the private and public sectors. Regarding its standing amongst world universities, the issue is not lack of quality in academic research in JNU. The issue is much bigger. What is the quality of India’s R&D? What is the number of patents registered in the names of the stalwarts of India’s Brahman-Shravana research establishment in the private and public sectors? You know the answers.
What is the contribution of the university to India’s nation-building, you ask. Immense. Period. A university is not a parade ground. It is an incubation bowl. It is not about the bottom-line. It is about the aspiration-horizon. It is not worried about the market. It is concerned about the political economy of the project of state-building. State-building, I say. Not mere government-running.
Two, JNU has never been a platform for anti-India student leaders and their followers to hijack the educational space to promote their divisive agenda. I was there for six years. I should know. My professors and fellow students. True, there have been stray incidents of some students celebrating Maoist attacks on the police in Naxal-infested areas. True, some students have shouted slogans and carried posters supporting the causes of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. True, some student organisations are sympathetic to the causes of groups that are at war with the government of the day.
But Arnab, are we supposed to hold the entire university responsible for the activities of a few students who celebrate the deaths of policemen? Doesn’t your news channel differentiate between the death of an army soldier and that of a policeman? How many policemen got decorated with medals when they died undertaking rescue operations during natural disasters in the last five years?
Year after year, the issues of J&K and the Northeast have been close to the hearts of the JNU student community. Students with diametrically opposite ideas and ideologies. With unbelievable energy and unshakeable intentions. Does this fact make them anti-national as a matter of definition? As a matter of first principle? As a matter of divine imputation? No, Arnab, no. Name a place where an Indian prime minister goes to address a public rally and says that his government will do everything possible “insaniyat ke dayre mein” to wipe people’s tears. Atal Bihari Vajpayee said that to the masses in Srinagar. This phrase has changed the political discourse of our times. People are suffering in Kashmir, Arnab. They are suffering in the Northeast. When it comes to the causes behind their suffering of generations, and the broad policymaking contours of what the governments of the day should do, the students may not agree with you. Does the very act of highlighting the issues of J&K and the Northeast make the students and their leaders anti-national?
Three, JNU is not a communist bastion. Not a breeding ground for leftist organisations that do not believe in the idea of India. JNU has always been a home for all shades of ideas. The student community is as diverse as the subcontinent. Their ideologies are diverse. Their political plumage as colourful. The Brahman-Shravana RSS shakhas have been active in the university since the 1980s. You need to visit the campus to see how energetic they are. Not long ago, in 2001, the JNUSU had a president who belonged to the rightwing ABVP.
The students in JNU are as worried about India’s future as you and I. No leftist group has ever wanted the state to go away. They have been having problems with the gov-ernments of the day. That is a different point. From the leftist point of view, the
legitimacy of the “ideological state apparatus” is always to be interrogated. Some groups take public positions about wresting power from the ruling elite. But nothing like overthrowing Parliament.
Remember Comrade Chandrashekhar? He was our president when I was a student there. He was voted in twice as our leader. Of Aisa. Of Siwan. Of old-world idealism. A beautiful human being. A sweetheart. The most innocent pair of eyes I have seen in my life. He was killed. In 1997. Within two years of leaving the president’s chair. Shot dead in broad daylight. At a public meeting. Do you know the name of the venue? Jai Prakash Chowk. Was he not a patriot? Did he not love this nation? Was he a lazy slogan-shouting student leader?
Arnab, my dear friend, some students allegedly shouted anti-India slogans. Allegedly. This is the operative part. There is the law and there is the criminal justice system. The police, the evidence and the court. Why waste so many working days of so many sane people to blacken the name of my university? Nationalism is not a marketing tool. To be used by news channels chasing TRPs. To be used by political parties to prove their worth. To be used by some retired army generals who find every perceived slight as a nail to be banged on its head by an attractive and all-knowing hammer called patriotism.
Full disclosure: I’m not a communist. Never have been. I love my Nusrat Sa’ab. I love my Steve Jobs. I love my perfume bottles.
My university is yours too. It is ours. It is a part of the idea of India as a nation. A beautiful part. But a part apart. And a part apart. Arnab, my friend, it hurts. Please don’t speak ill of JNU. Don’t think ill of JNU. It hurts immensely. Comrade Chandrashekhar was Chandu for me. I was so privileged. Please don’t take away this privilege. Don’t hurt his memories. God bless you and your news channel and your co-investors.