JNU is preparing to welcome a new batch of enthusiastic and inquisitive young minds from different parts of the country and the world. But what would a small group of obscurantists within the university promise them? For the last one and half years, since February 2016, they have been unsuccessfully — yet adamantly — trying to impede the academic and administrative functioning of the university. It’s a different matter though that the university has achieved the distinction of being the best in the country despite this small group of teachers and students constantly working against it. Will this goup promise the incoming students that they will not obstruct classes, let the university’s administration function, and not try to turn the campus into repetitive spectacles of political protests?
JNU has always been, and still remains, one of the few universities in the world that sets no limits on free debates. It respects diverse points of view on any subject of local, national or international importance. But it is the responsibility of everyone, and not just the JNU administration, that such an ambiance prevails in the university. A minuscule number of teachers and students cannot hold the campus to ransom and destroy the university’s ethos. It doesn’t require many voices to disturb the order of things, particularly when a section of the media seeks to benefit by creating news of sectarianism in Indian society. It’s quite realistic to assume that such media organisations would continue to smell news in the disruptive activities of this group of teachers and students. They would be keen to project these activities as the manifestation of a conflict between political ideologies. By blackmailing the administration to toe their line or forcing the academic schools to shutdown or invading the administrative block, this small group of teachers and students are going against the very idea of the university they preach — free dialogue and tolerance of differences. When opposition to the administration becomes routine, mechanical and pedestrian, and originates from hatred, malice and prejudice, deliberation gives way to the bigotry of a few obscurantist academicians and students.
The objective of a debate is to reach truth and justice through the path of divergent opinions. What happens when forcing one’s opinion upon the university — and not aiming to attain objectives collectively — becomes the objective? Every Academic Council meeting, slated to take crucial decisions affecting the interests of the students and the teachers at large, ends up becoming a spectacle designed for the media. Selective recording of events contributes to create a drama of strife that fits into the ideological structure of a handful of so-called scholars of eminence. It is, therefore, fallacious to suggest that a middle ground could be explored. A middle ground is advocated as a way between two extreme positions. In the university, on the contrary, and ironically, there is only one extreme that is hell bent on defying all rules and norms. The frustration at the weakening of their position makes them utterly disrespectful of the JNU administration. Their conduct turns unabashedly malicious and vengeful.
If they support the democratisation of the university space, this group should welcome the administration’s effort to take every opinion on board before reaching at a decision in meetings. One wonders what infuriates them and leads them to create mayhem? Is it a worry that a larger section of the academic community, if heard, would distance itself from their absolutist standpoints? One wonders what inspires them to resort to name calling in bodies such as the Academic Council. As the new session begins, one only hopes that all of us, including this motley group of eminent scholars and students, would realise our role in ensuring that the students, including those coming from the marginalised sections, get the best from the university. This can only be achieved by letting the university function smoothly.