JNU: Attack and Resistance – Analysis
In recent months, university campuses have become the nerve centers of democratic political life and in the scenes of resistance against authoritarianism and brutal police repression. The horrific events that crumbled on the jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus on Sunday night were part of this, but they also showed some important differences.
This time, it was not the uniformed policemen who entered the JNU to unleash an assault, but “masked” majones wielding sides and iron bars who carried out a well-planned, directed, rapid and brutal attack on students and teachers . Police, who have arrested students protesting by hundreds of people in recent weeks, have shown their complicity in violence over their inaction, without intercepting or arresting a single assailant. The university administration, which has rushed to take punitive action against minor acts of peaceful protest by students and professors, issued statements that misrepresented the events and did not even mention the entry of armed groups on campus.
This is the situation in which JNU is today: the structures that have been designed to protect the life of this academic institution have turned against its community of students and teachers. The university’s administration, the state police force and the groups trained for violence by the ruling party appear to be part of this destructive campaign.
JNU students have been agitating over the past two months against a sharp and arbitrary rise in hostel fees emerged in them mid-semester, which threatened to make staying in college unviable for many. What was surprising about this turmoil has been the intense participation of a large number of students who often do not play an active role in student organizations and campus policy. The rate hike, because of its obvious injustice, seems to have touched something profound in the moral sensitivity of students, linking it to the vital issue of affordable public education in India.
Perhaps it wasn’t just the rate increase that provoked this intense response. She was also the highest of the university administration, which in the last four years since the current vice-chancellor was appointed, has refused to work as part of the university community, resorting to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions and punitive measures, rather than consultation and collective decision-making. The recent crisis around student registration for the new semester must be seen in this context. Management has dealt with this through denial and painting a false picture of the situation.
The introduction of on-campus violence was seen in recent days as a new tool for dealing with student protests. Protesting students have been alleging physical assaults by security guards and students of Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), supported in some cases by some teachers. Images and videos show this violence, which, in some cases, has implicated teachers who physically threaten teachers who have insisted on resolving the current crisis through dialogue.
This wave of violence culminated in Sunday’s brutal attack by a gang organized with lathis and iron bars at a major meeting on peace and democracy organized by the UNJ Teachers’ Association, in which several teachers and students resu They were seriously injured. They moved to some shelters and teacher residences to attack. Several students and teachers have been seriously injured in this attack and about 20 people had to be hospitalized. This was followed by the mobilization of crowds at the front door of the university shouting aggressive and bloodthirsty slogans at the JNU community, and lashing out people who do not share their views. The non-violent unity and determination of students and teachers in the face of this aggression, and the support they received from the city’s academic community and civil society, eventually forced the raccoons to leave and the hostile crowd to retreat from the door. The administration’s alleged collusion with the violence has made the campus unsafe for academic work.
Clearly, what is at issue in Sunday’s violence is neither the fee rise nor the registration for the new semester. This is a planned attack on the vital role students have played in recent protests against the violent and undemocratic agenda of the government and the ruling party. We have seen this in Jamia Millia, Aligarh Muslim University, Jadavpur University and several other campuses. The students, pushed to the edge of the abyss by an unprecedented sense of oppression and the government of lies and hatred, have taken a firm stance of rejection and created a new policy unforeseen by the ruling political calculation. Terms like “antinational” no longer seem to do hate work effectively. Students are now recovering the national flag and national anthem of divisive politics, not as the state’s insignia, but as symbols of freedom and resistance. The Constitution has acquired new political importance.
What we saw in recent violence is a desperate despair of all the books of rules and pretensions, and an attempt to destroy the spirit of resistance through violent physical force in all its ugly nudity. Students have nothing to do with clashes at JNU and other campuses.
Atul Sood and Udaya Kumar are professors at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Regional Development Study Center and the Center for English Studies, respectively.
The opinions expressed are personal.