Siege of JNU


During a protest against the fee hike near the JNU campus on November 18.

The recent increase in hostel and mess charges in JNU and the unprecedented use of force against protesting students form part of the BJP-led Central government’s plan to make higher education unaffordable for the poor and to destroy the liberal ethos of society.

FOR the Sangh Parivar, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is a bastion of left intellectualism in the country. While the university and its students may not have any power compared with the might of the Hindu nationalist state led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), it is a beacon of resistance that is consistently anti-authoritarian in its praxis.

While the BJP has made no attempts to crush the armed left-wing extremists that command some following in the Indian hinterland, the party, since assuming power in 2014, has created bogeymen out of “urban naxals” and those it claims are anti-national. JNU students, who with their radical vocabulary in speeches and pamphlets call out the fascist Hindu Rashtra as such, are demonised as one of the prime enemies of the state. Through televised programmes, JNU students have been embedded in the minds of the middle-class voters of the BJP as obstacles in the path to a glorious Hindu Rashtra.

Terming the branding of JNU as a fountainhead of left ideology complete “nonsense”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury told Frontline that it was nothing but propaganda. “If JNU nurtures only left ideology, then explain to me why the largest number of IAS, IPS and IFS officers are from JNU? Why is it that in this Ministry there are two former students of JNU holding two very important portfolios?” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar are both JNU alumni. There is no area of social activity in India where somebody from JNU cannot be found. Calling them nation builders, Yechury said that every single student who was socially conscious and emerged from JNU went on to become a builder of society.

The attack on JNU is not an isolated case, and other institutes, including the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, Hyderabad Central University, Jadavpur University in Kolkata, Delhi University, Panjab University in Chandigarh, Allahabad University, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in Varanasi, Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, Aligarh Muslim University, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), have been under concerted attack since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. JNU was being singled out for the political optics of the government because it represented the leading voice of upholding reason and rationality, Yechury said.

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