When Delhi was chilling on 5th January 2020, JNU was shivering and suffocating with hate speeches and toxified with the never-ending propaganda. One year has passed but still no FIR registered and none investigated against the goon’s violence subjugating the idea of justice, liberty and fraternity.

The level of hatred expanded gradually and affected everyone, sparing few ‘nationalists’ who dare not speak against the ruling government and propagandist. Jawaharlal Nehru University, situated in Delhi, labelled as ‘anti-national’ by the nationalist media house and conscience-keeper of the nation, could not escape this toxicity ever since BJP got into ‘power’ and creating turmoil and violence all over. It is disheartening and stressful facing as a student and more than that belonging to this as a citizen.

JNU had a history of raising voices against wrong, representing the voices of students and the local people. But, this time, with a massive support and victory in Lok Sabha election, BJP weaponised itself shutting down voices of those against them, be it the opposition or India’s citizens.

As a scholar, I made it to JNU in 2015, and a few months later, authoritarian VC (currently in power) was appointed, or say ‘imposed’ by the central government. JNU’s prestige has a golden history, but an extremist like the highly respected VC destroying the essence within a few years, witnessing drafting changes drawing the similar analogy of contemporary India.

PhD scholar Anwesha (name changed to secure identity) stated ‘since January 2016, JNU students were assaulted both physically and mentally, be it attendance issue, fees hike, favouritism in recruitment, shutting down debate spaces, fund cut, mob attack by goons, etc. Nonetheless, the rest of the needful was done by social media in accelerating the pace of hatred amongst non-JNUites.’ These strategic attacks have turned upside down the whole foundation of this esteemed university.

The inclusiveness in torture held in university premises holds for ‘all’, be it students, faculty, their families, contract workers, mess staff, sanitary workers, name it they have it. ‘Within the wall of JNU, not only students are sufferings from the fees hike and draconian rules but also the faculty have hues and cries over this toxicity’ Anurag (PhD scholar) said it. The manner in which, his draconian rule put through very strategically with probable support of central government and his ideological inclinations, has drastically changed this campus’s outline and learning environment.

For instance, JNU’s graffiti is one of the teaching tools. It was a depiction of discrimination, the violation of human rights, exploitation and the importance of education, being aware, vocal (local to vocal) and vigilant on the other side. The wall speaks truth with renowned scholar idea, but they destroyed the message in the name of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ though they just wiped it and never cleaned and re-painted the wall again and messed it. These people had to clean their minds and understand that who have bad intentions; they could not update their ideology poisoning their mind.

They are creating such toxicity for a given targeted group. Hence, JNUites started to move far away for their future, their children. This poison has affected not alone students, but the professors, their children. Asst. professor Dr. Aaisha has spoken,  ‘In today’s picture, parents, here faculties are pretty scared when their children get to see police at every nook and corner of this campus, they hear about such vicious attacks from their friends or would have witnessed it themselves, and the impact all of it lays upon such fragile mind could turn up disastrous.

She added ‘It is not just a day’s impact; the child bears it throughout his/her life. Withdraw from a social gathering, limiting the outdoor timings, silently being engaged in studies are some symptoms when a child seems to be affected. I would say, it not the person that is being attacked, in fact, their whole conscience, the psyche, their emotions, thoughts, and creating a fear’.

The VC has the strategically tarnished this university’s reputation, the rest of the action is strengthened by Godi media[i] in penetrating fear among citizens, and hatred against the university. Things are damaging our conscience and reshaping social behaviour. How long can a person restraint if the state and the power are constantly acting against you? These series of events break you down. Consequently, many faculties and students made their minds shift from JNU to elsewhere, and who had opportunities they moved, who had not, moved and decided to live outside the campus. If not, at least they are thinking to do.

Moreover, observing the restricted movement during coronavirus pandemic, the JNU’s VC took it as an advantage and accelerated his work like camera installation in hostels; privatising the JNU’s property and unnecessary beautification. For a student, scholarship, infrastructure facilities and a three time meal are more worthy and essential in caparison to unnecessary beautification of roads and statues.

Attack on university had not happened before, even during an emergency, but now, a series of attacks on university had proved that a country’s situation has beyond it. For instances, 12th December 2019 on Jamia Milia Islamia, 15th December 2019 Aligarh Muslim University, and 5th January 2020 Jawaharlal Nehru University was the breakdown of the idea of a university. It did not happen in a day.

The rock solid foundation, being targeted for a long-long time, was shook within few years of this authoritarian rule, deteriorating its entire founding essence. This has long term impacted socially, physically and mentally life of students, citizen of the country and its entire heritage.

The institutional targeting is a reality now, happening in this country, disturbing the very idea of a university—the university where people are given space to broaden their thought process, critically think, form an opinion, and feel free to enrich the space with views to forming debate. For now, this ‘space’ has lost its quality, the space to debate is shutdown; space to freely express (Freedom Square) is decorated with flower pots, statue and administrative laws; space to study is a space to quarrel; critical thinking is replaced by extremist slogans; leaving no room for a person to feel free. The university is no freer. Can we pinpoint the pollutant within the wall? Is it the ideological conflict of main stream politics?

Istikhar Ali, pursuing PhD at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Currently, I am working on Marginalization and Health-related issues in India.

[i] Godi-media or Lapdog-media, in English, is a pejorative term coined and popularized by Ravish Kumar.


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