Destruction of JNU


      Everything that reminds people of Nehru’s legacy is being smashed.Along with it the ideas of democracy and all-round development he espoused so tenaciously. Now there is no need to put him on a pedestal and burn incense to his memory.He had his faults,but he had been practically the founder of modern Indian democracy as we know it today. First the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library went under the block,on the farcical plea that other PMs also need commemoration.Few sane minds would doubt that he towered above them all.Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s glowing eulogy marked by deep grief and sense of loss at his death could be cited to support it.

Archives of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is a rich storehouse of most precious documents and books.God knows whether they are being allowed to decay and perish,and whether they have been airbrushed to clean out inconvenient facts.The scholars should have burst into a chorus and also petitioned SC for ascertaining  the present state of such a precious heritage.If damaged or lost it will be no less than  a grievous national calamity.

When the first incident leading to the arraignment of Kanhaya Kumar took place with the sober Rajnath Singh then Home Minister suddenly shrieking “Sedition!”, I had written clearly and openly that it was no one-off ruckus but only the first attack in a planned campaign to destroy JNU, in a popular Assamese daily with a circulation of above one lakh then.(Asomiya Protidin,December,2016)It is now conspicuous with most of what the JNU stood for under the hammer,or already toppled and carted away.

The last Vice Chancellor had no appreciation of this heritage.He acted as the hatchet-man at the bidding of the present rulers at the centre.The Act by which JNU had been created was defied at will bypassing statutory bodies,commandeering selection of staff and imposing arbitrary decisions violating the spirit of this institution, according to details reported in the press.Soon he cheerfully presided over a scene littered with ruins.

Reportedly there were also blatant irregularities in selection and promotion of faculty,and adherence to a certain bias became the most important qualification above merit and service record.The faculty went to court over these grave aberrations,and up till now courts have sleeped over it,again going by press reports.Law’s delay has deplorably compounded the woes of the university.

What did it stand for?It stood for a free flow and exchange of ideas from different quarters,stimulating  creative ideas in every discipline and innovative educational methods.It supported and sought to reflect the diversity of culture in the country.Most interestingly, along with promoting quality higher education it was also committed  to reaching out to the most backward sections and poorer classes and bringing promising students into its fold.It upheld ideas of social progress and equitable development.The faculty included people holding widely different views,from Marxists to supporters of liberal capitalism,left radicals to believers in the value of native Indian tradition.

This is not to say that there were no lapses or failures.Rigidities had begun to emerge and standards were not the same in all departments.But these days Vice Chancellors are appointed not to mend those faults and remove the blocks from further development,but to lay down the saffron agenda to wash the campus of all allegedly ‘anti-national'(read ‘anti-bigotry’) elements and wash the minds of students clean of all the essential elements of the university’s foundational ideas.

The appointment of the present Vice-Chancellor has also been clouded by similar doubts.Though appointment of a woman in a premier institution should be a welcome step,her most prominent qualification according to documented reports in the online media appears to be whole-hearted fervent  support to the toxic programmes of Hindutva.If correct, this will only be the last nail on the coffin of a great idea.

There should be more and serious public mobilization against this terrible onslaught.Just as bad as or may be worse than the displacement of a symbolic flame and with more lasting damage.

The courts have been burdened with mountaneous accumulation of petitions on the wrongs perpetrated by the state,and it is naturally worried by the possibility of over-reaching limits of  their constitutional powers.But these are critical times with the very foundations and structure of the constitution are in peril.A few judges have acted with undaunted rectitude and spirit while keeping within their allotted territory.More such  courage and firmness are in order in these desperate times unless we are to plunge into unrelieved gloom. The press and the online platforms also should highlight the implications of such reckless  state policy and action.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator




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