February 28, 2016

India: Excerpt from The Spring of 2016 and the Idea of JNU by Rajat Datta

Excerpt from The Spring of 2016 and the Idea of JNU by Rajat Datta in: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 51, Issue No. 9, 27 Feb, 2016

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Why RSS Hates JNU

This environment of discussion, debate, questioning and consensus has created a culture of organic liberalism in the campus. By organic liberalism, I mean a system of thought which premises itself on accommodation, acceptance, and argumentation and enables a deep respect of people and the pluralisms they embody. JNU’s model of organic liberalism has the potential to become a national discourse, and this is one reason why the present regime has wanted to crush it ever since its election in 2014. Dissent within the framework of a liberal discourse from a premier institution in the very heart of India’s power centre, which has the potential of spreading at the national level, would hit hard at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) cultural project being executed in the institutions of government. A state which gets scared of slogans in a gathering of students loses its moral legitimacy. It can only continue by force and intimidation.

Much has been written on the events of JNU over the past week or so. There is not much point in traversing this tired terrain, often of lies and misinformation, lies which are slowly beginning to unravel. Doctored visual footages have been peddled by some sections of the paid media as authentic. The union home minister tweeted about JNU’s links with Pakistani terrorists, only to be told that the original tweet from “Hafiz Saeed” came from a false handle. The viciousness of the state has been matched by the complicity of the university’s administration. Despite his denial, it is now publicly known that the police were given a carte blanche by the vice chancellor to enter the campus in order to search and seize, something which his compatriot in Jadavpur University has declined to do as a retaliation against his university students’ protest in support of JNU. I personally witnessed how the registrar of the university gave written orders to disconnect the sound system protesters were using on the evening of 13 February, ostensibly on the grounds of a Supreme Court ruling.

I also witnessed how within five minutes of this about 15 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) supporters managed to shout slogans and wave black flags at Rahul Gandhi, assault Anand Sharma and generally created a situation of confrontation. I saw how teachers formed a human chain around the gathering to prevent these students from achieving their nefarious designs, for this would have provoked other students leading to unimaginable consequences for them and for the future of the university. I admired the patience with which students behaved during this entire episode. Not one anti-ABVP slogan was raised by the gathering, no one heckled or tried to push them away. Announcers repeatedly requested the gathering to maintain dignity and decorum. Everyone sat and listened patiently to speakers, cheering them, and chanting pro-democracy slogans from time to time. All this happened when ABVP students were outnumbered 150 to 1 in the gathering. As expected in JNU, all of them went away without so much as a scratch.

By allowing the police to enter the campus the university administration subverted established institutional structures and has become complicit in a nefarious ideological agenda masked under the war cry of anti-nationalism. Students have been suspended and the president of the students’ union arrested on what are now increasingly appearing to be fabricated charges. A Muslim student is now being foisted as the new culprit. A canard is being spread that the due process of law is being hampered by the protesting students and teachers.

So, what is the ongoing agitation in JNU all about? And why as a member of the faculty am I wholeheartedly involved in it? For this, one has to unpack the intellectual content of the attack on JNU. By doing what it has done, this government has unequivocally demonstrated that what it wants to remove are not the so-called anti-nationalists among the students, for there are none, but the radical content of thinking in the university which is united in opposing Hindutva, a majoritarian and anti-minority view of Indian nationalism being propagated by the RSS, the ideological mentors of the ruling party. JNU is Hindutva’s last intellectual barrier.

As a member of the teachers’ association, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA), I can say that the faculty is standing in solidarity against the fabricated charge of sedition levied against students on the basis of morphed and tampered video tapes. We are with the students to protest against the disproportionate nature of the police action in the campus. We are also protesting against the action taken by the university against some students without due process being observed from the beginning. We are protesting against the violation of natural justice by the Indian state and the complicit university administration. At a deeper level, we are standing in support of radical social thought, and against jingoism masquerading as nationalism by rampaging mobs beating up teachers, students and journalists in full public view. We are uniting in the struggle against the oppression of the excluded, the minorities and the poor in the name of sedition. We are standing in defence of the principles of pluralism and the freedom of ideas and of expression guaranteed to us by our Constitution.

If one looks at the national from the local, we are standing to defend the idea of JNU as a national institution in order to defend the very idea of India as a nation.

If this is anti-national, then what is nationalism?

Our voices are being heard across the country and across the globe. This is the kernel of a new beginning.

If this is not an intellectual spring, then what is?

FULL TEXT AT at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/9/commentary/spring-2016-and-idea-jnu.html