On January 5, a masked mob stormed the JNU campus and attacked students and teachers with weapons injuring more than 30. Opposition parties, JNUSU and injured students have blamed Sunday's violence on student organization, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad which is linked to the RSS. Subsequently, university students have been protesting across India to oppose the JNU violence even as the government has started making efforts to reach out to the agitating students to diffuse the situation.
Anju Grover for Indian Currents spoke to JNU professor CP Chandrashekhar about JNU violence, subsequent developments and its implications.
Professor Chandrashekhar who has been closely watching the developments in the JNU is upset with the conduct of Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar in handling fee hike issue. Prof. Chandrasekhar, who lives in the JNU campus, said that after Sunday’s violence, he has lost faith in the government. He has quit the government panel set up to review India’s economic statistical data because he did not “trust the government to come up with a robust and transparent plan to restore the credibility of the statistical system which has been undermined in the recent past”.
IC: Your reaction to violence in JNU? What is the message for other universities in the country?
CP Chandrashekhar: There were multiple agendas. JNU students were protesting against fee hike while students of Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University were protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The fee hike is part of an agenda under which central/public universities would not be funded by the state and hence universities should rely on loans. They would saffronise the universities. The presence of right-wing organisations and individuals with right-wing affiliations in student unions and teachers' association lead to suppression of dissent and opposition. Also, there is a move to terrorise ordinary student. It is clear now that students who were earlier not political have been politicised. The attempt is to frighten students who are not affiliated to any organisation, from voicing their dissent.
IC: Is it not true that JNU has become a hub of left-oriented politics?
Historically speaking, student politics in JNU was dominated significantly by the left. NSUI and ABVP fight elections in JNU. The vote share of combined left parties has gone down.
IC: Delhi Police has come under fire after the JNU rampage. Your comments.
On Jan 5, the police had received information that something was brewing up in JNU campus. The police's line of defence was that unless VC asked them to come inside the university campus, they did not enter. Now it has emerged that VC had also informed the police about the possibility of trouble in JNU. The police were outside the campus. When the violence erupted, people were coming in through all the gates. If the police were around, they should have seen them enter the campus.
IC: How do you see the role of Vice-Chancellor in dealing with fee hike issue?
An agreement had been worked out between the JNUSU and teachers association and HRD ministry that fee hike will be there but service and utility charges would be borne by the University Grants Commission. There was also a talk about the semester and other issues. However, the administration decided to conduct examinations through WhatsApp and Email. The VC was not implementing the agreement that was signed by HRD Ministry with JNUSU and JNUTA. So it is evident that MHRD was ready to settle it. Education Secretary stood for implementation of the agreement.
IC: Would you suggest that he is a villain in the fee hike and violence in the University?
Obviously, he cannot do what he was doing without having strong support. He was doing things in a way which were not acceptable. He won't talk to students and did not meet injured students in the hospital. He continued to do what he wanted to because of the tacit support.
IC: Former HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi has demanded removal of VC to normalise the situation in JNU. Do you think the government will ask him to resign?
I can't say anything. In the first place, one would have never expected things to go this far.
IC: JNUSU is adamant on removal of VC. Do you think it will resolve the problem?
It is absolutely necessary to remove him. Also, much more has to be done to bring normalcy in the JNU.
IC: Bollywood star Deepika Padukone's visit to the JNU to express solidarity with the students, who were attacked by the mob, but not addressing the crowd was a testimony to a fundamental shift in the relationship between the film industry and society at large. Your views.
There are so many people from Bollywood who have come out and supported agitating students. Either the fear has reduced because of structural change in the industry or people (actors and actresses) are willing to express their viewpoint.
IC: Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu recently said that politics should not be allowed to enter educational institutions including universities in the country. Your views.
Is he going to ask for a ban on ABVP? Do you think ABVP was not doing politics in universities?
IC: Higher education is indeed a costly affair? Do you think higher education should be subsidized?
I believe that public education should be free.
IC: Where are universities like JNU headed to?
It is heartening that there are people fighting to restore peace and standing up against those who are trying to destroy these institutions by indulging in violence. What is most heartening is the number of young people who would have otherwise gone on with their lives, supporting agitating students for the cause. Something has happened which has pushed them to a situation and they are standing up against those engaging in violence.(Published on 13th January 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 03)