JNU – A Problem Child

When educated young men do not respect the law of the land or the nation's judicial process, then there is certainly a lot to think about.

Sedition and anti-national seem to be the buzz words of late. The fracas created at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), an institution for higher learning in the capital, by a section of the students has raised many questions in the minds of the common citizens and rightly so. The university is funded by the tax payers’ money with about three lacs of rupees being spent on an average on each student per year. All that the student pays is a rent of Rs 11.00 per month for his accommodation in one of the better parts of Delhi and a total of Rs 129.00 as tuition fee per year. Administrative support on the campus for the university staff and students is of the highest order that ensures a high quality of life within the campus that most common people cannot even dream of. Most scholars invariably get a sizeable stipend on monthly basis that possibly is more than the salaries of many professionally qualified young men in the country at the same age. The university has a professor to student ratio of 1:15 which is a luxury to say the least. The university is organised in ten different school streams. Popular courses include Law & Governance, International Studies, Social Sciences, Language, Culture and Cultural Studies.

The question that needs an answer is whether the institution is really delivering in terms of highly educated and committed professionals who are contributing in a significant manner to the development and well being of the nation as a whole. Over the last few decades JNU has delivered a few senior diplomats who have served the nation, some academics who joined JNU itself and a few high profile politicians with Dig Vijay Singh of Congress, Prakash Karat, Thomas Isaac and Sitaram Yechury of CPI (M) and Yogendra Yadav of Aam Admi Party (AAP) being the more prominent ones. The fact that all these politicians have a dubious record and most are left inclined is an entirely different matter. There are a few others who have excelled in different fields or pursued a career in academics in other institutions of learning. Frankly the list is small considering the resources spent and the number of students that the university has on its rolls every year since 1969. This is primarily because of the overtly socialistic, with a definite leaning towards the ultra left, environment that has taken deep roots within the university campus. This has ensured that most students that enter its portals do not have any definite professional goals in mind. The main attraction of the university, apart from a comfortable life style, is the opportunity to use it either as a stepping stone to enter politics or to pursue the ideal of being a socialist with a definite inclination towards left. Is it any wonder then that most students enrolled in Ph D or M Phil courses continue to stay at the campus for years with no pressure on completing their courses in the required time frame?

JNU students protest inside the university campus against the arrest of student union president Kanhaiya Kumar. (PTI)
JNU students protest inside the university campus against the arrest of student union president Kanhaiya Kumar. (PTI)

Given the above environment, this seat of higher learning has certainly deviated from the original goal of leading young minds towards academic excellence in different fields like international studies, cultural studies and languages. Today the university has many student unions on the campus and all of them are very active politically. The more prominent ones are ultra left All India Students Association (AISA) which is affiliated to CPI (M), All India Students Federation (AISF) backed by CPI, National Student Union of India (NSUI) affiliated to Congress and Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) affiliated to Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). AISA is the more prominent union on the campus today. It owes its growth to Mr Prakash Karat of CPI (M) who was instrumental in setting it up after he returned from United Kingdom in his younger days where he had gone for higher studies. AISA has mobilized the student community on issues such as opposing fee hikes, against commercialization of education and other such student centric subjects apart from protesting against BJP’s and Congress’s policies over the years.  Agitations in support of Naxalites and Kashmir separatists too have been seen on the campus from time to time. The radical student unions have opposed any control or check on campus democracy. Today many dub the university as a hot bed of budding leftists and it does not surprise one that most students are inclined towards the same. In addition, presence of a large number of students from Jammu & Kashmir has resulted in JNU campus becoming a prominent stage for anti India protests, pro separatists’ activities and efforts to make martyrs of known terrorists like Afzal Guru and Yakub Menon from time to time. The current tension in the campus too is linked to such protests.

In their quest to be seen as a model institution where free speech and freedom of expression are encouraged, the university management has erred in not instituting required checks and balances. Therefore today the management itself is part of the problem. In an institution where government is spending hard earned tax payers’ money on students and faculty alike, the management has to ensure that the students are focussed on their primary task of seeking and assimilating knowledge in a disciplined environment conducive to learning. It is obvious that they have failed to ensure the same. The campus today is rife with political manoeuvrings and many students are enrolled and living on the campus with the sole aim of cultivating political patronage with long term goal of either entering politics or becoming social activists. Interference and support from various political parties to such students and student unions is a given. Is it any wonder then that students have no regard for administration or authority and tend to dictate terms instead? This invariably results in indiscipline and free for all environment where politically motivated students revel in anti national and anti establishment protests, acts and events with impunity. Such actions bring them into limelight and they hope to catch the eye of their political mentors for bigger things in life. The support of some overly liberal faculty members from within too cannot be discounted. In all this studies and courses for which the students are enrolled only help to legitimise their stay in the campus. Many of these students have no intention of completing their course of study and the management is not concerned. New students on entering the campus are overawed by these perennial seniors whose clout over all aspects of campus life is obvious. This results in most of them falling in line with the wishes of such seniors. It is a pity that the university management is oblivious to such obvious follies and that certainly is a problem.

The recent incident where anti national slogans were being shouted and known terrorist like Afzal Guru being eulogised is not the first time that JNU has witnessed such anti national activities. JNU has the dubious distinction of doing this on many earlier occasions under the guise of free speech, freedom of thought and expression.  Everyone knows that Afzal Guru was convicted after a rather long and laborious judicial process. It was the same law of the land and same process that set Mr Geelani free from similar charges. Will it be right to presume that in the former case the law was an ass while in the later it was fair? Such selective approach to accepting the law of the land has become the bane of the nation. Is it not incumbent on all Indian nationals to uphold the law of the land in highest possible esteem and respect it, even if it hurts one at times? A true Indian will always do that and anyone who does not, well it is obvious that he is not a true Indian.

There are no doubts that anti national slogans were being shouted and some students were seen holding posters with various inflammatory messages. Even the student union leaders have confirmed the same; albeit after the event with a view to distance themselves from the same now that the whole episode has taken an ugly turn. It would be foolish to assume that the event did not have the blessings of the student union body headed by its president. If that be true then Mr Kanhaiya Kumar surely needs to answer a few questions apart from owning responsibility for the fiasco. Unfortunately as is the want of all politicians, in this case a budding politician, he claims he was neither involved nor responsible for what happened. The mere fact that he was present at the scene does not mean he was involved. That is a typical Indian politician’s response, when things go wrong be the first to skunk away with ones tail in between ones legs.

Does sedition come into play only when you actually cause physical harm to the nation? Is an anti national stance or activity acceptable till the point after which it may cause physical harm or incite masses? If one is in a position of authority and responsibility, is it not anti national if one ignores or does not try to stop anti national tirade by others? Is it in order to question the decision of the highest court of law in the land after it hands out a judgement based on sound evidence and after a full judicial process has been gone through? Finally, all that the police have done as of now is to take Kanhaiya Kumar in custody and are looking for others who were actively involved in shouting anti India slogans for a detailed investigation. Kanhaiya Kumar is in judicial remand because the judge concerned felt, based on limited evidence available, that there was a prima facia case against him and further investigation was warranted in the matter. He has not been charge sheeted as of now. He is not being held on the whims and fancies of the police force. Finally expecting the police to be a mute spectator in such instances unless someone files a complaint is totally flawed. The police have to be pro-active in controlling crime and other such incidents before they snowball into bigger problems and that is possibly what Delhi police did.

Much is being made of the remark of Union Home Minister regarding LET Chief Saeed Hafiz’s support to the incident. One has to view this at the best as a political statement of no consequence since politicians tend to dramatise everything for the sake of the gallery. Also in India today, if there is anything to do with terror in the country the connection to LET Chief is taken for granted. On the other hand if this is actually true, then the incident at JNU becomes even more serious and sedition may actually come to the fore. For the sake of Rahul Gandhi, Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Arvind Kejriwal and others one hopes it is not true because if it is then they will all need to answer a few uncomfortable questions to explain their vociferous support for such anti-national elements and criticism of the actions taken by authorities including police in the interest of the nation.

It is time the JNU authorities sort out their problems and put their house in order. There is an imperative need to remove political interference and patronage of the student body within the campus. Student unions must be tasked to limit their role for betterment of education and student welfare only. Today many of the students are actively campaigning for different political parties in different parts of the country for assembly elections instead of pursuing their studies. Surely the institution was not designed for that. It would be good to do an audit of the institution to see how far it has achieved its aims and what has been its contribution to the Indian nation and society. There is no doubt that it should have done much more than just throw up a few diplomats, professors and some isolated achievers in different fields. It is also equally important to analyse the cross section of the students who have been admitted to this prestigious institution in the last two decades to see where they came from and what they have finally achieved in life. In all likelihood this will throw up some interesting facts that may surprise one and all. Such a study will give enough food for thought if the authorities genuinely wish to transform this institution into a seat of higher learning – because today it is far removed from that vision.

Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.

9 Comments

  • Dear Mr Chadha,
    Student bodies/ politics in Universities is not something that is limited to JNU but is something present in almost all government universities other than IITs/NITs?IIMs. So, as per your logic none of these government funded institutions are fulfilling their purpose? I am quite sure sir that any audit would only cement JNU’s place as a top university. You find it convenient to criticize left leaning indivisuals but fail to criticize the home minister for the hurried actions he took including mentioning a fake Saeed Hafiz’s tweet. The home minister of out country should be stating facts not be indulging in speculation. The govt finances a lot of institutions and large educational spending is common in a lot of developed and developing countries. Your argument of comparing subsidised education to charity is something I have to disagree with. Universities have to aim at overall development of an indivisual into a free thinking opinionated person. The puritanical approach you believe in is not applicable in today’s times. It is not only the JNU campus that receives these subsidies. Should all these beneficiaries toe the line laid out by the RSS and the current right wing govt. What becomes of new ideas and free speech? I do not consider that these students are indebted to anyone for studying in a subsidized institution. Coming to the JNU slogan incident , it should be the police’s role to get a hold of all indivisuals who indulged in the “seditious” activity and apporopriate action be taken. But you sir have chosen to paint all JNU students and faculty with the same brush as if they are all anti-national and that some how they have to prove their worth to the nation?

  • I find that writer is lean to RSS Ideology or pseudo-nationalist who is unjust to assault on left wing students unions by calling them problematic child. It is universities which gives leaders not RSS cadre which march past and Junta governments. How could JNU alumni whom we read, listen and hear for hours in 24 seven debate could be termed dubious . This piece is bullshit what has been said about JNU belongs to top institutions of this nation consider among the best in the world. Writer passed verdict after terming it hot bed so on and so forth. Entire controversy has been cooked up to defame left which have stake in the forth coming election in West Bengal, Kerala on behest of BJP which have nothing to loss or gain. People never forget what saffron brigade did with Delhi chief minister Arvind Kezriwal during Delhi election not far but just one yrs ago. They also did same naked dance in Bihar elections after raising question of cow slaughter now silent when their own ministers come in support of beef eating, now they want to become patriot, martyrs and saints in the eyes of people for election gains. Blackmailing emotion of people by charging the milieu they would polarised people shame. We proud to be JNU. Each citizen of nation know that it is centre excellence which incumbent want to dismantle . the top and minority institutions in the country are under attack from safron brigade as it did not ascribe to their ideology. Police were cracking on the students under behest of whom. We are proud to be left, a communists and socialist and Indian and global citizens which believe in the universalism.

  • You have a point and I agree the whole institution should not be painted with same brush. But please also note that such incidents in JNU occur on a very regular basis starting, be it Kashmir or Dantewade massacre by Naxalistes, all have been celebrated and people responsible eulogised. If bulk of students and faculty have nothing to do with it, they also prefer to remain silent on most occasions and that is complicity in its own right. For sake of their institution they must speak out and stop such anti national activities deemed to be done by only fraction of the students. But that somehow is not happening and the whole institution gets a bad name. On subsidized education, you are right a lot of other institutions too get the same. The point here is that if the system supports you and brings you to this exalted level in the society then you have to be more responsible and contribute to nation and society instead of getting involved in such activities that are counterproductive to say the least. Dissent and free speech is about different thoughts, different methodologies, different approaches to same problem and NOT anti national slogans and incitement for the sake of creating unrest. Also why should we have Ph. D students continuing in the university for over 5-8 years to complete their course? Is it not incumbent on them to focus and finish their courses in time to make place for others and give opportunity to more citizens in the nation. Surely you cannot fund education of such misguided youth for years since their focus is not on studies. Finally the article is harsh, but then sometimes one has to be so to press home a point.

  • Anti national rhetoric is completely unacceptable and the perpetrators need to be identified and prosecuted. I have a problem with the handling of the situation by the center govt.
    First of all there was a disproportionate response by the police with insufficient evidence against kanhaiya. If you have seen footage of him personally making those anti national statements then please provide the links to me,
    Then there is the issue of providing security to journalists and the accused and those aggressive right wing lawyers beating up the students and media on two days simultaneously. Why cant these people let the law take its own course instead of participating in shameless hooliganism?
    Why has a certain BJP lawmaker decided to take law into his own hands?
    Certain sections of the media are so one sided in their analysis that they have declared all of JNU as anti nationals. Public funding of institutions and right to subsidised education ought to be a fundamental right and is definately not a part of a quid-pro quo system where the government and specifically the ruling party buys loyalty of the students by funding their education.
    It is no wonder that certain students all over India are aggreived and protesting. You are right to criticize the those guilty of anti national behavior but you also have to conisder the point of view of students who were not a part of this anti national behavior and are yet suffering.

  • Dear Mr Verma,
    If you are proud to be left, a communist and a socialist Indian I do not see any problem there at all. But when you want to brush off anti India tirades as just freedom of speech or allow Kashmiri separatists to use JNU as a platform to flaunt their misplaced agendas, then I am afraid there is a serious concern. It is also time that left did some introspection to see what they have achieved – West Bengal is an example and see what has been done to the state in over 30 years of left rule. The fact that JNU thrives on being biased to left is well known and an established fact and those with party cards do benefit in that institutions.
    By the way I have nothing to do with RSS nor would like to have anything to do with them. I have equally strong views when one of their people speak out of turn on any subject. But one thing is sure that they will never eulogise Afzal Guru, Yakub Menon or shout slogans to destroy India and for most of them India always comes first.

  • Question of subsidy being remitted for education of students and withdrawal of same is a fun when national government ready to offer national exchequer for few crony corporate in ensuing budget.

    But argument also be pointed out why so much incentives to industrialists and corporates alone. We are parents of these students contrarily being levied massive user charges and taxes by the state. What is contribution of manufacturing in the national GDP please tell. Work force facing exploitation as labour laws is being do away to further appease corporate. Who creating tax heaven and what did government like JNU.

    The tax money being collected from every citizen of this country is not to finance running the government alone or to remit foreign tours of ours beloved politician or fund their emoluments and perks.

    Fire flared by communal elements is merely to gain the political edge in non-BJP bastions.

    No evidence exists in reality against arrested student of JNU entire fresco is cooked up for forth coming assembly elections. Educational institutions should not be dragged into stinking low politics gimmicks, allegations and counter allegations.

    This nation belongs to diverse ideological backgrounds, caste, creed , religious falling and colour. It does not make any difference which students dominate which institutions. JNU should not equated and linked with Jehadi, Sedition charges is best tool with the state to make it political weapon against their adversaries.

    It is pity of this country that killler of Gandhi was eulogized however innocent being dragged in the court. Incumbent establishments no doubt is swayed by the
    sectarian elements have no faith in rule of law and constitutions. Violence have no place in the democracy against own citizens or others. Pls. not make is nation jingoistic, theocratic, Chauvinistic state.

    Founders of constitution in their conversations have warned the nation time and again such elements which are now claim that they could take low in their hand gag voice of people and especially minority. .

  • Saroj, a University is not an army barracks where all commands have to be followed blindly. Universities, by their very nature, are meant to nurture free thinking and to challenge accepted ideologies, whether of the left, right or center. You also need to factor in the intellectual energy and iconoclasm of young minds which lend themselves to liberalism and anti-establishment leanings: that itself explains the “left” or ” socialist” ideals of students everywhere( and not just in JNU- witness the protests that have erupted across the entire country) which you unfortunately find so distasteful.
    Your contempt for universities like JNU betrays the regimented mind set of a soldier. There is nothing wrong in such a mind set, per se: it ensures that we have one of the finest armies in the world, for example. But it has no place in a center of learning whose vitality comes from questioning, debate, dissent, innovative thinking, and not from a blind subservience to authority or the official line. The day universities stop doing this will be the day that education will lose all meaning or relevance.
    Mr. Bassi ( whose competence is as questionable as his knowledge of law and whose sole objective is to get re-employment on retiring on 29th of this month) and Mr. Rajnath Singh( who is desperate to end his marginalisation in the govt. and the party), in their effort to be more loyal than the King, have dangerously over reacted to the events in JNU. All kinds of slogans are routinely raised in university campuses, even anti-national ones- it is part of the process of blowing off steam. But that does not make them ” seditious”- please read the law laid down by the Supreme court on this. As long as such such youthful exuberance is confined to university campuses and does not lead to incitement of violence( it did not, in this case)the authorities should not interfere. The govt. made the mistake of doing so with a heavy hand on the grounds of ” anti-nationalism”, a catch all phrase popular with those who cannot debate or rationally discuss any issue. ” Nationalism” is not defined by any govt. in power or any party out of power, but by the Constitution and does not exclude criticism of the Afzal Guru hanging or of the govt’s Kashmir policy.
    The govt. made a grievous error in arresting Kanhaiya for sedition and now is unable to back it up with hard evidence. The law not being in their favour, they have now unleashed the goons of ABVP and their (extra) legal cell to achieve the same objective, viz. muzzle the voice of dissidence and ram through their unilateral brand of nationalism. The events at Patiala House courts and Mr. Bassi’s failure to arrest a single lawyer or ABVP ruffian ( all caught on camera, incidentally) speak for themselves.
    Finally, Saroj, your faith in the judiciary is touching. You state that the court remanding Kanhaiya to police/ judicial custody is proof that there is evidence against him. Really? This is the same judiciary that has last week issued notice to Hanumanji for encroaching on public space, the week before had admitted a petition against Lord Ram for maltreating Sita, and yesterday admitted another complaint against Rahul Gandhi ( for sedition, no less) for supporting the JNU students. Routine remands are an indication of non-application of judicial minds, not of proof against the accused. It is ironical, but a disturbing sign of the times, that the judicial process is being quoted in support of illegal actions.

  • Dear AVAY SHUKLA

    I think all you said is appropriate and to the point. Some time Your article on Hill post shows that you acquire this wisdom on civilian life by not only serving as a successful civil servant but deep experience to know the pulse of common man. Your guidelines on threat to environment by power projects is worth reading which were also endorsed by the state high court time to time. In the country of 120 billion every body should have some anticipation to these man-made disasters. Youth is force in the nation which is focused today. We could not allured them for sake of vote bank.

  • Dear Avay,
    Good to see your comments. I have no doubt on the fact that universities should be places where young minds can develop and flourish. However with a caveat – flourish in the right direction which for me is the wellbeing of the state and the society – if I can sum it up in a few words. I am afraid that is where recent events in JNU and some past events have left a bad taste. I have no contempt to JNU, but I do subscribe to the fact that it has not delivered since its inception in 1969 because all it can boast of is four politicians of dubious credibility, a few students who joined civil services and some academicians with none really achieving any great heights as per alumni records available on net. That should give some food for thought and ring some alarm bells. If JNU students can be eulogised for questioning the nation on some extremely serious aspects- I am sure some of us can certainly question the JNU without fear of being termed as showing contempt for it.

    As far handling of JNU issue is concerned, I hope you have read my views in the second article on this issue – where I have said that Mr Bassi and his force as also the government erred overtime.

    Sometimes a military mind does react stronger than others on such matters since anything derogatory towards nation does hurt us more than it hurts a normal citizen. That is a fact and I do not wish to give any excuses in that regard since I do not want to feel any other way when anything concerns my nation.

    On judiciary despite all the frivolous examples you have cited, I still maintain my faith because the day we disregard our judicial system and show indifference or lack of faith, it will be a sad day for the country. Despite its faults it is still a good system since there are any number of great judicial deliverances too in the last 6 decades. The limitations of our judicial system stem more from administrative limitations and at times from some vested interests. It may be a subject that JNU should debate, among many others such more important issues, in the interest of the nation rather than question closed judicial matters like Afzal Guru or Yakub Memon hangings where their anti national acts were established and proved beyond doubt. The former is constructive while the latter can only be destructive.

    Last but not the least, one cannot accept dissent for the sake of dissent, freedom of speech for the sake of only being sensational, and so on. I wish some of these students take up the fight with the government for lack of development in hinterlands of the country where independent India has hardly made any difference or go and assuage feelings and emotions in areas like Muzzafarnagar to achieve harmony or bring out the facts in the kind of life an average Kashmiri enjoys in India as compared to that in POK. But then such efforts will not bring instant glory or recognition to any of them – so it may not serve the purpose of most of them.

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