I was born in 1962 that makes JNU about 7 years younger to me. But it’s very much part of my childhood, which was mostly spent in the serene surrounding of the well-laid out and planned government colony RK Puram, JNU being at one end of it, not too distant from another pioneering institute, IIT, Delhi. In a sense that area became like an institutional area with sprawling campuses of IIT and JNU!
JNU quickly gained in reputation and stature and for students pursuing certain faculties mainly economics, political sciences and languages, admission to JNU became aspirational. It soon started attracting talent not only from other states, but also internationally. It boasts of alumni such as Noble Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, PM of Libya Ali Zeidan, PM of Nepal Baburam Bhattarai and several politicians, diplomats, artists, academicians and scientists. In fact, I am a proud alumnus of this prestigious institution myself by virtue of having completed 1 year part time course called certificate of proficiency in Russian language.
Controversies are not new to JNU, though with a right-of-centre government in power, the ideological bent of ” left-of-centre” of the campus politics have brought out rifts quite blatantly. In April 2000, an Urdu mushaira, in which Pakistani poets also participated became a hot controversy when two army officers attending the same were beaten by students when they objected to certain contents. In 2010, a meeting was organised to oppose “Operation Green Hunt” to celebrate killing of 76 CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh, demonstrating a clear bias in favour of Maoist thinking. In 2015, efforts to create courses on Indian culture were opposed on the basis that these were aimed to saffronise Indian culture. Of course, the worst was a cultural evening organised against the execution of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat and for Kashmir’s right to self-determination. Police arrested Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid on the charges of sedition.
It’s unfortunate that an institution that was aimed at dispensing quality education of international standards and that indeed produced so many bright alumni has today become hotbed of politics that has rotted from harmless issue based student politics to controversial politics following certain ideology to such an extreme that appears like sedition! While it’s stand on LGBT, freedom, communal unity, economic equality etc are praiseworthy, the overaged students with controversial linkages and habits using the university’s privileges and infrastructure to pursue a particular political ideology is deplorable. Contrarian view need not hinge on sedition, issues of national importance need not always attract contrarian view and if the youth of this nation does not form view on merits but go the beaten path of fixed ideologies of right and left, then it certainly is a problem. Where’s pure left today? China is the largest capitalist market and Russia has all but shifted to centre! Where’s pure right today? Hitler is history! JNU should uphold its academic excellence; politics can be pursued outside its precincts.