Now when the normalcy has returned to the JNU campus, Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar finally broke off the silence and is of the view that he doesn’t desire any ‘external interference’ on his campus and wants all differences ‘to be tackled intellectually’. When Jawaharlal Nehru University is slowly and gradually coming out of the National political spotlight, the VC is of the opinion that differences need to be tackled intellectually. “As a teacher and an administrator, I would like to moderate and sensitize the students about this,” he said. He also underlined the autonomy of his institution and assured that its internal mechanisms were capable of handling the current episode.
A university is always considered as a place of light, of liberty and of learning. This beautiful thought is usually the guiding force when students seek admission, but that spirit is at risk of being lost forever from the campuses in India, thanks to sectarian politics and spineless university administrators.
The first spark of fire hit IIT Madras with de-recognition of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at IIT-Madras. Then the fire enraged at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. In January, it spread to Hyderabad Central University (HCU) with the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula. Next was Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where the pupils of the varsity organized an event on the campus against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. They used anti-India slogans while denouncing the hanging. In this, the ABVP clashed with left-leaning students, leading to the arrest of three students on charges of sedition. The battle between the two groups soon morphed into a debate on the larger issue of freedom of speech.
JNU is an autonomous organization and it can overcome all its challenges using its internal mechanisms. Like any other university, we do not desire any external interference. Where were these internal mechanisms sleeping when the JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar and his colleagues were in the jail on the charges of sedition and rushing to the courts for the hearing? Now when everything is coming on track, JNU will itself will punish its students on the charges of breach of university discipline by going ahead with the February 9 event despite the authorities denying permission.
To make it clear, it was JNU VC M Jagadesh Kumar only who as per the letter dated February 11, a day ahead of the arrest of JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, granted permission to the police force to enter JNU campus if need be and as it may deem fit. Though he claimed that he did not give a free hand to police to come on campus and pick up students. However, the JNU VC steered clear of the charges of sedition against students saying it was for the courts to adjudicate. He again clarified that the police were not ‘invited’ to the varsity campus.
Kumar, who is still a Ph.D. guide to 10 students at IIT-Delhi has been recently appointed as JNU VC and has chosen not to speak much through this period. Now when he has finally opened his mouth, he has refuted all charges of any clampdown on the campus, asserting that ‘freedom of expression in JNU is intact’. He is firm in his opinion that JNU is not that weak that one or two sporadic incidents would dent its image.