While the promises of India becoming a superpower by 2020 were doing rounds in the mind of people, the country woke up to another episode of university student crackdown with the turn of the new decade. On Sunday evening, dozens of masked men armed with sticks and stones stormed the reputed Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and went about attacking teachers, students and vandalizing hostels, leaving many wounded. The JNU administration, which called in the police soon after the attack, told students to keep calm and cooperate with the police. JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh, who was injured in the violence and left bleeding from the head, was taken to hospital.
Masked men in black robes were seen in video footage attacking Sabarmati, one of the students’ hostels. Over two dozen students, and Sucharita Sen, a professor were injured in the violence. Though the exact number of miscreants roaming JNU’s south Delhi campus was not known, some students claimed that their numbers could be as large as 50. The Left-dominated JNU Students Union blamed the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students union of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for orchestrating the attack, JNU has faced constant vilification, intimidation and intermittent violence. Yesterday’s is only the biggest, but not the first attack. The latest in this series is the fee hike announced last year, which has triggered massive protests both inside and outside the campus, so much so that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) had to constitute a committee to talk to the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU).
The constant attack on JNU, along with other universities like the Jamia Milia Islamia University or the Aligarh Muslim University has barely seen any repercussions from the icons of our country and particularly from any of the athletes. The Bridge spoke to Sharad Kumar who is an Indian para high jumper and a former world no. 1 is a JNU alumnus who pursued Post Graduation in Politics with specialisation in International relations at the university. At the 2014 Asian Para Games, he won the gold medal in the high jump (T42), breaking a 12-year Asian Games record, and reclaimed the world no. 1 position. Kumar participated in the 2016 Summer Paralympics finishing sixth. He won Silver in 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. Presently, Sharad has been training in Ukraine for the past two years. He is aggrieved by the situation in his alma mater and here is what he had to say:
“It has to be branded as an act of terrorism when an institute and its students are ransacked. I personally feel more than anyone the Vice-Chancellor of the university has to be blamed. During the time I was there in the university (2013-16), it was the most democratic place in India where everyone respected everyone’s opinion. But today, if you say you are a JNU student it feels like an abuse. JNU has been the hotbed of discussions for the last three or four years, and I don’t understand why people in the authority are so much scared of students and have to resort to violence. My sister is now a student there and I am always worried about her since planned crackdown like these has been going on for a long time now.
A majority of the students who come to study in JNU are from very humble and underprivileged backgrounds. Now, it is unjust towards them if the fee is hiked. I have seen people who wear just one shirt for weeks and somehow get to sleep on one small mattress but they have the zeal to study hard and live with the belief that one day their condition will be improved. That is what defines JNU where everybody can get an equal level of education. The university, despite these issues, remains one of the most premier educational institutes in the world and young people are eager to get a chance to study there. But the fee hike has now seriously taken a toll on those dreams.
The government, the VC, should take care of the students of the universities instead of allowing this kind of crackdowns. They are our future and it has been proven that the university has produced some of the best minds of the country. I don’t understand why there is always an apathy when it comes to the JNU students and this is not new that whenever they have criticised the government, they have been branded as anti-nationals. Students have to think freely and have the right to criticism after all constructive criticism is healthy for a country. Now I have also seen that students are going up against students, which I would say, is a grim reminder that we are not heading towards a better future.
I am sad and appalled how students are being abused by the system. Unless and until the government is understanding their problems the country will not progress and the society will be further moving to darker times.”