JNU: Anti-Nationals or Free Thinkers?

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JNU: Anti-Nationals or Free Thinkers?

I don’t want khoon ka tilak or goliyon ki aarti, I don’t want Afzal in every house either. All I want is a campus back to normalcy writes Violina Bohra, a resident at Jawaharlal Nehru University

My father is talking to me frantically over the phone, my mother’s call has been on waiting, and I am annoyed but trying to be patient. They want to know what has happened on the JNU campus and if things are okay. I tell them what I know, that these things keep happening on campus and usually fade away with positive results. I do not have any political affiliations on campus. I vote for candidates who talk best on debate day and espouse views that are relatable. I’ve had my moments of disappointments, like my GCASH complaint not seeing justice since 2011, despite several hearings. But help has always been at hand from busy JNUSU position holders who have talked to me, not only during their campaigns but whenever they saw me distressed or otherwise.

When I first got through the university for my masters in English Literature, one of my friends told me that I would become a leftist. I laughed at her then. Naïve enough not to understand what she meant, I always thought I could forever remain apolitical. I’m from Delhi University, so naturally, I did not even have a basic idea of what student politics is before I got here. It is here that I realised that student politics is not just a free ticket for a movie show or a pretty face. That there are actual causes that people fight for selflessly. And now, at the end of my life here, in my last days, in between all this chaos, I realise, even though I am not involved in it, I do have a soft corner for left wing politics. I know for a fact that it is not the rabid anti-national, hate spewing machine that the media propagates it to be. It is respectful and aware. I too believe in their causes of equality and freedom.

I’ve been away from home (Assam) most of my life. At boarding school, I was shunned and punished for often being vociferous. At Delhi University I was too overwhelmed by the city and my upmarket classmates. It was at JNU that I finally became comfortable. I learned how to question with tact. To speak at the right time and to not be afraid. For someone who was a shy student, afraid of answering in class for the fear of being mocked, to becoming a professor, it has been a long journey.

JNU did not teach me to be anti-national.

Instead it taught me how to differentiate between terminologies and indoctrinate the ideas I believe in. In the process, I unlearned various things that I believed to be true. Today, I can have a discussion with my parents and point out where they went wrong, even though it might upset them. Things that I say may be misinterpreted and I may be wrong many times, but I know I must speak up.

My parents are afraid. They don’t want me to be involved in all of this. But the idea of involvement is mostly irrelevant. We, as students, understand that skirmishes among political parties are minor matters that often get resolved quickly. But this time, it has been different. It is about a handful of students and the administration that are backed by the current government against the whole university. It has shaken the beliefs that people had about the university. When I get calls or messages, everyone says one thing, JNU has been defamed. This has been painful for anyone who has ever been associated with the campus.

It is common sense that popular media is a propaganda machine and it will never show the entire picture. Every piece of writing or debate or videos might have a different side, but what this case has shown most clearly is that, people want to believe in, what they want to believe in. And right now they want to willify JNU. I had a discussion with a friend of mine who wanted to know the inside story as no one except me on his Facebook timeline has been supporting this cause. A few others have vehemently stated that they don’t care whether the anti-national slogans were shouted by JNU political parties or not, the fact was they came from JNU and that was enough. I have removed people from my friends list on and others have removed me from theirs as a favour. It has become bigger and messier than it should have. With the interference of state, student politics has taken a back seat in favour of political agenda. Remember the time the country was obsessed with the porn ban? That was the time Yakub Memon was being hanged. The former issue was highlighted so much that people forgot about the latter. Something similar is at play here, I feel this is another tactic by the government to not only take control of the university, but also to divert from the Rohith Vemula case.

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, wrote Samuel Johnson. I was hanging onto the fence yesterday in front of the administrative block, straining my ears to hear as the power was disconnected to stop the use of mics in campus, when all I heard were songs of freedom and redemption. These were the same chants used in the 2012 anti-rape protests, songs of oppression and want of equality. There was nothing anti-national about them. Perhaps some people were looking for a loophole and it has been given to them by mistake, through a conspiracy or intentionally. As a result we have this fiasco which now seems to be a calculated move.

I don’t want khoon ka tilak or goliyon ki aarti and I don’t want Afzal in every house either. All I want is a campus back to normalcy where I will not be stopped at various points to show my identity card and have political debates with autowallahs who are now scared to ferry us to and from the campus (being outsiders they understand the issues too when explained). I just want to enjoy the last few days of campus life in peace and make most of what JNU has to offer. I am done with the vile comments people are making about the university, about fellow students, about their family members and wrongly assumed outcomes. I will do the best I can do— by writing, discussing, making others see where they might be wrong and be dismissed for the same.

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