JNU jittery as government plans campus purge.


The latest in danger of extinction are the assistance booths or camps that student unions affiliated to various political parties set up during the admission season.

Many of the established practices that have defined the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus while lending it a legendary character with an enduring history of Left-dominated student politics and activism may soon become obsolete.

The latest in danger of extinction are the assistance booths or camps that student unions affiliated to various political parties set up during the admission season.

While the yearly cycle of student politics on JNU campus begins with these camps as they are happy hunting grounds for political formations, that they could be stopped from this year. The varsity administration has reportedly decided to depute its own dedicated staff to do the hand-holding for new students during the admission cycle. “The admission process must be easy and student-friendly so that a feeling of alienation does not grip the newcomers. They should not feel, as a large number of them do not come from metros or even big cities, that they have no one to look up to,” vicechancellor M Jagadesh Kumar said when asked about it.

The development comes at a time when educational and cultural institutions are fast emerging as a strategic battleground between the Left and Right in India. Last September, the BJP-affiliated ABVP won a student election at JNU after 14 years. Reacting with surprise, the JNU Teachers Association (JNUTA) said the proposed step is reprehensible and retrograde. “We can see that this government is clamping down on all the democratic spaces available to students and teachers, especially of JNU.


While we think that this is a rumour, it could also possibly be in the mind of the administration given its inspirations,” said JNUTA general secretary Bikram Chaudhary. The prestigious university became the focal point of a nationwide debate on nationalism and campus activism after a clutch of students were arrested this year on charges of sedition for their alleged participation in an event commemorating Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. A draft education policy released by the Narendra Modi government last month raised serious objections against party politics on campus, saying that “one frequently hears of agitations, disturbances, gheraos and movements of one sort or the other in various campuses from time to time; it is not infrequent that examinations need to be postponed or in some cases the student even loses a year or more.”

Critics of the arrested activists Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and others have argued that many students stay in campuses for several years by enrolling themselves in various courses and get into “unnecessary” politics. Student leaders are sceptical about the university’s plans on the assistance booths. “If the administration wants to join us in making the admission process easy and to assist us in helping the freshers, they are welcome. But scrapping our booths is no solution,” said JNUSU joint secretary Saurabh Sharma.

The assistance camps set up by students from parties such as the AISA, SFI, ABVP and others set up shop in front of the administrative block just underneath the vice-chancellor’s office, helping anxious candidates complete the admission formalities.

“While the newcomers are offered all the help, which they actually need, the hidden agenda is to enrol and enlist them into political camps and turn them into cadres for the respective political parties,” said a PhD student.

The admission assistance, or the hunt for prospective votes, begins far before the booths. Cadre from different parties are stationed at bus stops, not just within the campus, but also around the varsity.

“The Left has perpetuated these practices as a mode of dominating the campus politics. While the students camps must be allowed, better facilities should be given by the administration such as accommodation to freshers so that they do not fall prey to politics,” a right-wing student leader said.

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