Can campuses in the country continue to fall victim to ideological witch-hunting? In recent months the fate of J.N.U. has seen several turning points and unsatisfactory recruitment of faculty, improper construction of Selection Committees and the perpetual tussle between the admiration and the larger community of teachers-students have made it a battleground. How long can a revenge based outlook to educational institutions remain the dominant discourse?
Amit Joshi is an ex-student of JNU. At present, he works in Himachal Pradesh as an social activist.
Centres for higher learning are the building blocks of the nation. Without allowing these institutions to grow and prosper, it would become almost impossible for the nation to produce a young generation of critical, bright minds. In India, given the inadequacy in the number of quality institutions for higher education, any attack on the few existing educational institutions tends to cause severe debate and anguish.
We have seen how a nation-wide debate regarding the attack on our universities, the party-affiliated selection of candidates denying merit, non-adherence to UGC recommendations, ideological/pedagogic repression have captured the attention of not just researchers and academics but also the masses who reside beyond the premises of these institutions. It is through this that it becomes clear that centres for learning and especially those that have had a reputation for producing some of the best scholars and intelligentsia in the country are always amongst the most fertile grounds to be attacked by ruling ideologies or the mega state apparatus.
In the recent case of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) we saw how the VC since the time of his appointment has exhibited a remarkable discomfort with the Left ideology that has continued to dominate the campus forever. Whether we talk about student politics or the larger subscription of the major centres/schools of the humanities- it is the Left ideology (though in myriad versions and avatars)that has been the dominant discourse.
Since 2016 when Mr. Jagdish came to be appointed as the VC it has become clear through both his actions and statements that he is in a desperate mood to ‘cleanse’ the campus of its Left leanings sometimes through the installation of military tanks to encourage the lost sense of patriotic love among JNU students, banning protest near administration building, superseding UGC recommendations and introducing unlisted experts on selections committees and so on and so forth. Not only has selection of experts for the selection committees for the recruitment of new teachers in various centres been a bone of contention but what has added to the chaos is the fact that there has been an alleged mis-recruitment of faculty where talent was devalued and ideological (Right Wing) inclinations seen as supreme.
Many Schools such as Centre for Political Studies, Centre for Arts and Aesthetics, Centre for Historical Studies and Centre for English Studies have had their Chairpersons and other existing faculty members express deep dissent and anguish over the tragic unfolding of appointments. Many of the senior faculty of these centres today feel insulted as the head of the institution does not respect their experience and choice for recruiting new faculty. Neither the experts invited to conduct the interview, nor the candidates chosen after the interview- in many cases, have been with respect to the cognition of senior faculty members or Chairpersons.
This unjust gesture on the part of the administration is sure to only enhance the ambience of friction, mistrust, surveillance and perpetual antagonism between the VC and the larger community of teachers and students of the campus. If matters are not taken beyond immature revenge based on ideological inclinations and a shared respect of basic norms is practiced- one of the leading universities and centres for excellence in the country will be endangered beyond repair. While we already have a dearth of quality institutions, we cannot afford to let our JNU die.
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