In this brief note of anguish and hope, the author – who did her Masters from the School of bio-technology at JNU, and at present working in Chennai – has urged the JNUSU to continue its struggle against the oppressive administration, and its show: the convocation ceremony.
This morning I opened the newspaper, and happened to see a news item “JNUSU to boycott convocation in protest against V-C”. I felt immensely happy; I saw a ray of hope amid darkness and pessimism. Even though I left JNU in 2006, the university remains in my consciousness. Because it is not just yet another university. It shapes people’s thinking; it sensitizes one; and with its high academic culture, interactive space of dialogue and debate, and political sensibilities, the university empowered students like me. No wonder, even from Chennai I follow the present state of affairs at JNU.
I realize that the new administration seems determined to destroy the basic character of this iconic university with all sorts of oppressive rules and mindless bureaucratic practices and surveillance strategies.
During our time, there was no convocation at JNU. And we didn’t regret. Because we were mature enough to go beyond the symbolism; we learned, we celebrated, and we found our vocations. Well, I am not against the idea of convocation as such. But the circumstances under which the Vice-Chancellor is organizing it are terribly bad, undemocratic and anti-academic. He, it is well-known, doesn’t follow any established democratic procedure for the functioning of the university, be it conducting the AC meetings, recruiting the faculty, imposing all sorts of arbitrary rules.
See the state of surveillance prevailing at JNU. This semester, I was told, students were required to give an undertaking regarding mandatory attendance at the time of registration . Not solely that. Even teachers are subject to surveillance.
The Vice-Chancellor (his authoritarianism, I feel, emanates from the psychology of insecurity, a sense of sado-masochism, and support from a government that is eager to destroy all good public universities, and considers Mr. Mukesh Ambani as the finest educator) has already decided to introduce the bio metric system for assuring mandatory attendance of teachers (yes, reduce them to 9-5 section officers in a government office).
The other day I came to know from one of my professors at one of the science schools that for participating in a demonstration called by the JNUTA, a notice was issued to him by a petty academic bureaucrat. You cannot protest; you cannot raise your voice . Is it a university of ideas, or an oppressive cage created by power-hungry academic bureaucrats?
Under these circumstances, when the V-C decides to conduct the convocation ceremony, it has to be boycotted. And I am happy that the JNUSU has decided to do so. This non-cooperation has a deep symbolic meaning; it shows the power of non-violence, our conscience to say ‘no’ to what is unethical and oppressive. Even if nothing happens out of this protest, it will have its long term impact. Even the most oppressive dictator cannot get good sleep when he realizes that people are not liking him.
Carry on, JNUSU. All of us whom this university nurtured are with you.