A new politico-psychic and pedagogic struggle involving the teaching community must begin to restore the ethos of JNU.
The New Leam Staff
Yes, with the overwhelming majority the new JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association) would begin a new journey, particularly at a time when the university is in turmoil because of a series of arbitrary measures through which the autocratic Vice-Chancellor has destroyed the democratic/decentralized ethos of this iconic university, and introduced all sorts of measures without engaging in a proper academic conversation with the teachers–say, the proposal to introduce the biometric system for the attendance of teachers, or the introduction of the online entrance test with the standardized MCQ pattern, irrespective of the nature of disciplines.
Like all autocratic rulers, the Vice-Chancellor has made all efforts to divide the teaching community. First, he chooses those who are always ready to say ‘yes’ to his dictates, involve them in all decision- making bodies, and systematically marginalizes those who dare to dissent. Second, he seems to have succeeded in generating the psychology of fear. To say openly against the official policy, as a young teacher (who chooses to be anonymous) said, is to invite trouble. If you are a Warden, you may be removed. Or of you apply for duty leave, it may not be granted. This fear, as another senior professor wrote in one of his articles in The New Leam, has destroyed the culture of academics–autonomy of teachers, learning without fear and surveillance, and the ethos of trust between the teacher and the taught- at JNU.
In fact, as we talk to many teachers across centres and schools, we saw the huge gap between the official position of the old JNUTA and actual practices of the large number of the faculty. For instance, while the JNUTA with good intention gave a call for rejecting the attendance rule for teachers in any form, many teachers-particularly in science and language schools-are seen to be giving attendance by signing in the registers kept in the Chairpersons’ offices.
Likewise, despite the serious concern raised by the JNUTA about the online entrance test, almost every centre has bowed down, and prepared the MCQ schedule, even when it is known that the administration might use an external agency for preparing the question bank. In a way, as a retired faculty told this reporter, teachers are fearful, and the Vice-Chancellor, it seems, has realized that he can impose his will on them. without much difficulty.
Is it, therefore, possible for the new JNUTA-led by some of the courageous, articulate, honest and dignified teachers-to establish its hold over the teachers, arose new life-energy amongst them so that they can come forward, unite, and fight for restoring the spirit of JNU?
This requires fearlessness. The moot question is, given the nature of the new middle class, whether it would be possible for the JNU faculty-quite habituated to smooth/comfortable living in an island – to acquire the courage to say ‘no’ to the Vice- Chancellor, and bear its consequences-the way Gandhi with his spirit of non-cooperation cultivated the mantra of fearlessness to resist the tyranny of colonial power?
Yes, teachers have voted, and proved it wrong that only a set of ‘leftists’ are causing problem in an otherwise ‘peaceful’ JNU; they have also given an appropriate lesson to those teachers who wrote a letter to the Human Resource Development Minister indicating that the JNUTA does not represent the teaching community, and the present Vice-Chancellor is the best thing that has happened to the university.
However, after this secret ballot, they have to come forward, support the new JNUTA in its struggle against this oppressive administration and his team whose only task,it seems, is to issue ‘show cause’ notices to the creative dissenters, and bombard the faculty with all sorts of ‘circulars’. If this time the teachers allow themselves to be crippled by fear, things at JNU would degenerate further. Congratulations, the newly elected JNUTA. The politico-psychic and pedagogic struggle has to begin now.