Sitting in my hostel room of Sabarmati Hostel in JNU, I am unable to decide what I should do after an hour. A fellow JNUite, a girl knocked at my door just a minute ago and asked, “We are going for a March so please reach Ganga Dhaba in 30 minutes. It is about JNU”. Without knowing about my political affiliation, I am called for. This is the simple yet dramatic difference that has transformed life inside JNU these last few days. At Sabarmati Dhaba, on the late afternoon of February 9, some individuals assembled, made speeches and raised fiery slogans. After watching the video footage and interacting with eyewitnesses, every Indian citizen including me considered those words anti-national and divisive. But the real question here is: how has that event affected a research scholar’s life who has had no political affiliation for four years in JNU and who has always participated in academic endeavours only, receiving subsidies and scholarship from the Government of India.
The state of affairs in JNU now is, classes are shut and at every moment thousands of students are assembled at the Administrative Block caught in debates and speeches. Prominent academicians and national leaders are joining in at intervals. Students in hostels are either glued to television news channels or in library or watching YouTube videos concerning the present chaos. At mealtime, in every dhaba, students engage in cellphone conversation with family and relatives back home — regarding the prevailing stalemate. Students are afraid to go out of the campus and the JNU T-Shirt shop owner in KC Market is considering shutting his shop for some time. Ultimately, the Student’s Union President is going to stay in jail for another two weeks at least and there is going to be a solidarity march in a while. Some of my close friends and I have been strictly instructed by our families to not go off campus and join the solidarity march as there is “fear for our life”.
My simple point is this — what is the absolute need now to question the integrity of an institute of international repute. As Indians at our core, we are diverse yet united, multi-cultural yet integrated, rooted in our civilisation but modern and progressive. Our father of the nation has taught the globe non-violence and our spirit of nationalism has taught us to remain resilient and tolerant in testing times.
It has also taught us to protect our state from external forces acting against our motherland as duty and if required, sacrificing life for the sake of its security and integrity. We are the largest democratically functioning state in the world having a guiding constitution and a judicial mechanism.
As we are well aware of the twists and turns in this incident, is it not time to properly investigate the issue, nab the culprits and let the judiciary decide further course of action. When any social order-breaking incident happens anywhere in the country, we always try to solve the situation. The JNU issue is not an aberration in this regard. If every individual becomes a judge and blames the other side, then anarchy would be the resultant outcome.
Patriotism does not mean chanting Zindabad for the nation. Pained with the suffering that people have and fighting for their cause is divine patriotism, both Zinda and Abaad in truest sense. The spirit of this institution has always taught this since its inception. The dynamics of JNU and its culture of independence, freelance thought, dissenting ideas culminated and shaped via debates and gender equality measures have always been trend setting.
At this turbulent time, the democratic institutions, state machinery and JNU community must not forget the lines of Jawaharlal Nehru, “A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth.” If we can realise the enormous potential of humanism in spirit, tolerance in action, reason in our duties and responsibility and nurture it with the quest for truth - the stalemate could certainly be resolved.
Maintaining the academic temper, research potential and unity to stand against untruth is not a duty, it is a collective responsibility. Our national legacy is witness to the fact that, dissenting ideas have always built institutions and filled the voids on the path of nation building.