Basking in apathy
Terming Sunday's violence inside the JNU campus as an unfortunate event, an indifferent JNU Vice-Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar urged all students to return to the campus and "put the past behind". What Kumar may have thought as a comforting public statement is actually a very callous remark. No call for an immediate enquiry, no visit to the injured students and absolutely no regard for the distressed, and even injured, teachers who had to brave an ambush by intolerant miscreants in a place that should ideally be safe and secure. Kumar must realise that his recommended 'putting the past behind' approach is not the right guidance, nevermind the right public statement following JNU's worst campus violence, for his students. Kumar's statement feels more like an urge to simply put the entire uproar — that left 35 injured — to bed.
As tensions flared up, with protests sparking in front of the JNU gate, a unanimous demand enraged across of VC's removal following his inaction in the entire episode of violence that took place on Sunday. An expedited investigation is what can serve as a balm to what may be termed as a new 'low' in India's institutional environment. Never have universities been subject to the hooliganism of this sort wherein the varsity space — the temple of learning — becomes a mob-floor. In a strange revelation, a fringe group named Hindu Raksha Dal stepped up to take responsibility for the attack citing intolerance in its statement — "JNU is a hotbed of anti-national activities, we can't tolerate this. We take full responsibility of the attack in JNU and would like to say that they were our workers". Not only does this acceptance lack material but it also portrays a possible cover-up for the real culprits. A fringe group taking responsibility for such a reprehensible act, if believable, only points to the simmering intolerance for dissent. University violence has been at the forefront since the December agitation regarding CAA and NRC that sparked off when Delhi Police resorted to lathi-charge and tear gas at Delhi's Jamia Milia Islamia University. Reasons may link or not but nothing justifies violence, especially of the sort witnessed, in and around these campuses whose purpose is bereft of any political alignment. At best, students are citing their dissent — a prominent feature of democracy — and dissent, by no stretch of the imagination, should invite violence. And, if somehow violence sparks, immediate steps have to be taken to curb it. But JNU violence lacked any such immediacy. Vice-Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar's statement that "when there is law and order situation, we don't rush to police immediately; we see if varsity security can handle it" does not fit the narrative that came out of JNU campus. Firstly, Kumar's absence/silence invariably meant no cognisance of a 'law and order situation' even as the masked mob marauded students inside their own campus. Secondly, the varsity's security could not have ever handled such a large armed group invading the campus; every reason to dial 100. But it is the third reason which connects all dots wherein the silent VC did not have to do much to call the police since it was comfortably placed right outside the JNU campus, preventing anyone from going near the ground zero. Violence, even if an internal issue, attracts police attention but in case of JNU, it was more like 'playing-dead' while the university was vandalised and students and teachers were beaten up. So, even if VC admits that police was informed once the possibility of aggressiveness was sensed, no respite was to come anyway. VC Kumar's apathy towards JNU's violence only justifies his inaction all this while. The clarion call for his resignation or removal is not simply a retaliation to the unprecedented campus violence but a rather cumulative impact of his callous regard for the varsity's welfare and proceedings. While Kumar's cordial approach following the incident would not have attracted applauses anyway but his remark only hints at his unconcerned stance in the wake of grave human rights crisis in his own campus. And, as the Vice-Chancellor of India's eminent university, Kumar has not produced the best display of his position.
(Image from The Indian Express)