DU’s Reaction To The JNU Row Made Me Question If It Really Supports Free Thinking

Posted on September 13, 2016 in Activities on Campus, Campus Watch, Delhi University

By Shrishti Kedia:

How did we envision college when we were small? As a place for grown ups. A place which we thought was meant for all the ‘cool’ stuff. A fairyland for some of us, while being a dreadful place for the rest.  College is supposed to be a space which  brings out free minded people who are equipped with a seamless horizon and a dynamic point of view.So, the question is, has it done anything like that for me?

I am currently in my 3rd year of college, pursuing BCom at Satyawati College. The feeling, to say the least, is surreal; given the pace at which time moves forward and the energy it consumes. My first day on this campus is still fresh in my mind. I can clearly remember my disappointment for not getting through any on-campus college. The feeling resulted in a repulsive feeling  for my own college. I only saw it as a mere opportunity to get into Delhi University (Delhi University) and I dishearteningly took it. Who doesn’t want to be in DU? I took the opportunity because I assumed DU would bring out a wiser, better and  a more refined individual in me. I thought it was different. I chose it because I thought it would help me gain a wider perspective in life. But I wonder today, is Delhi University any of this? Is it any different from any other university across the country? Does the brand name ace the trick for DU? Frankly, the question that one needs to ask is, does it do what a university is supposed to do? Well, in my opinion, it doesn’t. I feel it’s not any different from other universities across India.

I know it sounds strange, given that Delhi University is considered ‘the place to be’ and is often seen as the ultimate place to nurture deliberations and discussions in all forms as well as a natural haven for all ‘intellectuals’ – at least that’s what I thought when I chose to come here. But, the cult status is far from reality – which I came to realise through my experience during the Jawaharlal Nehru University row. A case of ‘sedition’ as they say it – or a case of mere ‘dissent’ if you ask me. Everyone had their own points of view during the whole event and so did I. Isn’t everyone free to have their own opinions at the end of the day? But as soon as the discussions took place, people of any opinion, with the exception of the ‘nationalists’ were attacked. My opinions were attacked too. I distinctly remember discussing it with my parents and teachers and being tagged as a ‘deshdrohi.’ My parents’ in fact told me that I was a child and that I was being influenced by others around me. They refused to accept the fact that I had actually read about the whole thing and taken a stand because of course, you can’t expect your daughter to be against ‘National Integration.’

My teachers were disappointed after hearing my point of view too. In their words, they couldn’t believe that a student under their tutelage could take a path, which in their mind, was not only wrong but also against the nation. One of my teachers even persuaded me to rethink about the opinions I had formulated and tried to explain to me otherwise. She went to the extent of pointing how Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid were terrorists – and further made an argument comparing terrorism to prostitution. This is like juxtaposing apples against oranges to justify a point at any cost. Despite her constant overbearing, I stuck to my point. This fuelled her anger and she grew extremely temperamental. Eventually, I lost a teacher, whom I had revered for the longest time.

The change was inevitable – it hurt me, but I was glad I did not  succumb to the opinion of elders.  I knew what I was talking about and could take anyone head on. I wasn’t surprised when I had an argument with someone or the other about it almost every day.  Sometimes in the metro, at a friend’s house or in college. The only thing that disappointed me was that people had such views in the campus I was studying in. It was the same campus which I had assumed to be different. It was the same university which was supposed to help me gain a “wider perspective” and bring out a “wiser” and “better” form of myself. Within a week’s time, I had gone from being a good citizen to a “deshdrohi” in the same place.

This whole experience brings me to the question I had in mind earlier – Is Delhi University doing what it’s supposed to do? The need to reflect upon this question becomes even stronger  Or for that matter, is any university doing what it is supposed to? Are they facilitating the creation of free and independent thinking individuals or are they creating institutionalised minds? In my opinion, a university  should provide the space for cultivating minds who are free to form their own opinions. Minds which are capable of not only seeing two sides of the story but looking into it, without  following the herd. The fact that it forces the dominant voice on an individual, especially on a fresh brain, not only displays a regressive superiority but clearly, doesn’t provide a conducive environment for healthy discussions and opinionated individuals. The last thing it should do is  curb one’s ability to take decisions. These thoughts creeping in are itself an indicator of something being amiss.

It is then that I asked myself, is this how it should work? Is this the way a university should be?

I have thankfully found my answer, and now I would want you to find yours. But the important point to remember is that one should not give up. Despite the many flaws of the system, one needs to have patience and perseverance to change the course and not debunk it completely. All we need is a little faith, and then we shall see how mountains can be moved and routes can be altered.

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Image Source: Wikipedia

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