The idea and slogan of ‘we dissent, we debate, we are JNU’ might vanish from the land of JNU and the right to speech will catch fire in the near future. Sarcastically saying, nothing will happen, but only the environment and culture will change like in other universities. Antipathy, antagonism and regionalism will prevail and never give a chance to dissent and debate on one platform. At least in JNU, students dissent and debate, listen and respect others’ voice, grant opportunities to speak up without considering their political or ideological affiliations. But time has pinged the minds of a certain ideological group of students and administration to murder the soul of this culture and curb all the space to float only one tune of ideology.
Recently, JNU administration issued a notice prohibiting all forms of protests such as gheraos, sit-ins, etc., within 20 metres of the administrative and academic buildings. It further notified that all forms of peaceful and democratic protests shall be “conducted with restraint. ” This was after putting grills outside the administrative block near ‘Freedom Square’, where students came to discuss issues, hold public meetings, debate, dissent and protest. The administration has not only blocked the space but on the stairs where students used to sit during talks, meetings or protests, ordered the gardeners to put flower pots in order to prevent the students from sitting there. Being a student of JNU, I never thought such doltish action would be taken by the administration. We would stop by to sit on the stairs.
The irony of the notice is that one coercive administration is asking the students not to indulge in coercive actions. The banning of students’ voices and exclusion of student representatives by the administration was witnessed after the February 9 incident and it intensified after the disappearance of Najeeb. The administration doesn’t feel the need to consult the students’ representatives or include them in administrative or academic decisions where students’ voices should be heard. Instead of the inclusion of students’ voice, the JNU administration is crushing the efforts of the students to avail justice and to raise their voice by curbing the space of protest.
A few months back, Ganga Dhaba was on the radar of the administration, to eliminate the dhaba culture of the University, where students sit and discuss. It is amongst few of the spaces where social interaction between the student community exists. When students protested and registered their solidarity with the Ganga Dhaba, some other factors came into the scene. The dhaba has not been harmed. But this time, the administration has forcefully taken away the space and is swallowing the culture of dissent and debate. As a result of such coercive actions, the campus will be polarised, the students will never get the flavour of political thought and student politics will either became ultra coercive minded or right wing students politics will be nurtured by the administration.
The politics will later become biased. There will be one sided political activities without dissent and debate. In fact, the right-wing students group has very good rapport with the Vice-Chancellor and the administration is kind with the students, except the ones who identify as leftists. The scene on the other side is also alarming for the leftist students. They are dissenting over the decision against the snatching of the space. The ‘Freedom Square’, amidst these fights, will lose its charm and the student community will lose a historical place and an effective, significant and valued space. This space uncovered its importance after administration grilled the area where students used to sit. This indicates that the voices from the ‘Freedom Square’ bothered them even though they went unheard. The administration suggested the student community to protest at the Kamal Complex market, which is in fact a place from where voices can never never be heard. Need of the time is to demand that the administration removes the grills from the space and ensure that the open space is not curbed in the future.