Why JNU’s Fight Against Commercialised Education Is Part Of A Larger Movement

It has been more than two weeks since students have been protesting against the new hostel manual which was prepared without the JNUSU (Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union). The draft manual has increased the fee hike, leaving students from economically disadvantaged sections unable to sustain themselves. Some have no option but to withdraw their admission.

After two weeks of protests, thousands of students hit the streets on Monday, November 11, 2019, against this hostel manual. While doing so, JNU students came to know that the Vice-Chancellor was present at the AICTE for university convocation. In the most spirited and democratic way, students went over to the venue to register their demands and protests before the Vice President of India and the Union Minister for HRD. As they were marching in large numbers to the AICTE, they were stopped by the Delhi Police and the CRPF.

The way the police behaved with students is to be condemned; they were manhandled multiple times, there was the use of water cannon and a lathi charge as well. More so, the attitude of the Vice-Chancellor where he does not engage with the students but acts through the police is also to be condemned.

The JNUTA Teachers’ Assembly held on November 11, 2019, at JNU, began by unanimously adopting a resolution:

(i) condemning the brutal police action against peacefully protesting JNU students which severely injured a large number of them; and

(ii) demanding that the JNU Vice-Chancellor at whose behest this action was undertaken step down from his position. The police’s action was clearly only to defend the obstinate refusal of the Vice-Chancellor to engage in any dialogue with students on their concerns.

Different universities across the world are also sending messages of solidarity. JNU has been a model of public education in India, where students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds could access higher education due to the fee structure and subsidised food in hostels.

The current administration, who are acting as mere agents carrying the political agenda of the NDA government, have unleashed different projects to overturn this structure. Introducing self-financing courses was an initial step. And now, making the hostel a place where certain students will not be able to afford residency will further intensify the exclusionary model.

I would also like to talk about the JNU student politics and people criticising JNU by calling it a hub of politics. “Staying out of politics” or just being annoyed by JNU student politics is a privileged action.

Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Kristen Tea also talks about wealth, race, abilities or gender allowing you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation, or genocide by saying, “You don’t want to get political, you don’t want to fight because your life and safety are not at stake. It is hard and exhausting to bring up issues of oppression. the fighting is tiring. I get it. Self-care is essential. but if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, please know that people are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does.”

I salute the protesting students in JNU and acknowledge that their fight is part of a larger movement against the commercialisation of education. We, the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, demand the administration immediately withdraw all draconian amendments to the hostel manual and initiate a dialogue with the student union (JNUSU) and students.

Further, I appeal to all democratic and progressive sections in the country to extend your solidarity with the struggle against the criminal plan of commercialisation of education by the ruling class. We will fight and continue our struggle until this draconian hostel draft manual is revoked. This is not a just a fight of the current eight thousand students enrolled in JNU, but also a fight for the upcoming generation who has dreamt to study in this university.

We are JNU, and together we shall fight, and we shall win.

Featured image source: Shubhanshu Singh; Chintu Kumari/Facebook.
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