The JNU Issue Raises Questions About A Larger Issue Of Accessible Higher Education

I was not lucky enough to be educated at JNU and neither did my family members go to JNU for higher education. But, some of my teachers were from JNU, and them I can vouch for. I truly believe that because of the training they received at JNU, they were great teachers and friends to us simultaneously. At that time, at the History department of Jamia Millia Islamia, I was the first person from my family who’d come to Delhi for higher education.

I knew and continue to know many students, who come to study from far-flung parts of India. This includes students from modest family background (socially and economically). But, over the period of time, due to quality education, a robust training and support from the ecosystem of JNU, which has been established by visionary teachers, I have also seen them achieve commendable positions in India’s public and private sector; in fact, even globally.

The JNU students are fighting for the same ecosystem, which has been working in the campus to ease out difficulties for students to achieve higher education, particularly for the low income or socially disadvantaged groups. This fight is nothing less or nothing more, it is just to retain the same ecosystem.

Getting quality education is big challenge in our country, particularly for the low income groups or for marginalised sections. As of now, many things are being commodified as a result of liberalisation. This is a kind of withdrawal symptom on part of the state, not to invest in education or health. This has nothing to do with the current dispensation, we must understand this is the consistent policy of the Indian government.

We have seen what has happened in the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, where inclusive policies for integration of marginalised sections have been stopped in the name of privatisation.

The agitation of JNU is not just against a fee hike. The larger goal of this struggle is for the students of the whole country. After all, we know well what the status of state-run universities are in our country, particularly in the cow belt. Nothing has changed there, even in the states being ruled by the BJP for a prolonged time.

If one wants to access quality education, why is it that there isn’t enough scope for this? And wherever the possibility exists, in the name of privatisation or a fee hike, they are encroaching upon the space students from marginalised groups occupy. I am sure the police personnel, who have been proactive to crack down on the agitation of the students, have at least once wondered where their children will obtain affordable and quality education?

It is high time for our country to ensure social justice for marginalised communities through quality and affordable education. As Dr B R Ambedkar said, “We must stand on our own feet and fight as best as we can for our rights. So carry on your agitation and organize your forces. Power and prestige will come to you through struggle.”

Note: this post was first published here.

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