‘We Dissent, We Debate, We Oppose, We Are JNU’

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This is not the JNU we dreamt of and it is not the university that we aspired for. Amidst the chaos of illegal action, repressive fee hike and unconstitutional steps taken by the university, the culture of debate and discussion has still survived through the margins of this varsity. But since January 4, violence has replaced the very ethos of non-violence in JNU.

For the past few days, people, masking their faces, along with students from different organisations, have been attacking students of JNUSU (JNU Students’ Union) and also common students, in various corners of this university.

But, all limits were transcended on the evening of January 5 when several masked goons entered the campus, under the watch of the Delhi Police and JNU security guards. Later, they launched brutal attacks on the President of JNUSU, members of JNUTA (JNU Teachers’ Union) and other students, leading to many being admitted in AIIMS as they were injured.

A mob of 50-odd, masked people entered the JNU campus and attacked students and teachers on 5th Jan 2020.

Although Delhi Police has started identifying the people responsible for creating the ruckus, what can be ensured through the videos already circulating is that the miscreants came from outside the campus, under the nose, or in the consciousness, of the Delhi Police, controlled the Union government’s Home Ministry.

The goons were weaponized, with hockey sticks and rods, entering the hostels, vandalising the hostel rooms, and JNU’s security guards stood as mute spectators of the event.

The intention of the JNU security guards, controlled by the JNU administration, and the JNU Vice-Chancellor, are not clear, but, the motive of the masked goons remains clear. The attempt to create a sense of fear and tension amongst the JNU students, as is presently being done in various parts of the country through different mechanisms, remains transparent.

The present government of India seems to evade the responsibility of creating safe spaces for debate and dissent in universities in the country. Through particular student organisations it has tried to destroy the culture of deliberations and verbal arguments through a democratic setting.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) President Aishe Ghosh after she was attacked on January 5.

This argument can be easily substantiated by the fact that the policemen stood at the gates of JNU, restricting the mobility of the public, while goons were going on a rampage inside the campus. Similarly, when a student called ‘100’ for help and safety, the alleged response that came was “Where is JNU?

And, it’s not surprising to a student pursuing higher education in this country, as they are aware that the state machinery is brutal in one way or another, irrespective of the situation where they act or they don’t. But, it saddens them as they realise how the democratic essence of this nation is being vandalised every passing second, where these varsities become damaged in this devastation.

The events of January 5, in JNU, need not be seen in isolation, as a random attack on the students. But, it needs to be understood as the dialectics of the events which are working as a process to shut down the university and destroy the notion of ‘varsity’ in this nation.

Turn the attention to the recent acts of violence on the campus, and one can see that every time, it is particular sections of ‘commoners’, including students, inflicting violence on the campus. This was also witnessed during the 2018 JNUSU elections, which lead to speculation whether it is was a systematic breakdown of democracy by the JNU administration and the current ruling regime.

The plan to shut down JNU has been put into action since 2016, and since then, the process of defaming JNU has continued. The understanding of this can be developed through the chronology of events that happened since Prof. Mamidala took charge as the Vice-Chancellor.

Starting from the defamation of the institute as a breeding place of the “Tukde tukde gang” only two months after appointing Mamidala Jagdish Kumar as VC by the then-HRD Minister whose, own education degree is under doubt, JNU witnessed the appointment of ‘loyal’ teachers through unconstitutional processes.

We also saw the destruction of the quality of education by fund cuts for academics, harassing the students with proctorial inquiry and hefty fines, to a system of online entrance examination leading to the exclusion of marginalised sections.

JNU also witnessed the removal of the wall of posters in JNU, which represented the democratic freedom of expression of the students, and the promotion of a privatised model of education by hiking the fees, bringing the self-financed system of education and finally creating an atmosphere of violence.

The motive of the ruling regime and it’s ‘sponsoring’ organisation is crystal clear. They want to shut down the university by blaming every unfortunate event on the common students and teachers. But, the reality is the other way around, as recently, in an interview, Subramaniam Swamy said that JNU should be shut down and it should be cleared of all the ‘leftists.’

He also said that the university should be restarted after two years with the name Subhash Chandra Bose University. These types of statements reflect their motive and their greater plan about JNU, and about higher, public education, trying all possible ways to destroy it and change the structure of JNU.

Yes, their plan is obvious, as one can understand their sense of fear and insecurity as the students of JNU have been playing the role of the sole opposition in the nation, where majoritarian and totalitarianism is rampant. Despite all their attempts, the government cannot shut down this university and silence the voice of the margins reaching the core.

Destruction in the wake of the armed mob who went on a rampage through JNU.

JNU has proved every time that any kind of power exerted on it will have to face resistance, and it won’t be a mute spectator in this process of suppression of democratic voices.

In JNU, we will continue to dissent, we will debate, we will argue, because we are JNU.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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