[dropcap]I[/dropcap] came to Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2016, the same year when it was deemed anti-national by everyone. My admission took place just a few months later than those alleged slogans and anti-national ”naaras”. When I came to this varsity, my parents were very particular about my safety, but with time, I realised that this is nothing but an inclusive place, as soon as you enter the campus, you’ll fall in love with the greenery, the warmth and the inclusiveness with which people meet you here.
Yes, it is a political campus. But I am personally not interested in politics. ‘Semester clear ho nahi raha, neta-giri kya hi karengey!!! (laughs)’. And yes, there is no doubt in the fact that there are ideas everywhere in this campus. Probably the reason why outside people have started hating us is because we haven’t stopped questioning like them. Whenever I meet my friends outside JNU they ask me the same question, ”Wo bharat ki barbadi waale naare ab bhi lagte hain kya?‘ I don’t know what to say so I just exclaim ‘Aao kabhi JNU!’
I’ve been watching elections for the past three years, and saw two presidents — Mohit Pandey and Geeta Kumari. During elections there is hardly any pessimism in this campus. Be it winners or losers, all groups celebrate the internal democracy, though I feel this year, it was a lot different.
It was different because for the first time I saw such low-level presidential debate. It wasn’t even a debate; it was just two or three people discussing among themselves. I find two fundamental reasons behind the degraded level of the debate: (a) They were trying to just impose allegations and raise issues rather than proposing their way of solving them and (b) Language — 3 candidates were south Indians so I felt they were a little uncomfortable with Hindi. They would’ve given a good speech had they spoken in English but their decision to speak in Hindi restricted their communication skills.
Probably more astonishing was the disruption in the counting process. For sure, it was ABVP who initiated the act. It was 4am in the morning and I was sleeping in my room. When I woke up, I called my girlfriend (she is an SFI member) to know the results, she told me the entire case and I was shocked. I think it happened for the first time that counting was disrupted. For the first time, and that too, for 14 hours JNU became an un-democratic space. Though the counting was restored later, it was greatly disappointing. What was more disappointing was the attitude of the administration, heavy force was deployed, had JNU shown any signs of violence back then, believe me it would’ve been fatal for us. They were ready to just find a cause to end the counting and disrupt the entire process. Situation would’ve been more chaotic then.
Nevertheless, counting was completed and Balaji (N.Saibalaji of left unity) won. I was like ‘chalo khatam hua‘ (finally it’s over) only to realise that it has to go much worse. After dinner around 9 pm, I heard that there is a curfew and no one was allowed to roam in the campus, every student was asked to show the ID card to enter the hostel, clearly we never carried out IDs with us and that too, at 9 in the night!
Some of my friends who were not from JNU, and had come to see the elections, were told to immediately leave the campus. With great difficulty we convinced the guards to let them stay. ‘Dhabas’ were closed. People in my hostel told me about the violence that occurred which everyone knows by now, I would say this; Sure it was ABVP who were roaming in the campus with ‘dandas’ but the Left people did retaliate. So, their victim game is not entirely true. Yes, the students supporting the Left were beaten up but even they beat up ABVP supporters.
Yes, JNU is a great space to think and live, but I think even we are not un-touched by the culture that is prevailing outside — a culture of violence, hate and trolling. It is still largely safe and democratic like it was earlier, we can roam around and do whatever we want, anytime, anywhere. But this culture is slowly coming to an end, and I can only hope that JNU remains the way it has been — always!
(As told to Pranjal Mishra)