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JNU: Tarantella of Fear

ABVP has done what the university never saw before: finished off decent dissent


A post from JNU president-elect N Sai Balaji is furiously doing the rounds on social media:

“Important update:

“I am right now at a police station filing a complaint. But ABVP is mobilising students with sticks and bouncers outside the police station. Saurabh Sharma has threatened in PS that he will finish me once I come out. There is a grave danger to my life and others who are with me. Shubhranshu and Shahzad are with me. Please pressurise the police to provide security to us. It's an appeal.” ‑ N Sai Balaji

Jawahar Lal Nehru University campus was never like this. The top-rated campus was known for its fearlessness. The unique selling point of the campus was cutting across religious lines the students welcomed dissenting views of each other with facts and debates. But is this change for the better? We all need to introspect and raise questions.

JNU was known for co-existing without being nasty. Certain unsaid rules always came to play even when there are different views about issues. Crossing the barriers of decency was always met with red flags. Students were never involved in nasty pitches against the fellow students- and this was the JNU till very recently.

Najeeb and Now

The views started taking a shift from October 15, 2016. That was when Najeeb Ahmed, a student of JNU, had gone missing from the Mahi-Mandvi hostel of the university, allegedly after a scuffle with some of the students the night before who were reportedly affiliated with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

Najeeb disappeared mysteriously and no action has been taken till date. The views started taking a turn when for days together, Najeeb’s mother was on a sit in at the campus to know about the whereabouts of her son from the authorities, but to no avail. The views started taking a shift. The campus is no longer the ideal place for dissent… there is an unseen fear.

And with the win of left-leaning students panel in the campus, the worst fears are turning out to be true. The students are facing intimidation ‑ feeling the sense of fear. Somewhere at the back of the mind, there is a thought that dissent could lead to mysterious disappearance and killing. No one may admit but this fearfulness is the new image emerging of this charmed university which produced the best of civil servants, professors and intellectuals till date. 

The win of left unity student union has not been received well. The JNU president-elect N Sai Balaji is going official on social media and demanding protection. The university that produced thought-provoking issues for the nation to debate is producing fear.

Speaking to Parliamentarian, Shreya Ghosh, PhD student of JNU belonging to a left-leaning group and got 1,189 votes said, “Yes we are under fear. When two fellow students went to register an FIR with the Vasant Kunj police station and were beaten in the middle of the road, it instills fear. I would not deny that the entire campus is up and together we are monitoring that everyone is safe. This has never happened in the history of JNU.”

It may be recalled that the counting process for the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) election that began at 10 pm on Friday had to be suspended after a group of students forcibly entered the counting venue and tried to snatch away ballot boxes.

Ballot Snatchers

The JNUSU election committee in a statement said: “EC 2018-19 hereby brings to the immediate notice of media friends that during the counting process, which began yesterday (14th September 2018) at 10 pm has been suspended due to forcibly entering into the counting venue and attempt to snatch away the sealed ballot boxes as well as ballot papers from our counting centres. This was in addition to intimidation and violence on our Election Committee, including on our female members led by a Presidential and a Joint Secretary candidate.”

Although the election committee did not name the persons responsible for the violence, a section of students on the campus blamed it on the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

However, the ABVP has accused the election committee members of being partisan and questioned their nod to start the counting of votes without the presence of their poll agent.

There are eight candidates contesting for the post of president, and four each for the post of vice-president, general secretary and joint secretary. Last year, all the four posts went to the United Left panel. The last time a non-Left candidate was in the union was in 2015, when Saurabh Sharma from the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) held the post of joint secretary and Kanhaiya Kumar from the All India Students’ Federation (AISF) was the president.

It was never a part of JNU students politics. JNU students’ elections were an example
on how brilliantly dissenting opinions exist in the same space without putting the other side down.

Democracy Lynched

Speaking to Parliamentarian, visiting Professor of St. Stephens College, Amit Ranjan said, “Najeeb’s disappearance has changed everything forever. The history of JNU has been rewritten. A mother, a woman in distress waited endlessly and left unattended. This has never happened in the history of JNU. Never ever. So, I am not shocked by the incident that a female student has been beaten while she tried to protest the hooliganism during the counting of votes. We lived with huge disagreements in this very campus. There were friendly discussions, debates and dissenting views but never violence or threats. The campus was such a place that students irrespective of their gender could move around all night without any fear. Sadly, the fear has made its place inside the campus”.

The post is going viral with people saying this -What's going on? Is there any rule of law in this country? If this is not fascism, what is?

This is what a friend has just shared:

“As I hear, newly elected #JNUSU President N Sai Balaji n other Left activists n supporters are under severe, brutal attack from ABVP hoodlums. Goons from outside the campus seem to be on a killing spree. Things seem to be worsening by the minute. Plz, spread the word. Repost, if u please.”