Remembering Comrade Chandrashekhar in today’s JNU

Our coming generations will ask us for an answer, they will ask us, where were you when new social forces were being unleashed, where were you when people who live and die every moment, every day strived for their rights, where were you when there was an assertion of the marginalized voices of the society. They will seek an answer from all of us…

– Comrade Chandrashekhar

Comrade Chandrashekhar, two times JNUSU President, sought these answers through struggles. The struggles that made JNU as one of the most inclusive universities in the country. The struggles that stand tall in their commitment to the future generations and marginal voices.

In 1994, it was under Chandu’s leadership that JNUSU launched a successful struggle for the restoration of deprivation points in JNU admissions (on the basis of social, regional and gender deprivations). Again, it was during the neo-liberal assault of the early 1990s that Chandu led massive historic agitation which succeeded in foiling an attempt at imposing fee hikes and privatisation in JNU in 1995.

The legacy of commitment to the future of JNU, for an inclusive JNU continues till today. The present JNUSU leadership has been penalised for seeking justice for a fellow student Najeeb, who was assaulted by a group of ABVP lumpens and has been missing since last October. They have been penalised for fighting against the massive seat cut in JNU’s M. Phil/PhD. admissions. The studentship of the present JNUSU President is being terminated as he refuses to pay the unjust fine which was imposed on him for demanding justice for Najeeb and leading struggle against seat-cut.

Remembering Com. Chandrashekhar in the Face of All-Out Attack on JNU by the VC-RSS-ABVP Nexus

JNU as we have known for decades is under tremendous attack. The JNU student movement, for generations, consistently fought to keep the gates of this university open for the most marginalized sections of the society. The university community painstakingly fought for affordable fee structure, inclusive admission policy, deprivation points and implementation of reservation policies. This campus is a space where students from the remotest corners of the country and most deprived backgrounds, came, studied, dreamt and fought with a vision of an egalitarian society, a society free from exploitation and oppression. That’s’ why probably today’s government considers this university as a hated enemy.

Last year we have seen the media manufactured, RSS-ABVP backed “Shut Down JNU” campaign. The elected student union president and other students of the university were jailed and hounded by BJP sponsored media. More than one year has passed since 9th February 2016, but till now, the police has not been able to file charge sheet against anyone involved in the incident which was made pretext for such media frenzy and police crackdown.

When the University community and people all across the country fought back against the anti-JNU propaganda, the RSS brigade, along with the govt and Vice Chancellor redesigned its “Shut Down JNU” scheme. Now they want to kill JNU from within by destroying its very essence- its inclusive academics and its spaces of freedom, equality and debate.

Here is a summary of the continuing attacks on JNU since that time :

  • JNU, sadly, has had its own brush with the trend of mob-lynching being witnessed all over the country in last three years of Modi rule. On the night of 14th October 2016, a first year M.Sc. Biotechnology student Najeeb Ahmed was mercilessly assaulted and threatened by a group of ABVP lumpens inside the premises of JNU’s Mahi-Mandavi hostel. From the very next day, Najeeb has been missing and is yet to be found. Both JNU VC and Delhi police colluded to shield the perpetrators of violence on Najeeb. Delhi Police did not question the ABVP cadres who beat up Najeeb nor examined their call records. The JNU VC in a brazen display of his partisan politics, refused to act on the reports of the Wardens’ Committee and Proctorial Board which nailed the crime by the ABVP cadres. Instead, the JNUSU office bearers and other students have been punished with extortionary fines of Rs. 20,000 for their ‘crime’ of protesting for justice for Najeeb.
  •   Acting on the government’s agenda to finish off research in the country in general and to Shut Down JNU in particular, the Vice-Chancellor has imposed massive seat-cut in this year’s M. Phil./Ph.D. admissions in the name of UGC notification of 5th May. JNU’s intake in M. Phil./Ph.D.  was slashed from  970 in 2016 to 139 this year. And now in reality, admission has been offered for only 73 out of these 139 seats. These seat cuts mean that JNU MA/MSc students- and hundreds others across the country- can have no hope of a future in JNU’s M. Phil/PhD programme.
  •     The desperation to act under political direction from the BJP in power was clear from the fact that the decision of seat-cut was unilaterally imposed trampling upon over whelming opinion inside JNU’s Academic Council against seat-cut. The BJP’s student wing, the ABVP not only remained silent when students and teachers were fighting against seat-cut to defend the future of JNU, but also actively colluded with the VC to implement seat-cut. ABVP’s 1993 DUSU President and 2003 BJP MLA candidate in Delhi Monica Arora & well-known Modi-Shah associate Tushar Mehta, the additional Solicitor General of BJP govt is appearing on behalf of JNU VC to defend this ant-student seat cut. The keen interest shown by BJP-ABVP in ensuring seat-cut in JNU shows who is backing the VC and who really the JNU community is up against.
  • Further the VC has removed JNU’s iconic Deprivation Points in M.Phil./Ph.D. Admissions, shutting the doors on students from deprived backgrounds; decimated reservations in to M.Phil./Ph.D. admissions and made Viva weightage 100% in M.Phil./Ph.D. admissions opening the floodgate for arbitrariness in admissions. And all these anti-student changes in admission policy are being imposed by the VC by trampling upon the majority democratic opinion in all statutory bodies including Academic Council!
  •    The VC wants absolute freedom to destroy JNU from within. Our spaces of protest, public meetings and discussions are being cordoned off and banned. In an arbitrary move the VC cordoned off the decades-old site of students’ protest at the Administrative Block with glass walls and iron grills. Hoardings marking 100mtrs from the administrative block has been put up because the Vice-Chancellor wants to make the  Ad Block a palace where students whose futures are being wiped out, workers whose minimum wage, PF and bonus are stolen and teachers who have shaped the idea of an university do not get any hearing from the king in the palace.
  •   The partisan and vindictive role of VC in violation of all norms has become so brazen that even two Chief Proctors have resigned within a year of this VC’s tenure!
  •  When the Vice Chancellor held an “orientation” program for new students, representatives from the JNUSU and the GSCASH were not even invited: instead, the ABVP was in-charge for the co-ordination of the entire program.
  •       For all important administrative and decision making posts, RSS members or loyalists are being appointed and vested with arbitrary powers.
  •   Administration conducts intrusive surveillance of activities of a range of ideological viewpoints – except those of the RSS and ABVP. Plans are afoot to put a virtual stop to JNU’s proud tradition of public meetings in hostel messes.
  •  The VC has transgressed all statutory bodies of the university to change well-established rules of faculty appointment – instead vesting himself with arbitrary powers to make partisan political appointments.
  •   And now, the RSS’ ideological war on Universities has reached absurd heights with the JNU VC’s proposal to install an  Army tank in the campus – accompanied by shrill cries from RSS brigades of ‘capturing JNU’!

Breaking the Barriers : When we stand today with our commitment to defend the University which has been shaped by generations of students and teachers, we also remember what Comrade Chandrashekhar told in his student days,

Whatever we have taken from society, we must give it back.

Chandu came to JNU as a student and left as an activist of the agrarian poor. He was shot dead in his hometown Siwan on 31 March1997, while addressing a street corner meeting against the spate of Dalit massacres in Bihar. His years in JNU were years of political activism and struggle as he first got attracted and then deeply involved with the radical politics of newly fledgling AISA .He was elected to lead JNUSU first as vice president in 1993, then twice as President in 1994 and 1995 – by robustly defeating the communal and anti-Mandal anti-social justice politics of the ABVP.

For Chandrashekhar, JNU was not an island. He forged links between the student’s movement and people’s movements all over the country. Be it the protests against the rape of Bhanwari Devi in Rajasthan, the massacre of Dalit landless poor at Bathani Tola, the Narmada Bachao Andolan against displacement of tribals in the name of development, the rape by police of activists of the Uttarakhand statehood movement in Muzaffarnagar, against state repression in the North-east and Kashmir, against draconian laws like TADA and Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Chandu made JNU students an integral part of all those movements.

Signs of the Times We Are Living In:

Chandrashekhar’s words about the vision of a “a regressive, communal and fascist India” contending with a “egalitarian, secular and progressive India” resonate today with especial urgency.

  • Gau goons have been given free hand to attack Dalits and Muslims all over the country. Akhlaq, Pehlu, Zafar, Junaid and many more lives thrashed to death by casteist and communal mob incited by saffron brigade.
  • Around 100 children die in a government hospital in Gorakhpur. Oxygen supply to the hospital was cut-off as the government had not paid pending bills.
  • Haryana BJP Chief’s son stalks and tries abduct a woman. When she complaints, BJP leaders and supporters run vicious campaign against the woman
  • Around 30 farmers commit suicide everyday due to indebtedness.
  • Corporate tax exemption reached all time high of 83,492 crores of rupees in 2016-17.
  • Government banks write-off loans for super rich corporates to the tune of Rs 1.54 lakh crore in the last three years and Rs 81,683 crores in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Taken together the written-off loan amounts to Rs. 2.35 lakh crore, which is nothing short of a massive Bank-Loan Scam far exceeding UPA’s 2G scam of 1.76 lakh crore!
  • In contrast, farmers face bullets in Mandsaur, MP for demanding loan waiver and profitable prices. And at least one farmer is commiting suicde evey hour!
  •  Job growth reduced to lowest in last eight years.

In today’s times Chandu’s vision comes alive in our ongoing struggle to save the democratic and inclusive ethos of JNU against the multi-pronged attack by the RSS, the Government and the pliant administration.

From Chandrashekhar to Rohith Vemula, the student movement is inspired by the legacy of students who saw education as a way to understand and seek to change society, challenge hierarchies. Those who killed them sought to kill their ideas. The killers forgot the words of the Greek LGBT poet Dinos Christianopoulos (also expressed by Mexican protesters):

What didn’t you do to bury me, but you forgot that I was a seed.

The seeds sown by Chandu and Rohith continue to sprout and grow all around us, as young people are at the forefront of the most determined struggles against communal-corporate fascism and to assert students and people’s democratic rights.

See More : “Why Socialism?” by Albert Einstein

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