The JNU administration has achieved the impossible. Perhaps for the first time in JNU's history, it has united the Left and Right against a draconian decision.
On Sunday, the JNU administration imposed a wide range of penalties and punishments on more than a dozen students. Some of them, including Kanhaiya Kumar and Rama Naga, have been let off with fines and penalties. But Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Mujeeb Gatoo, a surprise addition to the list of the usual suspects, have been suspended and banned from the campus.
Here is the delicious irony: Among those penalised is Saurabh Sharma, the ABVP joint secretary of the JNU students' union who had complained about anti-national slogans and activities on the campus in February.
If the quantum of punishment is any indication, Kanhaiya Kumar and Saurabh Sharma have been found guilty of similar offences, whatever they may be, making the ABVP leader bawl about injustice. Poor Saurabh seems to have got the sharp end of the stick in the wrong place. While Kanhaiya has become something of a hero for his defiance, Saurabh would become a butt of jokes for being punished in spite of his obsequious compliance!
Before we see the decision for what it is — farce masquerading as justice — a word about the JNU administration's courage. After waiting for several weeks, it has struck against Kanhaiya Kumar and his azaadi gang on the eve of exams. Aware that the pursuit of a degree may appear more pragmatic to students than the pursuit of justice, the administration is hoping that its decision would not be resisted much. On the scale of courage, this must rank at par with committing a burglary in a vacant house in the dead of night, hoping nobody would notice or resist. In a few days we would get to know if the treachery would be accepted in silence or the campus would go up again in flames, as it should.
But, what exactly are the students being punished for? For shouting anti-national slogans? But, nobody has proved conclusively who were the masked men who shouted those ugly slogans and disappeared. The tapes that were shown as evidence of the purported anti-national slogans are suspected to be doctored, those behind them are currently facing a Delhi government probe. So, what exactly is the fault of the students found guilty?
For sedition? The Indian courts are already in the process of deciding whether Kanhaiya, Umar, Anirban and their associates are guilty of treason and inciting rebellion and violence. Since the verdict is pending, how could the JNU administration pronounce not just its judgment but also read out a draconian sentence? Or, has the vice-chancellor of the university and his bench decided that there is no point waiting for courts, trusting the judiciary?
For argument's sake, what if the court's decide that the student were innocent? Will the JNU be able to give back students what it is depriving them of in haste? Sounds very much like Andhaa Kanoon, no?
Ironically, the JNU administration is itself in the dock for twiddling its thumbs when it should have acted, and then acting in haste when it should have waited for the courts to decide the cases against students. When it allowed a minor incident, repeat a minor incident, on a campus dhaba to turn into a national farce, the administration was guilty of being a mute spectator. Now, when the case is sub-judice, it wants to act tough and pass pre-judicial judgments, when it should have ideally let the embers cool down and wait for the trial to end.
Perhaps the administration wants to punish students for indiscipline, for organising a controversial political discussion on Afzal Guru in the name of a cultural event. But handing out bans and long suspensions for organising debates and discussions is like bringing on tanks to deal with a verbal argument.
For a change, even the ABVP may agree.