By Shishir Tripathy
Once upon a time, that hooded sweatshirt with ‘JNU’ painted in bold letters on it was an object of envy for non-JNUites. It was worn by students of the university with pride and some intellectual swagger. In the last one week things have changed though. Now wearing it can lead you to being branded ‘anti-national’ and probably land you in trouble.
Santosh Singh, a former JNU student who now teaches political science in Delhi University, says, “Two days ago two students from JNU were manhandled at Munirka market. They were wearing the JNU sweatshirt and some people present there started calling them anti-national. When they protested they were roughed up. Realising that they had no defence they left quietly”. Singh adds, “This all is happening because the way JNU is being branded now.”
The very first day when the video of the ‘anti-national slogans being raised appeared, some students of JNU registered their concern over their university being branded as a breeding ground of anti-national elements and their apprehension is proving right.
The three-kilometre auto-rickshaw ride from Ber Sarai to IIMC gate of JNU by this reporter on Monday night revealed how badly the reputation of the premier university had been tarnished by the 9 February incident and the way it had been analysed. All through the 15-minute journey, the auto-rickshaw driver kept abusing JNU students whom he held responsible for betraying the country.
Umesh Kumar, a JNU student, who recently submitted his PhD thesis and lives in Mahanadi near JNU, is ‘aghast’ the way his alma mater is being branded. He also faced the brunt of this. “I live in Mahanandi and I was about to shift to Munirka. Yesterday when I went to give the rent and security money to the landlord he denied to rent me his flat,"
“He minced no words. He simply said I cannot allow people like you to live in my house because I don’t want to get into any trouble,” says Kumar.
Following the infamous Batla House encounter, which took place in 2008, many politicians unleashed an attack on Jamia Millia Islamia because the Muslim terror suspects were reportedly students of the university and the shootout had occurred in its neighbourhood, Jamia Nagar. The institution was tagged as ‘nursery of terror’ in no time.
Speaking at the convocation of the university, President Pranab Mukherjee in November 2014 had said: “Since its inception, Jamia has fostered understanding of India’s rich history and culture, including the cultural traditions of Islam. Through its academic programmes it has instilled in students a national perspective. Jamia has a wide academic profile. It caters to learning in a variety of disciplines at various levels from under-graduate to PhD. It is heartening to know that there are over thirty centres dedicated to research in areas like peace and conflict resolution, women’s studies, media and governance, North-East studies, Dalit and minority studies, and comparative religions and civilization.”
The institution which “fostered understanding of India’s rich history and culture” became ‘nursery of terror’ owing to one incident.
As Bajrang Dal and other ultra right wing activists joins the protests against ‘JNU’s anti-national activities’ the probability of a swift branding of JNU as the ‘nursery of terror’ looms.
That was 2008, let us not do the same in 2016.