Dwindling hopes, dissipating energy: Protest continues but will JNU remain JNU any more?

New Delhi: Struggle-truce-struggle was a strategy adopted by Mahatma Gandhi in the national movement as he believed continuous struggle wouldn't get the desired result unless the masses were allowed to take rest or maintain peace for a certain time to bounce back with more energy again when time is appropriate.

Dwindling hopes, dissipating energy: Protest continues but will JNU remain JNU any more?

Representational image. Reuters

For the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), who are fighting a draining battle with their own state, truce would come only after the battle is won. While the receding crowd at the administrative block of the varsity speaks of the dwindling energy that two weeks of protest had caused. But then, it is the hope of justice that is keeping them on the move.

Behind the brave faces of the protesting students, mostly in their twenties, there are now some tired souls. But desperation is not what they are allowing to creep in.

"We are tired, we are emotionally drained but nowhere defeated. We will fight this battle till our last breath," said students who, for the last fortnight, have been part of the protest at the administrative block.

In the exercise of branding the JNU as 'den of anti-national rogues' and making it the punching bag for ultra-nationalists, it is the students who have suffered the most. Since the arrest of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on 12 February on sedition charges and the subsequent surrender of two other students, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattachrya, on 24 February night, JNU students have been protesting against the government.

There seems to be an interesting paradox working there. What is draining them is what is sustaining them: the high pitched sloganeering. While overall inertia seems to be dissipating, the source of energy required for sloganeering seems unknown.

"They fear us, they fear our struggles, they fear us because we think," said another PhD scholar, referring the crackdown on the institution in the garb of nationalism.

While the students are displaying toughness, the fact remains that they are gradually losing hope with the delay in the bail of Kanhaiya followed by the surrender of his fellow comrades and now with good number of Kashmiri students leaving the campus fearing 'witch-hunt'. Many have changed their hostels or have gone to their friends in the city.

With the police stationed round-the-clock outside the main gate of the campus and uncertainly over the fate of other two accused Rama Naga and Anant Prakash Narayan is only adding to the anxiety.

"I had nothing to do with the events organised on 9 February where anti-national slogans were chanted. I have no connection any students organisation her, neither did I take part in any protest, but I along with others having sleepless night fearing a possible witch-hunt," said a PhD student.

Because of the nationalism hysteria, the students are apprehensive of their safety outside the campus. They are being beaten and those who live in rented accommodation in nearby areas are being asked to vacate the room by their landlords.

The internationally acclaimed institution "inculcates its students with perspective, the power of ideas and democratic deliberation. It makes students passionate about causes and never suppresses dissent". In this ideal model for institutions, the debates veer around to discussing the strengths and flaws of capitalism, visions of nationalism or the rights of minorities.

This culture of debate has produced bright leaders in both Left and Right camps of Indian politics. But many students are of the view even after the controversy ends and all their friends come out clean, JNU will not be the "same as what it stood for and what it stood against".

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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2016 12:38:47 IST

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