JNU VC Jagadesh Kumar wants army tank in campus: Not first time the ex-RSS member has been in news for wrong reasons

Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) M Jagadesh Kumar on Sunday asked Union ministers to help the university procure an army tank which can be put up on display in the campus, so that students can be reminded of the sacrifices and valour of soldiers. He was speaking at an event to mark 'Kargil Vijay Diwas', where minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, "In no other country, is the army being questioned. As India is a democracy, some powers dare to show India in poor light."

Kumar, however, has defended his statement by saying the tank will represent JNU's strong association with India's defence institutions.

Ever since Kumar took office on 27 January, 2016, JNU has found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons, fairly consistently, through these 18 months, with the vice chancellor not missing from the headlines either.

Only last week, a group of students, including members of the JNU Students' Union (JNUSU), staged a protest against disciplinary action taken against their classmates for alleged "acts of activism". The administration has issued an order stating that around 10 students will not be allowed to register for the new academic session, Hindustan Times reported.

The students burnt the order and condemned the "autocratic and authoritarian" regime at the university, the report added. Among the students barred from registering for the next semester were JNUSU members and Umar Khalid.

Umar Khalid, along with a few others, first rose to prominence after the media onslaught JNU witnessed in February 2016 under Kumar as the vice-chancellor. During the incident, police conducted raids in the campus and students' hostels, media vans flocked the university gates, sedition charges were slapped on many student leaders, who were declared guilty of raising slogans against the country by the college administration, and JNU came to be blamed as an institution that sprouted anti-nationals.

In an interview with The Indian Express, when asked if the 9 February incident could have been handled better, Kumar said, "We considered the 9 February incident as an internal issue and we dealt with it in a similar way. We are capable of facing our internal challenges without any interference."

A few months ago, Najeeb Ahmad, a student of the university, mysteriously disappeared from the campus after repeated assaults on him by a group of ABVP activists. Facts of the case are still largely unclear, and protests by JNU students to force authorities to take action on the matter have been clamped down.  On 17 July, the CBI asked for more time to investigate details behind Najeeb's sudden disappearance. The Delhi police was handling the case earlier after which they handed it over to the central agency.

When the incident was initially reported to the administration, no action was taken against the alleged culprits. Moreover, the original report by the Proctor’s office, which mentioned violence by those who attacked Najeeb and recommended strict punishment, was reportedly manipulated and changed by Jagadesh Kumar. Two proctors have also resigned since the incident. When asked about the allegations, Kumar merely said, "The administration works as a team through consultations and takes a collective decision. Faculty members holding administrative positions may choose to not be part of administration at different times and focus on other pursuits," according to The Indian Express.

JNU also recently invoked a university statute to ban events at the administrative block, where most events and protests usually take place. Kumar did not explain the rationale behind the move, and only said, "The university functioning is governed by its statutes, regulations and rules. All sections of the university community must respect and follow them."

Kumar is also known for his pro-government views on political subjects. Before taking office as the JNU Vice-Chancellor, Kumar, who was associated with Vijnana Bharti — an RSS wing involved with the Swadeshi Science Movement — has even been accused of acting on directions from the BJP and for his affiliation with the Sangh, according to PTI.

In March, Jagadesh Kumar fell prey to trolls on social media after he took to Twitter crediting Bharatiya Janata Party's victory in Uttar Pradesh to “development” and “inclusivity”.

Given his history, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that Kumar, who has been widely criticised for suffocating dissent inside JNU, insists for a public display of an army tank in the campus.

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Updated Date: Jul 24, 2017 15:22:03 IST