For the past two weeks, the situation at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been on the boil after a prospectus containing modified admission policy was allegedly leaked on social media on 14th March. According to this leaked prospectus, the fee was increased from Rs. 1200 for the general category for admission to three subjects to Rs. 3600 for three subjects for general, Rs. 2700 for OBC and Rs. 1800 for SC, ST and others. Other than the fee hike, lateral entry into the BA programme was closed down, online mode of entrance test was introduced, deprivation points for MPhil as well as PhD was reduced, and the integrated MPhil-PhD programme was delinked. These decisions were taken in the Academic Councils meeting where representatives of the current student union were not even allowed to participate. After a round of heavy student protests, the JNU administration was forced to revoke the admission fee hike on the 15th of March. A second prospectus was also officially released on that day.
Since 19th March, 11 students have sat on an indefinite hunger strike demanding revocation of the second prospectus and resignation of the VC, M. Jagdeesh Kumar. The other demands put forward are:
- Rejection of online mode of entrance examination.
- Restoration of deprivation points for the students coming from marginalized communities for MPhil and PhD as well as for the new courses introduced.
- Reduction of the incredibly high fees for the engineering and management courses.
- Rejection of decision to discontinue BA lateral entry for the School of Languages.
- Rejection of decision to discontinue integrated MPhil-PhD.
Expressing solidarity with the students, JNUTA also called for a one-day strike on 20th March. On the 3rd day of the strike i.e. on 21st March, the students went to meet the VC at his residence. The VC was found to be playing Holi with the ABVP leaders of the campus. Instead of listening to the demands of the students, he offered sweets to the students on hunger strike. As the hunger strike continued, many students fell ill and had to be hospitalized.
On the 7th day of the strike (25th March, Monday), hundreds of students sat on a relay hunger strike for a day in solidarity with the students sitting on indefinite hunger strike. In the evening, all of them along with the JNUSU and the hunger strikers marched to the VC’s residence to meet him and seek for a dialogue. The students found the VC’s residence to be heavily guarded. They tried to enter but were informed about his absence. The students then returned to their hostels after having one round of discussion regarding the next course of action. The whole process was peaceful and democratic but the VC hurled baseless allegations of a gherao towards the protesting students.
On 27th March, National Convention of Universities organized by JNUTA took up the ‘Sabarmati declaration’ named after the place it was adopted at. “This election, if they form the government, probably everything would be finished. Every institute is being headed by clones of Modi,” said Dr. Anand Teltumbde. “Superficially, there is no difference between the Congress and the BJP. While the Congress is expediency driven, the BJP is ideology driven,” he added. The Sabarmati declaration reads, “The past five years have seen a concerted attack on the public funded university and other institutes of higher education. This assault has been on multiple levels simultaneously — availability of funding, irregularities in recruitment and finance, inadequate infrastructure, attacks on institutional autonomy, political interference, constriction of equity, access and reservation, diminishing quality of education and research, restrictions on freedom of expression and association, democracy and security.”
“Although in part a continuation of alarming trends of the past, the past five years represent an exacerbation of these tendencies both in terms of their virulence as well as the breadth of their impact,” it read.
On 29th March, the hunger strike was called off by the students after a period of nine days. The students and teachers of JNU as well as other universities have taken up a vow to oust the current RSS-BJP Fascist regime headed by Modi as per the ‘Sabarmati declaration’.
JNU has been the epicentre of controversies for the last few years as it remains one of the few universities that are bastions of dissent in this country. The current regime is trying very hard to do away with the affirmative actions that were instrumental in ensuring that people from marginalized sections of the society could gain admission at JNU. Moreover the onslaught at JNU is not to be seen in isolation with the nationwide push towards commercialization of education.