The other side of the JNU conundrum

Rahul Chaudhary, National Media Convener of ABVP, Valentina Brahma, Girls Coordinator of ABVP Delhi, Nidhi Tripathi, ABVP's National General Secretary, Sidharth Yadav, State Secretary of ABVP Delhi, and Manish Jangid, Secretary of ABVP JNU, address the media over the violence at JNU  at Press Club of India on Jan. 13, 2020 in New Delhi. (Getty Images)

There has been much hullabaloo over the developments in Jawaharlal Nehru University earlier this month in which “masked outsiders” attacked and injured, reportedly over two dozen students and also some teachers.

Media reports over the deplorable incident has expectedly blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, for the violence that is said to have started over the issue of increase in hostel fees. Some even suggested that the violence was committed in an organized manner by the BJP and its alleged hoodlums to teach the JNU-ites a lesson for launching a sustained agitation against the government’s newly-enacted Citizenship Act and opposition to NRC.

As a former student of JNU and the first to win a seat in the students council under ABVP banner in 1981, I feel that the media reports have not told public the whole truth, but only part of it so the BJP and its student wing could be conveniently projected as the aggressor and the Student Federation of India (SFI), and some of the left-leaning teachers as victims.

The media reports and the opposition political parties’ accusation against BJP are far from true, and I know because although I do not belong to any political party or group, I keep myself abreast of the goings-on in my alma mater despite living abroad as an entrepreneur for the past 25 years.

Since the days I was in JNU, the university has been a haven for “political students,” as opposed to students with political inclinations and the former group, the professional politicians, have occupied the hostels under the garb of being genuine full-time students.

The immediate provocation for the violence was not hostel fee hike in JNU as has been made to appear in the media. If the so-called progressive students were so concerned about the fee, they would be launching a movement against the issue nationally and in all central and other universities, and not just in JNU. Certainly, this was not the real cause of provocation. The causes lie much deeper.

Many students like me who attended JNU actually benefited from the university because it was so affordable. Ninety percent of the students in JNU are good students who want to study well and shine in life. They prepare for their careers in civil services or go abroad for higher studies after finishing their studies at JNU. There are many examples of such illustrious JNU alumni.

But the problems at JNU have been the “political students” who won’t let you be yourself, if you subscribe to a political view different from the Left. I remember being expelled twice and was treated like a virus because I did not have the same political views as them. Probably they thought once a virus comes in, the system can get affected. Even there has always been a section of the left-leaning “progressive academics” who have supported such students.

It is in this backdrop and the larger political situation of India today that the recent developments should be viewed and analyzed.

The Congress party has virtually died in India and the Left is simply moribund. Ever since Prime Minister Modi and the BJP have come to power, these parties have been looking for any issue they can capitalize on, so they can resurrect themselves. And this so-called fee raise issue came handy for both of them.

Why I say that the press coverage about the violence has been selective?

It is because no one has used even a fraction of newsprint to talk about the attack on the JNU server room and vandalism and damage to property by Left students and the union guys the evening before the alleged attack by masked outsiders. That certainly is not fair and unbiased reporting.

I do not know who are actually responsible for the attack from the outside. There might be some elements with links with ABVP. But whoever they are, it is certainly a deplorable act and they should be punished. But there are also reports that say some Left students were also involved.

But I wonder how is it that the attack on the university the previous evening has not provoked similar kind or protests? Is it because some Left students were allegedly involved or is it because highlighting only one side of the story help in BJP-bashing and tarnishing the Image of Modi?

I tend to believe the ulterior motive was to show Modi and ruling BJP in a poor light. A question has been posed why the JNU security guards and police did not act in time to prevent the outsiders from entering the varsity and indulge in rampage.

Common sense tells you that no university guards in any university anywhere in the world could be prepared to tackle such an armed attack. University security guards, after all, are not military men and are not trained to face such an armed attack.

As for the allegation of police inaction by both media and the opposition, I am surprised by their double standard on the issue. When police entered Jamia Milia, there was a hue and cry against the government for allowing police to enter the campus but in the case of JNU when police did not enter to quell violence, all hell broke loose.

This is the kind of double standard that the media and the Left have always followed whether inside the campus or outside. Personally, I do not think Prime Minister Modi, or the BJP has anything to do with the violence in JNU. They have zero responsibility in this, much less orchestrating the attack as has been alleged by some.

I think people who are seeking to put forward such ludicrous theories have to be totally out of their minds. Unless some people think that Modi and BJP leaders are dumb, nobody in his senses would believe they could send goons from outside into a university to do what they did. For the sake of argument, if any BJP leader had any scores to settle with any JNU student/students, they could have been done that anywhere outside without leaving a footprint on the campus.

Therefore, I think the idea was to blow up an issue and politicize it —and these days it is easier thanks to the presence of social media where even the presence of 20 students in one university and 50 in another on any given issue can be construed as a sign of support or solidarity for a cause.

I think sometimes some BJP leaders and their over-zealous supporters are not as smart as they should be because they give too much importance and attention to these few voices in JNU instead of ignoring them.

The JNU administration should be urged to strictly scrutinize the credentials and bona fides of students for their continued presence in hostels and on camps. Only people, who are genuine students should be allowed admission and not professional politicians masquerading as students.


Aditya Jha, who was a graduate student at the School of Computer Sciences in JNU, is a Toronto-based entrepreneur and philanthropist who received the Order of Canada, the second highest civilian honor of Canada in 2011.

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