The Jawaharlal Nehru University has been on the boil since its students’ union president, Kanhaiya Kumar, was arrested on February 13 on sedition charges. Thousands of wall posters across the sprawling campus convey the protest against the action taken by the authorities. At the administrative block, the epicenter, hundreds are taking classes on patriotism daily.
However, friction between the All India Students Association (AISA) and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), on either end of the student politics spectrum, has not doused their sporting spirit.
That was amply evident at the final of the Chandrabhaga Premier League (CPL), a tennis ball cricket tournament being held for the last few years. Organised on the lawns of the Chandrabhaga Hostel, students belonging to AISA and ABVP all bonded in the 10-overs-a-side triangular event.
In the final between Ball Busters, the winners, and Dummy Eleven, every wicket was celebrated with hugs and high fives. Every run was loudly applauded. Mess Fire were the other team.
MESSAGE IN A MATCH
Sloganeering and fiery speeches in the campus gave way to loud Punjabi pop and rhythmic clapping. But the organisers felt even the modest cricket match was a way to convey the message to the outside world.
“This match is very much connected to the protest which is going on. It is representative of the fact that JNU is not how it is perceived outside. It is a place where people from different communities, ideology, religion and region come together. They share and debate inside and outside the classroom academically,” Dr Dhananjay Singh, Assistant Professor, Centre for English Studies, told HT.
In 2004, representing ABVP, Singh had lost the JNU students union president’s election to the AISA candidate. On Sunday, he was the ‘financier’ for Mess Fire.
“We’re not as we have been portrayed by a section of the media and others. We respect all ideologies. This is the strength of JNU,” said Rehbar Reza, a first year PHD student and captain of Dummy Eleven.
The tournament was originally scheduled for the second week of February but the campus turmoil forced its postponement. “This tournament is a way to show what kind of bond we’ve always had. We debate when issues arise but after that we come together. In a way, this match itself is a kind of protest against how JNU has been portrayed,” added Singh.
For Ajay, a first year PHD student and Ball Busters bowler, playing cricket in the middle of the current developments was a sign that things were normal. “See, everything is okay here. This is JNU. We debate, discuss and play. These things are normal here. This is my JNU. I am proud of it.”