About one year after taking charge, JNU vice-chancellor Jagadesh Kumar talks to HT about the controversies surrounding the university and allegations of stifling the right to dissent. Excerpts:
Q) Within weeks of your joining as vice chancellor, the university faced one of its biggest crises in the face of the February 9 event. Do you think you handled it well?
A) I still feel the episode was an aberration. It was an internal incident. We did our best during that time to handle it internally. As a professor of electrical engineering, I have learnt not to panic when there is a sudden change but to work on stabilising the situation.
Q) Students and teachers accuse you of curbing freedom of speech in the university. Why would you send notices to teachers and students over protesting at a spot where they have been protesting for years?
A) All the notices request them to follow university rules. I am all for freedom of expression but if the protests are causing inconvenience to officials working in the admin block then we have to take steps. There is a university rule about protesting at admin block, we are only implementing it. They can protest at other sites.
Q) How would you describe your one year in JNU amid all the controversies it has faced?
A) Last one year has been very productive for me as leader of this university. It is already an excellent university but you cannot rest on your laurels. You need to work hard to even remain at that stage and the challenge is to reach the next level.
Q) What do you think JNU stands for?
A) JNU stands for inclusivity and social justice. It is our endeavour to take this legacy forward and I have been able to do that in the last one year.
Q) Students allege that you did not allow strict action against those found guilty of assaulting Najeeb Ahmad, who is missing for over 100 days now.
A) It is an unfortunate incident. I understand what the family must be going through and we are doing our best to find him. I am in regular touch with police to get updates in the case.
Read: Students lock up JNU vice-chancellor, senior officials over missing youthGiving punishments to students is handled by the proctor office. Based on the initial warden report, the proctor issued notices to them but after getting depositions from many students, the final punishment was awarded.
Q) Teachers and students allege the UGC gazette adopted by committees will discriminate against many and violate reservation policy.
A) It is mandatory for us to follow the constitutional requirements. The UGC guidelines are passed by the Ministry of Human Resources and it becomes a law. We have to adopt it completely. We discussed with all the stakeholders and agreed that JNU has certain progressive policies for admission. We decided to continue with that.
Our entrance test will be based on 80:20 formula with our progressive policies on deprivation points. But the entrance test will be two part and students will have to secure 50% in part one. This way our admission policy remains within the framework of UGC.
If UGC is actually violating any constitutional provision then UGC will take care of it.
Q) What are the future plans?
A) We are focusing on creating new research facilities and infrastructure. We will start a school of management and entrepreneurship to focus on informal innovation. We will also start an engineering school which will offer an integrated five-year degree. We are filling the vacant teaching positions.