Protect the diversity enshrined by JNU
It is a matter of relief that the April 10 violence was localised, when compared to the incidents of January 2020. However, the incident has shown that normalcy remains fragile.
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is in the news again. This time it was a physical scuffle among students on Ramnavami. One version claims that tension was due to attempts to stop meat from being served in the hostel. Another claims there was objection to Ramnavami celebrations in the hostel premises. Any kind of violence is reprehensible. But it is a matter of relief that the April 10 violence was localised, when compared to the incidents of January 2020. However, the incident has shown that normalcy remains fragile.
Two things need to be done: JNU must overhaul its grievance redressal mechanisms. It is now a norm for students to take such disputes to the police instead of the university authorities. This must change. Students are not criminals. The onus is on the administration to regain trust – just as it is on political parties, the police, and the media to display a sense of proportion in responding to these events.
As a university which attracts students from across the country, JNU is a microcosm of India’s diversity. It is natural that students who attend the university find established practices (such as hostels which accommodate both men and women or hostel messes serving meat and vegetarian food together) against their own value systems. Not only have these practices continued, they have taught students to appreciate diversity. This was possible because the university has possessed vibrant democratic forums to arrive at such decisions. The administration’s role has been to make sure that decisions arrived at democratically are not subverted by anyone. This time-tested protocol seems to have been compromised and must be restored immediately.