By Abhay Kumar
The JNU Administration continues to harass and humiliate its students. This time it has closed a reading room, which used to remain open for day and night. Worse still, a brutal and humiliating crackdown is being carried out. Students and research scholars, both from JNU and outside, are being stopped, interrogated, shouted at, misbehaved and humiliated in the name of checking the identity card (ID). The drive has been launched with a particular mindset where every reader is perceived as a potential “criminal”.
While the administration is super active in checking the identity card of readers, it has never answered why such activism is not shown when readers reach out to them with their genuine concerns. While the administration has recently “reduced library’s 80% budget” and “continuously mismanaging and diverting funds for personal luxury”, a point which is raised by JNUSU president N. Sai Balaji in his recent post, it has never cited lack of funds for building the statues and throwing money on organising mega events of Hindutva politicians and their ideologues i.e. Babas and Gurus.
Against these draconian measures, hundreds of students protested at the JNU Central Library named after Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar on Wednesday. A delegation of the office-bearers of the JNU Students Union (JNUSU) also met the library officers and apprised them of the grievances of students. So far the officers, who are working at the direct instruction of Hindutva Government and its puppet Vice-Chancellor, have not given any assurance. Neither has they given any assurance to open the 24-hour library where students were earlier allowed to carry their books, nor have they promised that these anti-students and humiliating drive would be stopped.
Given the dictatorial policies of the JNU administration, the JNU students have decided to hold a protest demonstration on Thursday afternoon. “We have given them 24-hours to reconsider their views and accept the legitimate demands of students, failing which we will be forced to hold a similar protest next day”, JNUSU General Secretary Aejaz Ahmad Rather told the protestors after meeting with the librarian.
Several other office-bearers of JNUSU and common students also narrated their own experience of harassments. Sanjiv, a visually-challenged graduate student of German language and a regular visitor of the library, spoke of harassment which he faces on a daily basis. Syed Mohammad Raghib, who did his PhD at JNU and is now a post-doctoral scholar, was also misbehaved by the library staff and he was not allowed to enter the library. His ID card was also seized for inquiry. Meanwhile, a Delhi University guest faculty Umar Jalees called me up and narrated how his application for consulting the library was rejected by the JNU librarian today. On what basis, a reader can be denied entry to a public library, named after Babasaheb Ambedkar whose life-long mission was spread of education?
During my speech, I tried to raise this question. Is it not illegitimate and illegal that the library officers are stopping readers from entering the library? Instead of feeling happy to see readers making a visit there, they feel disheartened and burdened. The possible reason for this is that the common places- like library, canteen, dhaba–are perceived as “threats”. It is here, in the eyes of Manuwadis, people sit, drink, eat and discuss political and other issues. Moreover, the JNU administration is also planning to privatize these spaces, for which destruction of vibrancy is a pre-requisite.
Yesterday, my entry into the JNU library was also stopped and I was harassed and humiliated, too. On entering the library, I was asked to show my ID card. I simply told them that at the time of my PhD submission, the JNU administration asked me to hand it over. But that does not deny the fact that I am still a student here. My viva is awaited and I need to consult books for its preparation. But they were not ready to hear my concerns. I gave some more valid arguments. For example, my scholarship dues are yet to be released and my library internet login and password are still valid. However, all my arguments and submissions were thrown into the dustbin.
Left with no options, I was forced to write an application (given below) to the librarian about the whole incident and forwarded it to the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, the Dean of Social Sciences and the Chairperson of the Centre for Historical Studies but I am yet to receive any reply. Late night, I even tweeted a post about it but it failed to awake the dead consciences of the officers concerned.
(Abhay Kumar is a PhD scholar at Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His other writings are available at abhaykumar.org. Twitter: @abhaykumarjnu)