Destruction of the University



The Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University recently remarked that he desires to install a tank in the University campus to instill love for the country. This has made one thing absolutely clear – the VC has no interest in the University, and therefore, he has no moral right to remain in the University, if not for anything else but for the simple reason that he has clearly gone muddleheaded, and confuses, in the broad daylight, the University space with the battlefield. To substantiate his confusion, he invites a cricketer and an army officer to a University (to a University!) to speak of military style conquest of the Universities of the country. This event is absolutely unprecedented: in no good University in the entire world – “University” worthy of its name – army officers and the VCs have ever spoken of conquering the space of the University by using military force and brutal political power.

Meanwhile, the University is just breathing its last, and barely surviving on its ruin: there is no book in the library; students live in the hostel in the most unhygienic and unbearable condition possible; there is absolutely no fund for higher research, especially in social sciences and the humanities; there is hardly any good facility in the University that is basic, like health care, etc; many students, coming from far off places, don’t have hostel room; there is drastic seat cut, and hardly any admission in any of the research programmes. 

All avenues of peaceful protest, which is the only thing the University teachers and students can do, are punished in the most brutal and savage manner possible. There is also the absolutism of corruption at all possible levels (faculty recruitment, faculty promotion, dealing with students and teachers, fabrication of lies and doctored videos, intimidation and threats to University professors, promoting the most mediocre and corrupt people who support the administration, etc) and dictatorship in all its horror and tyranny: all rules which don’t serve the interest of the establishment are thrown away to the dustbins, while rules are every day fabricated to deny, in the most repressive and coercive manner possible, any remote possibility of justice. Functioning of all decision-making bodies of the University is now defunct and virtually does not exist; all decisions arrive from top to bottom, from VC to the rest, just in a military dictatorship and tyranny. Anything remotely resembling democracy has now been abandoned; the basic rights of the employee are thrown away to the dustbin (anybody can be kicked out anytime of his/ her job for speaking critically about the establishment); the fundamental rights of the citizen – like freedom of speech – are violated; the constitutional rights, especially given to the deprived communities, are violated. 

No doubt that the current VC has great admiration for the military. Military dictatorship is his great paradigm, and he has modelled his own life, right from learning martial arts, on this pattern. It is this that interests the military VC of this University, and nothing, absolutely nothing in what the University needs: the VC does not care about the welfare and upliftment of the University, about academic excellence and promotion of higher researches, about inculcating the intellectual passion in the young minds, and enthusiastically participating, with his colleagues in the University, in the creative exercise of academic freedom. 

The VC of the University does not even meet his students and his colleagues, apart from his favourite ones, for his time is occupied with twittering and organising events that please the ruling regime. In just one year an excellent University has been ruined and yet the whole country looks on, helplessly, many of them blaming the students for misusing tax payers’ money.

A University is the singular and unique institution in a national life: even though established in the geographical territory of a specific nation, the University exceeds closures of all forms of nationalism. As its very name “University” suggests, there is something universal about the University: everything under the sun can be researched upon and critically discussed and interrogated, venturing beyond all ethnic-national-geographical boundaries and closures, passing all geographical-political boundaries sans papier. The University is the philosophical institution par excellence, and since it is the philosophical institution, every higher degree (Master of Philosophy, Doctor of Philosophy, etc.) given by the University is the philosophical degree, even though one may not have done research exclusively and strictly on philosophy. It is not for nothing that the very idea and the institution of “the academy” is the invention of a philosopher, namely Plato. In this profound sense, all those who are in the University, including the VC, are philosophers, and not military people. Therefore, it is an insult to the venerable institution called the University when the VC requests a tank to be installed in the campus, and it is a betrayal to his own profession as the administrative leader of the University community, as deplorable as the police stealing like thieves, and as those who are supposed to be apostles reveal themselves to be only robbers. 

The militarisation of the University must be condemned, not only by all the professors and students across the country, but even by its citizens and those who are in the honourable profession of the military, not only from external enemies, but the abuse of military power by an academic head. The excess and the ecstasy of the University, beyond all forms of national closures, has neither anything nationalist nor anything anti-national about it: it is the very spiritual fecundity of the University space that, by putting into question all nationalist closures, enriches and fructifies the spiritual life of the nation. To destroy this paradox is to destroy the very fecundity and the spiritual life of the University, and thus, of the very spiritual life of the nation. This is why any coercive or ideological repression of academic-intellectual freedom of the University is the most anti-national sentiment ever.

Therefore, all the great Universities of the world, some of them a thousand years old, are nourished even by the respective nationalist regimes. The University is the institution that singularly keeps the spiritual foundation, not just of the respective nation, but of humanity alive. That’s why we can say that scholars and intellectuals and academics are the true inaugurators of history and of our political existence. To repress the University is the treason which we must unanimously condemn, not only as “anti-nationalist” but “anti-humanity”. What the military dictatorship in JNU wants from us is silent, thoughtless, uncritical and unquestioning acceptance of the ruling regime which wards off all possible futurity of the nation and the university. And this is precisely what the University is supposed to question, and discuss, and interrogate.


Read JNUTA's statement on the VC's remark here.

Read Saitya Brata Das's essay on the university here, his essay on being a dalit here, and watch his interview after the stalling of his promotion by JNU VC here.