His client list includes a Nobel Prize-winning economist, former Libyan and Nepal prime ministers, and many prominent politicians, diplomats, writers, and scholars. It is also an internationally renowned teaching and research center and is among the top-ranked universities in India.
But Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)’s a storied legacy on Sunday night did not dissuade a crowd of masked men armed with rocks, stones, and iron rods going berserk on its vast campus. They assaulted students and teachers and destroyed property even as the police refused to interfere for over an hour. Outside the gates of the school, another crowd was yelling racist slogans and threatening journalists and ambulances. In the shooting, nearly 40 people were hurt.
Groups of students from left and right have blamed each other for the crime. Most eyewitnesses told reporters that the crowd consisted mainly of people belonging to the ABVP-the right-wing group of students affiliated to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India-and a handful of outsiders.
The unrest on Sunday seems to have been sparked by a fight over an increase in the hostel fee that has roiled the campus for the past few months. University officials blamed the attack on a “group of students” who opposed an ongoing admission process to register new students-it is widely believed that the statement referred to radical students who protested against the increase intuition.
But there are growing concerns that on campus, which has historically been a hotbed of left-wing politics, the BJP seeks to blend opposition. Since the party of Mr. Modi marched a crest of Hindu nationalism to power, JNU was a daily target. Students were convicted of treason for speaking, and the university was vilified as “anti-national” by the party and partisan news networks. The students were called Maoists “traditional.”
The campus attack on Sunday teaches you a couple of things about India.
Like one thing, it leads to a deterioration in law and order in the country, for which India’s influential interior minister, Amit Shah, has a responsibility. When crowds may storm one of India’s best universities, and the police fail to protect students and teachers, many are wondering who is precisely safe.
Critics also argue that the political image of BJP contributes to anticipated-and troubling-consequences.
Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah have been actively attacking and demonizing political opponents and rivals since he was in power, calling them anti-national and ethnic Maoists. “By declaring all demonstrations anti-national, a climate has been created to legitimize lawless violence,” says political scientist Suhas Palshikar. He adds that there has been a “systematic development of the environment of mistrust and hatred.”
The result is that tolerance for dissenting views is dwindling. According to Roshan Kishore, a senior journalist and JNU alumnus himself, the incident shows that “we live in an age in which political gaps in places of learning will be suppressed by brute force, and the state will remain a bystander at best.”
The JNU attack is more tragic than one.
The university has an immense student population that divides through ethnicity, race, gender, and religion. The campus is a “kind movement” where the rich and the poor, the powerful and the small, the city-bred and village students meet, learn and stay, says JNU author Rakesh Batabyal: The University Making Of A. “The campus has never seen what happened on Sunday night,” adds Atul Sood, a member of the faculty.
But, in violent conflict, JNU is no stranger. Teachers and students opposed plans to change the admission policies in the 1980s. Newspaper headlines on the campus spoke of the “anarchy.” Students were attacking teachers ‘ homes. The police thrashed students, according to many accounts. Several students have been suspended, and almost 40 of them have been removed from campus. Power writes Mr. Batabyal, has become a “new meaner for campus politics.”
This time, things are different. The reaction of the government to the violence was frosty: it refused to engage with students protesting. The JNU incident is the third time since December that was protesting students have been targeted on campuses-students from two of Delhi’s leading universities, and Aligarh’s northern city recently borne the brunt of police brutality. “The government’s relentless demonization of students continues to increase their susceptibility to such threats and allows the perpetrators immunity. It’s important that the government listens to their constituents,” says Amnesty International India’s Avinash Kumar.
More worryingly, the opposition from India has not been able to pick up the cudgels on behalf of the teachers. “A culture that condones violence against its colleges just condones the future’s ruin,” Mr. Kishore says. India’s young people are failing.
What is further stressed is that the constraint of India has failed to procure the bludgeons for the benefit of the understudies. “Overlooking savagery against its schools, a general public accepts the destruction of its potential,” Mr. Kishore says. India is attacking its young people unmistakably.