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25 February 2016

JNU Students Allege Political & Religious Discrimination By Teachers


Most of the time, it is subtle. The teacher would make snide remarks about you as you pass through a corridor and, sometimes, even while a lecture session is on — if you do not happen to share the teacher’s political ideology. It is not necessary that you are affiliated to the ABVP or the teacher owes his/her allegiance to the CPM, CPI or CPI(ML)-Revolution. The professor might have been a communist when s/he was a student in JNU years ago, or the constant company of communist colleagues has had an influence on his/her mindset.

Saying so, however, would sound no better than a right winger’s pet theory. So, let’s study some specific cases. The identities of the students will stay hidden — lest their careers should be affected. The names of the teachers must be told, however; or else this story will not be credible.

Moushumi Basu is an Associate Professor and CIPOD’s coordinator with the Equal Opportunity Office (EOO) of JNU. Several students have heard her boasting of having reached out to Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru at the Tihar Jail when he was alive. She says she used to carry food to the criminal on death row. During one such chat in the campus, a student pooh-poohed her ‘feat’. When it was this otherwise promising girl’s turn to face the oral exam for her MPhil, Basu gave her a grade of 4.7 whereas a minimum of 5 is required to move to the next year. This student is an OBC.

The alibi was predictable. When questioned by the unfortunate girl’s classmates, Basu said that the girl’s presentation skills left a lot to be desired.

Recently, some newspapers had carried stories of caste discrimination in the JNU administration and campus which, curiously, came up juxtaposed with the Rohit Vemula story as though the same set of people were responsible for the acts of discrimination in both the varsities. Now our readers know that leftists are behind the practice of the caste scourge in JNU. Or, they penalise a student if he appreciates the work of “BJP’s” Narendra Modi — never mind that the country’s prime minister is an OBC, too.

JNU Poster 1
What was that desire of Afzal Guru that these communists wish to realise? Destroying India, of course
ABVP students cutting across different centres of humanities in JNU have been complaining since the NDA government took charge at the Centre that the professors openly threaten them with comments like: “Let’s see how long Modi lasts; he is not going to be around for 50 years, is he? Who will protect you then?”

And how brilliant are the communist students who keep passing these exams, living and overstaying in hostels till they are middle-aged? Eyewitnesses of the incident of the night of 9 February say that many young students found the demonstrations by DSU “cool”. They added to the chorus of hailing Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhatt. While dispersing, however, they were asking one another who this goddamn Maqbool Bhatt was. He must be another unfortunate social activist whom Modi hanged recently, they presumed on their way back to their hostels. Indira Gandhi must have squirmed in her afterlife.

The other day, there was a heated debate on Times Now over letting DSU, a part of the All India Revolutionary Students Federation (AIRSF), a frontal organisation of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), function in university campuses. Our readers should be given a piece of information that Arnab Goswami could not extract from his panellists. DSU cannot be prohibited because it is not a registered union in the first place.

How does one identify DSU in a campus then? Well, the same set of 20 odd students — including the 10 named in the poster inviting students to the 9 February event at Sabarmati Dhaba — and teachers surface again and again with Maoist agendas, under fanciful banners. Sometimes Anirban Bhattacharya, “Anjali Jha”, Anwesha, Aswathi Nair, Bhavna Bedi, Komal Bharati Mohite, Reyaz ul Haq, Rubina Saifi, Umar Khalid and Samar Khan call themselves the Cultural Front. At times, the same set becomes the Students’ League. At other times, they are the United Left. So on and so forth! That fateful night, they had invited JNU inmates to a “Cultural Evening”.

One of the names has appeared in quotes above because she cannot be traced anywhere in the campus. However, her name figures in the posters made by these students time and again.

Within the DSU fold, there was an act of dissent last year. Anirban, Anubhav, Aswathi, Banojyotsna, Gogol, Priya Dharshini, Reyaz, Rubina, Srirupa, Umar and Ufaque resigned from the union, citing the reason of not being allowed to speak on “gender relations and patriarchal oppression” within the organisation. They registered their protest in a private website run by some communists like journalists Binu Mathew and Satya Sagar, filmmaker KP Sasi and film editor Ajith Kumar B.


JNU Poster 2
Poster inviting students and teachers to the controversial event of 9 February 2016
And how do these communist students manage to get into the good books of their respective professors? The most effective tool the students of AISA, AISF, SFI, DSF and the elusive DSU employ to strike a rapport with these teachers is inviting them to post-dinner talks. The minor differences between different communist ideologies are forgotten as both moderates and radicals invite the likes of Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Jayati Ghosh, Mridula Mukherjee et al. None of these teachers affiliated to different unions — or to no union while being leftists nevertheless — ever decline an invite.

In these late night talks, students shower eulogies on the scholars for their ‘brilliant’ informal lectures. A regular student attendee of these talks, unless he or she is totally dumb, never fails. In contrast, the students of the ABVP — as well as pupils not fascinated by communism — are the regular targets of derision of these professors. Besides the teachers named above, students complained to this correspondent against Nivedita Menon, a faculty member at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, Sachidanand Sinha and Atul Sood, both professors at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development under the School of Social Sciences, and Balbir Singh Butola. Centre for the Study of Regional Development.

Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor, Disarmament Studies at the School of International Studies, and AK Ramakrishnan, Professor, Centre for West Asian Studies at the School of International Studies are two teachers to watch out for their virtually secessionist views on all parts of India that brave insurgencies, with a special interest in Jammu & Kashmir.

The students I spoke to alleged that some of these professors were present at Umar Khalid & Co’s event at the Sabarmati Dhaba on 9 February. Some of the interviewees suspected that Jacob and Ramakrishnan might have played a role in organising the function at least by inciting the student organisers.

Names of professors who participated in the commemoration of the first anniversary of Afzal Guru’s “martyrdom” can be seen in the following poster. Ramakrishnan’s name can be seen in it. Along with the hyperventilating author Arundhati Roy, one can find on the list Maoist ideologue Sujato Bhadra, filmmaker Sanjay Kak, Manipuri activist Malem Ningthouja, Prof Tripta Wahi and alumnus Kunwarpal Singh and anti-sedition advocate RS Bains.

JNU poster 3
Communist commemoration of the first anniversary of the Parliament House attack convict's execution
Then there are instances of religious discrimination. Blunt attacks come from the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies’ Centre for Arabic and African Studies. The teachers are expectedly all Muslim and students mostly so. The Hindu students of the discipline I spoke to said they have to constantly live with the teachers’ observation that “Arabic is Allah’s language” and, therefore, the “Hindus are not blessed” to learn it.

Two students who complained so said that they could be identified in the class if the names of these professors came out. Therefore, an inquiry committee must be constituted to identify who out of M Aslam Islahi, FU Farooqi, Basheer Ahmad, Mujeebur Rahman, Rizwanur Rahman, Ubaidur Rahman, Md Qutbuddin, Khurshid Imam and Md Akram Nawaz made these prejudiced remarks. These are the names of faculty members at the said centre.

The department of Persian language has several non-Muslim names in the list of faculty members. But some of the Muslim professors even here have been heard saying Muslims alone “deserve” to learn Arabic, the “language of God”, while Persian and other languages spoken in Islamic countries may be made accessible to lesser mortals!

A non-Muslim student of Arabic, Persian and Urdu, which incidentally I happen to be, can vouch for the authenticity of this allegation. It is not just in JNU where Muslim teachers create an impression that non-Muslim students have come to the wrong classroom. We don’t deserve to learn Arabic, their god’s language!

Let them be deluded in madrassas. In secular institutions, shouldn’t a proper probe be initiated against these teachers and disciplinary action taken against them?

Who will bell the cat is the question. The communists of JNU are reportedly unhappy with the findings of the committee that found eight students guilty of raising anti-national slogans in the campus on 9 February and suspended them based on its report. The reason for their displeasure is that, unlike on  several previous occasions, they couldn’t bulldoze their way into the committee to issue to all accused students a clean chit. A professor of the Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, for example, who was an SFI activist in the past but who is not involved in activism at present, holds that JNUSU president Kanhaiya is innocent while conceding that radical leftists are active in the campus [The name of this teacher has been withheld because the complainant fears it will expose his name, too].

Since 12 February, when the internal committee of JNU submitted its report and action was taken against eight students, almost no teacher in the humanities discipline is holding a regular class. All the time allotted for lectures is spent on informal chats over police action on alleged anti-national students.

And what kind of justice is meted out by an inquiry committee whose composition suits the communist teachers? The language school had one Arshad Alam as a faculty member. The man’s services had earlier been terminated at Jamia Milia Islamia after he was accused of rape. He was accused of raping a student again at JNU. The university authorities merely dismissed him instead of handing him over to the police.

But make no mistake. Muslim teachers alone do not have the dubious distinction of creating an environment in the classrooms that is not conducive to healthy learning. Parnal Chirmuley, Associate Professor at the Centre of German Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, would make such obnoxious comments on Hindu festivities that it would be difficult for a believer to maintain a calm composure necessary for concentration on the curriculum. Besides dismissing festivals like Holi, Diwali and Durga Puja, she would brag about having thrown garbage at Ganesh Chaturthi processions while she was in Maharashtra as a mark of her protest.

Chirmuley believes the burqa is a symbol of women’s emancipation as it saves them from the evil gaze of men! And she hails the Taliban for being “the world’s most formidable anti-imperialist force”.

One must also know how the communist students increase the strength of their tribe. This is necessary in the context of this article to get the overall picture of revulsion an apolitical student might get from the campus. My readers who happen to have gone to a communist-dominated university campus of West Bengal, where professors do not overtly profess their political views but SFI activists make the experience unbearable to no less an extent, can relate to it. I am using the description "revulsion" because I, an apolitical person during my undergraduate years, am against student unionism of the political kind while those who have been part of such unions fail to appreciate that their attitude and activities vitiate the atmosphere of learning that an educational institution is supposed to provide.

Initially, students from the hinterland reach JNU in an unassuming and gullible state with little or no political predilections. After living a hell lot of taboos in their villages and small towns, the JNU campus comes across to them as a sudden, overwhelming experience of freedom. Before the realisation sinks in, they are swept off their feet by the leftist advocacy of “free sex”. Well, that is not the term the communists use, but that is the sense the villager-turned-townsperson gets — more so due to the first-day reception by girls.

In contrast, the ABVP looks dull, boring and anachronistic, espousing views that sound regressive even to urbane right wingers. Moving around the campus, I heard out ABVP affiliates ruing the fact that they still couldn’t master the art of political correctness that, most importantly, entails the right gender and caste mix. Unlike the Brahmins in communist parties, they are also loath to using assumed surnames that would camouflage their castes. They bemoaned the fact that no corrective measure is taken by the RSS to make their union more appealing to the college-going youth in general.

Fence sitters are wooed — rather dragged — to the communist fold by another technique. The communist students offer those who fail to get hostel accommodation space in the dormitories dominated by communists. Here, demonstrations raising typically communist issues are a regular activity. An ‘indebted’ newcomer normally obliges his communist senior when urged to join the processions, sloganeering and talks. In due course, an apolitical yokel from some remote corner of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu or Kerala turns into an indoctrinated soldier of the red brigade.

I am reproducing the original draft of my report (with typographical errors corrected) after its first publisher took off the names of professors from it. The report contains allegations by students affiliated to the ABVP as well as unaffiliated, apolitical students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. If a teacher mentioned in this report wishes to raise an objection to the complaints, he or she may send a rejoinder to dasgupta.surajit@gmail.com. That will be published in this blog, too.
 — Surajit Dasgupta






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Surajit Dasgupta treats no individual, organisation or institution as a holy cow.