Move to hold JNU convocation after 46 years sparks fresh row
The management’s decision to hold the JNU convocation on 8 August, for the first time after 1972, has divided the faculty as well as the student community
New Delhi: The iconic Ganga Dhaba at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi is abuzz with voices of dissent against the proposed convocation, which is to be held after a gap of almost 46 years. Established in 1969, JNU has been one of India’s best institutions known for its pedagogy and interdisciplinary approach in education. However, of late, controversies surrounding political ideologies, and the running of the institution have time and again made it to the headlines.
This time, the management’s decision to hold the JNU convocation on 8 August, for the first time after 1972, has divided the faculty as well as the student community. “JNU always believed in a bottom-up approach in administration and in education. Now, that may be changing to a top-down mode,” said political analyst and retired JNU professor Sudha Pai.
“Convocation per se is not bad, but right now the atmosphere on the campus is not conducive,” she said. “The student, faculty and administration mistrust is perhaps at the highest. There is apprehension and, I hope, the August moment does not worsen the situation further.”
She also wished that the administration, headed by the vice-chancellor, had held consultations with both students and professors before taking a call to avoid any further confrontation.
However, S.C. Garkoti, chairman of the 19-member committee, which deliberated on the move to hold the event, was not convinced. “Convocation is not bad for students, why should they take it otherwise? It is part of a university system, we don’t expect opposition to it. From now on, it will be an annual event.”
According to a doctoral student at the university, the move was about enforcing an ideology. “Somebody is trying to codify the liberal tradition of JNU and put a stamp of authority on it. That’s not acceptable to students. We are not a teaching school, but a research centre. Students are as good as professors, why not consult them?”
The student said the situation could worsen depending on the management’s choice of the chief guest of the event. “The fear is the convocation may be laced with saffron ideology. Hope the convocation robe will not be saffron,” the student said, requesting anonymity.
“The vice-chancellor is making constant efforts to destroy the very ethos of inclusive education,” said Anubhuti Sharma, another PhD student. “He has reduced student intake at the doctoral level and has imposed restrictions on students’ movement. Free space and free speech are shrinking on the campus. The convocation is a mere spectacle of his desire to pose as the hollow benefactor of JNU students.”