Three days after a brutal attack on students and teachers of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the Union government on Wednesday sounded a conciliatory note and asked the university administration to cut down on rhetoric and improve communication with students.
The university authorities were advised by the ministry of human resource development (HRD) “to make all out efforts for restoration of the normal functioning of the university at the earliest", the ministry said after a two-hour meeting between JNU vice-chancellor (V-C) M. Jagadesh Kumar and education secretary Amit Khare.
When asked what the government was doing with regard to the violence in JNU on Sunday evening, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said action will be taken against those behind the attack. “There is a police investigation taking place into the matter. All those who were masked will be unmasked," said Javadekar. “There is no place for violence especially in universities where people go to study."
The V-C was advised to “communicate more with students and take faculty members into confidence", said an HRD ministry official, requesting anonymity. “Communication gaps create unnecessary doubt. There should be less pressure to hurry up semester registration, but (the administration should) facilitate a smooth process for all. JNU is a premier university with international repute and it should remain that way," the official added.
“The last date for registration for the winter semester without a fine has been extended to 12 January. As part of this registration process 3,300 students have deposited fees for online registration. The university administration has appealed to all stakeholders to maintain peace in the campus and not to get provoked by any misinformation," Kumar told officials.
Kumar has been under scrutiny for his standing firm against protesting students and mishandling the Sunday evening violence that injured 35 students and professors, when armed and masked miscreants ran amok inside the campus. Students have accused the V-C of doing little to prevent the attack and reiterated that Kumar has not met them for the last 72 days since they started protesting against the fee hike.
“The vice chancellor of this university...has come to campus for the first time after the JNU terror attack. He has chosen to speak to a reporter before interacting with any of the students and professors injured in the attack," the JNU Students’ Union said, demanding that the V-C be removed. The students also held a rally inside the campus on a day several institutions, including students and faculty of a few top IITs and IIMs, came out in support of the JNU students.
Meanwhile, the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) criticized the V-C for asking students to “put the past behind" and return to classes. “How can students go back to hostels or to classrooms when they do not feel safe? How can teachers go back to teach when they do not feel safe?" JNUTA asked in a statement.
Unlike some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, who spoke against actor Deepika Padukone for expressing solidarity with JNU students, Javadekar took a calculated line. “Why only artistes, any common man can go anywhere to express his opinion, there cannot be any objection," he said.