Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has shook the nation with violence protests. Amidst the turmoil, Prerna Katiyar caught up with its vice-chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar for an interview. Here are the edited excerpts

Who were those masked people who attacked JNU students and teachers?

There is an investigation being carried out by the Delhi Police. We are providing all the information that our security has. Let them investigate with all the facts and only then we will be able to tell you.

But some right-wing outfit Hindu Rashtra Dal has already taken responsibility for the Sunday attack? Are you considering this input?

The university deals with only indisciplinary acts that take place here and if what you are telling is true then I am sure that the Delhi police that is investigating that case will look into this aspect.

The protest started with a 400% hike in fee. Any there chances of any roll-back?

Without even understanding these numbers people are saying anything. They do not even have time to calculate. The fee has gone up from Rs 10 to Rs 300, so in terms of actual money it is only Rs 290. The base was so low. Even this money being collected as room rent will be given back to the hostel authority to create better facilities for them.

But there are allegations of inaction on the part of JNU management to check violence. Some preventive steps could have been taken.

As soon as we came to know about the incident we immediately regrouped our security who moved to hostels and tried to control the situation there. When we found that the security is outnumbered by the student it became a law & order situation; the university then contacted the police that came and contained the situation. The due process was followed.

But there are incidents when a visually challenged student was told by the police over phone “aap log pitiye; hum log badd mein aayenge? (get beaten up; we will come later”)

How can I comment for the police. You should ask them.

Has the management visited the injured students?

All our senior wardens and dean of students are in touch. The entire hostel administration is doing everything possible.

Why has JNU become a den of politics and not of academic excellence?
Do you know that JNU is ranked number 2 by NIRF and we got highest ranking of A++ by NAAC.

Recently there was a visitor’s award by the president of India: out of 5 awards, 2 were received by JNU faculty. How do you say that academic excellence has become secondary here. Our primary focus is academic excellence. We get the best students because we admit only 2% of the total applicants. We have the best of faculty. We don’t want our campus to be politicized.

But it has become politicized. Foreign minister has said that this is not the JNU he has studied in. What has changed?

I absolutely agree with him. Violence has never been our campus ethos here. Our campus ethos has always been peace, discussion, debate and resolving any issue by sitting across the table and not preventing the unassuming student from sitting for the exams, not by physically closing the schools and preventing teachers and students from entering.

Why a section of students have no faith in the JNU management including in you?

If someone loses faith then can I do something even if it is illegal? Suppose I lose faith in a teacher can I go and do something violent to the teacher. Even if you have lost faith in your own dean you have no right to go and lock down the school. What has change is this: taking law into your own hands and prevent others other to having their fundamental rights. It is my fundamental rights as a student to write my exam, get my grades and move ahead. How can you stop me from doing that. What happens to the hopes of the parents of students who come from ordinary background? This aspect is not brought out. People only say: Oh they are protesting, you need to do something about it. We will do everything possible only when I do not trample upon someone else’s fundamental rights.

What are the affirmative actions taken to instill that faith back among students?
Right in this room, all our proctors including me met all the student leaders; we keep meeting the hostel presidents regularly to get their feedback to make sure that there is safety ans security in the hostels. However look at the way some of the students behaved: On October 28, when the first IHA meeting was held to discuss hostel manual and changed, more than 100 students barged in, disrupted the meeting and when the BP of dean of the hostel shot up and she fell unconscious, they blocked the ambulance. Despite this, after Oct 28, a couple of time our provosts went to the hostels to explain the rationale of increasing the fee, again they were held hostage for 5-6 hours. Is that the way to hold any discussion and then when the associate dean of exam went to conduct the exam she was held hostage for 24 hours; her clothes were pulled. You don’t give food or let her sleep. Can you do that? You may have 100 demands and JNU administration may have limitations. But unless all the demands are fulfilled you will not let the school function. Read how our faculty is suffering, great every day, sitting under tree and hoping the students will open schools. Why is the media talking only about aspects of one section of students.

You talked about making a new beginning. Some say how can this happen with old management in place. Your comments.

New beginning is a thought process. Something has happened in the past. Let’s move ahead. Out university is a great university. Let’s work towards the goal of figuring in top 100 universities rather than destroying the image of the university this way.

Will you resign?

We are making every effort to make sure that every student is able to write exam and register for the winter semester. For bringing normalcy, we should work together. That is is why I said let us make a new beginning to make this university.





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