Student politics: Is JNU going through a DU-isation and vice-versa


By Sagar Sethi

‘Neither Hindi nor English, friends I know only one language, and that is the language of Movement!’ says DSF’s Lenin Red in his presidential speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Established in 1969 JNU, also known as the Lal Burg (Red Bastion), is today more colourful than before. The student politics in JNU is determined to unfurl its rainbow flag and further the freedom struggle of India’s Queer Movement. Its red bricked walls at the same time seem slightly saffron hued.

INDIA - OCTOBER 24: Election graffiti at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, October 24, 2006 (Photo by Vivek Singh/The India Today Group/Getty Images)
INDIA – OCTOBER 24: Election graffiti at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi, October 24, 2006 (Photo by Vivek Singh/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

JNU has always been a Left stronghold. But can it keep its politics aloof from the emergence of saffronised politics at the national level? Last year RSS students’ wing ABVP increased its councilors’ share in JNU’s student union to 40%, clarifying the arrival of ‘Modi Leher’ in JNU. Although CPI(ML)’s student-wing AISA retained all four posts of JNUSU’s Central Panel, the language of politics is slightly drifting from progressive issues dealing with queer independence and gender justice to more immediate student issues; like installing Wi-Fi gardens, more Wi-Fi routers and especially more hostel rooms.

ABVP’s National Secretary Rohit Chahal said, “I think now the students are fed up with the policies of the Left in JNU. The Left groups don’t talk about immediate student issues while ABVP has always struggled to emphasize these issues.”

jnuThe crisis of hostel accommodation has been looming in the campus for too long now. “The hostel crisis benefits AISA’s politics,” ABVP Activist Mukesh says. This provides the ground for Left organizations in JNU, he further says, to network with the huge mass of desperate students who need a room to crash in after their classes. On the other hand, this ‘Room Lo, Vote Do’ exchange academically benefits the student community as well. More they interact among themselves, more refined their ideas become. Just like in Plato’s ideal society where political interaction is quintessential for conceiving the idea of ‘ultimate good.’

The overarching concern in JNU is that the ‘progressive politics’ of this campus has to be saved.  AISA’s activist Shehla Rashid is more than just concerned about the extreme de-politicization of her campus in the wake of ABVP’s ‘money-power’ based politics. “We are trying to save our feet here,” she says.

When asked what JNUSU was doing about this, she says ‘Modi leher was at its peak, when we contested him.’ ‘We went to Benaras, and further when Modi came to power that AISA in Delhi University received more than ten thousand  votes – the most  that a Left party has in the last decade.’  Interestingly, last year AISA’s vote share in DUSU’s election did increase from 3,000 to 10,000, while ABVP retained all four posts of DU’s Central Panel on its home turf.

jnuSo does the rise of ABVP mean that JNU will be DU-ised, while a more visible AISA makes DU more JNU-ised? Former JNU President Akbar Chaudhary explains the sudden rise of Left politics in Delhi University when he says –“People were fed up with the Congress government, and desired a change. If these people are given any alternative other than BJP, they would go for it. Like AAP’s clean sweep in Delhi.” Likewise when DU’s student community is provided with better options than ABVP and NSUI, he further says, it would abandon them both.  Under such circumstances, the entry of Aam Aadmi Party’s youth wing, CYSS (Chattra Yuva Sanghrash Samiti) in the DU student politics could prove to be that alternate.

Almost three weeks away from its Students’ Union elections, the scramble for power in JNU resumes. Overall, while shifts in its language of politics seem a matter of concern in itself, the sudden DUisation of JNU poses a bigger threat to its ‘progressive politics.’ These forthcoming elections will decide what ‘Of JNU, By JNU and For JNU,’ stands for!