“Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it”
Of late, the Chief Proctor’s office of JNU has been “seized” by a frenzy to shoot off one circular after another in connection with an even more ridiculous and laughable enquiry which it has initiated against JNU Forum against war on People. Being a gem of an example of bureaucratic highhandedness, the Circular undersigned by the Chief Proctor on 19 May 2011 deserves to be quoted in full:
“Important Notice: An organization named “JNU Forum Against War on People” has in the recent past, issued and distributed an anonymous leaflet containing objectionable depiction of the State Emblem in campus. It violated Sections 3 and 7 of State Emblem of India Act (Prohibition of Improper Use), 2005. A Proctorial Enquiry is underway to establish the identity of students associated with the creation and release of the said leaflet. It is urged that any information, in regard to the identity of the involved students may be submitted in writing to the office of the undersigned by 31.05.2011. No public meeting or any other activity of this organization will be permitted inside the JNU Campus during the pendency of the Proctorial Enquiry.”
First of all, the so-called ‘objectionable depiction” was not in a ‘leaflet’ as claimed by the Chief Proctor but was on a small slip distributed in the dhabas on the evening of 5 May 2011 during the campaign for a public meeting that night. One who cannot even judge the simple distinction between a leaflet and a slip, has now pompously delivered the judgment that “It violated the Sections 3 and 7 of…”! Never mind if the Chief Proctor has played the role of the litigant, the judge, and the executioner, all rolled into one. Now since the Kangaroo court of the Proctorial Board has delivered its verdict, the next step is to launch a manhunt “to establish the identity of students” guilty of the ‘crime’ of creating and issuing that ‘objectionable’ image. And since the Chief Proctor does not have a spy network (or, may be he has one) and a police force, he has summoned the students of the campus to act as informers against their own fellow students. Once the students are ‘identified’ (which means randomly picking and choosing a few students), they can be handed down any punishments as per the whims and fancies of the Great Dictator. This is the modus operandi planned by the monarch and his henchmen at the Pink Palace. But they also very well know that the students of JNU, and particularly the JNU Forum against War on People which has been singled out as the target, will not so easily surrender to these unjust, arbitrary, vindictive and absurd measures, and will rise up in protest. They are aware that as per the tradition of the progressive students’ movement in JNU, there will be strong opposition and resistance articulated in the form of pamphlets, posters, protest demonstrations and public meetings. What better way to gag the protesting students than by preemptively ordering that “No public meeting or any other activity of this organization will be permitted” until this farce of an Enquiry is over? And then to follow this up with another Circular altogether prohibiting and censoring the use of all “unsigned printed material” (which covers the posters of all the organisations and the pamphlets of many others which are not signed)? This second Circular issued by the Chief Proctor’s Office titled “Regulation of unsigned posters/pamphlets/ leaflets etc.” reads:
“This office is seized with the enquiry related to the derogatory depiction of the state emblem of India in an anonymous leaflet issued and distributed by “JNU Forum against War on People”. It has been observed that some organizations are issuing unsigned printed material that sometimes contain objectionable text, pictures, photos, etc. In order to curb this activity, it is proposed that the shopkeepers running photocopy shops inside JNU campus to be directed that they should not make multiple copies of such material under any circumstance. The Registrar’s office may advise the shopkeepers accordingly. Vice-Chancellor may please approve this proposal.”
It is very clear that the logic of one “objectionable” image is now extended to anything and everything that is ‘unsigned’ and ‘objectionable’. The pretext is conveniently and cleverly manipulated to bring into purview not only pictures but even ‘texts’, meaning all kinds of written material. Any poster or pamphlet which is critical of the administration or the authorities to which it is subservient, can be termed ‘objectionable’, and therefore repressed. Through these circulars, the JNU administration is trying to usurp and arm itself with absolute power which will allow it to control and ‘regulate’ the political space of this campus, and to stifle those sections which are most critical of its policies. The bogus manner in which the Chief Proctor has pronounced the judgment that the image used by the Forum is “objectionable” and has “violated” the law, is a glimpse of the kind of dictatorial powers it wields.
If the judgment has already been pronounced and the ‘crime’ already established, then what is this ongoing Enquiry all about? The trial is already over, now the task remains merely to find the accused students and to put them on the stakes. So this is no enquiry, but is in fact a witch-hunt. And why such an elaborate hunt for students who only reproduced an image, which is all over the public domain and is widely used without any prohibition? As the JNU Forum has stated, “this image is readily available in the internet and other public domains. It has been widely used all over the country to depict the use of brutal force by the armed forces of Indian state against the people resisting Operation Green Hunt. This is an artist’s impression which exposes the reality of Indian state’s war on people today, and was used by the Forum keeping in mind the context of a public meeting which was to discuss ‘Operation Green Hunt: Unmasking the Reality of Democracy and Development.’ This image along with the public meeting – which was addressed by Arundhati Roy and Prof. Amit Bhaduri with more than 600 students in attendance in Koyna mess – indeed unmasked the fact that there is no democracy and freedom of expression or political dissent for those who oppose the repressive polices of the Indian state such as the Green Hunt.” Is the Chief Proctor also going to hound out and initiate criminal proceeding against the artist who has created this image? Is it going to punish the JNU students who visit the hundreds of websites carrying this image, or is found with the literature carrying this image? Is it also going to start an enquiry against AISA and its members for maintaining and using their website in which this same image is prominently displayed? One tends to doubt the sanity of those who finds the message conveyed by this image “objectionable”. However, we presume that the Proctorial Board was in their full senses while delivering the above-mentioned verdict. Therefore we suspect that there is something more than meets the eye behind their eagerness to persecute the students who have been protesting against Operation Green Hunt for the last two years. Indeed, this entire farce of an enquiry by the administration against the use of such an image would have been highly ridiculous and utterly laughable, had it not been for the highly dangerous motive and intent behind it.
The new VC, who has already in the short period of his tenure has earned the notoriety of an autocrat, is a darling of the country’s present rulers for his ability and willingness to prostrate before their neo-liberal agenda. He has been deputed to JNU by his masters Manmohan Singh and Montek Singh for implementing the neo-liberal policies which the good economist Dr. B B Bhattacharya has left unfinished. What is his declared agenda in JNU? To privatize JNU and making it ‘market-friendly’. Taking over as the VC of JNU in January this year, S K Sopory told journalists, "we need to expand it (research) more by linking institutions with industry". He also suggested that "institutions should be knowledge parks", the euphemism for turning the campus into an island of Special Economic Zone that processes ‘human resource’ for corporate profit. But as his predecessor has also found out, Sopory knows that the socially conscious and responsible students of JNU, its students’ movement and the political culture are the biggest hurdles to this neo-liberal agenda. The politicized and socially conscious students of the campus have always imbibed a spirit of dissent and resistance against not only anti-student measures within the university, but also against the anti-people policies of the Indian state imposed on the entire subcontinent. JNU is not an island. The identity and solidarity of JNU’s students with peoples’ movements outside has always strengthened and complimented the students’ movement in the campus. So when large numbers of JNU students take to the streets against Operation Green Hunt, or attend public meetings to talk about the Indian state’s war on people and its accompanying corporate plunder in numbers upwards of five to six hundred, the VC and his cronies sense a potential threat. In such political mobilizations they see the rudiments of resistance against their own neo-liberal plans for JNU. Therefore Sopory takes a leaf out of his other master – Chidambaram – and launches a hunt for students who are be punished. This way he wants to set an example for other students who dare to protest and stand up to the authorities. By punishing some students, the VC wishes to pave way for the unopposed privatization of JNU.
From witch-hunt of students to the ‘Green’ hunt of adivasis – it is the same policy of repressing resistance: There is no basic difference between Chidambaram’s Green Hunt and Sopory’s witch-hunt. The difference is only in magnitude and scale. In fact the present draconian actions by the administration can very well be imagined as a miniature version of Operation Green Hunt. In the allegation of violating laws (most of which, such as the Land Acquisition Act, Public Securities Act, etc. are of colonial vintage), thousands of people struggling to defend their jal-jangal-jameen are today being imprisoned by the Indian state. Revolutionaries are being cold-bloodedly murdered by the armed goons of the state in fake encounters, without allowing even the chance for a lawful trial. The villages and houses of those who are being branded as ‘anti-nationals’ or Maoists/Naxalites are being razed to the ground. Rape and torture are used as weapons against people of central and eastern India for opposing the military onslaught of Green Hunt to satisfy corporate interests. All this is being perpetrated by the Indian state by violating all laws and constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people. While the state and its machinery is high above the law, the so-called law-enforcers and the justice system is a constant source of terror for the vast majority who occupy the lowest strata of the society. While criminals run the system, people are criminalized and penalized for opposing the crimes of the oppressors. In this upside-down world, the acts of those who fight for justice or raise voice against injustice become ‘objectionable’ and punishable. Neither is JNU an exception to this rule, nor are the VC and his henchmen –the highest authorities in the university– any different in character from those criminals who rule the roost in the country today.
Has the Chief Proctor, who is so worked up by the alleged violations of law caused by the use of an image, been ever so bothered about the real crimes committed in the campus on a regular basis? Why has he not dared to start proceedings against the former VC who violated the provisions of the OBC Reservation Act for three long years? Has he bothered to penalize those teachers who have regularly flouted the law by discriminating against students from oppressed castes? Has he ever found time to look into the violations of labour laws that are committed on a daily basis in the tens of construction sites in JNU? Why has he repeatedly shielded and protected the right-wing hooligans who so admirably adhere to the law by assaulting Muslim and Dalit students time and again, or by distributing highly communal pamphlets (duly signed by ABVP office-bearers)? Whatever happens to his law when the YFE lumpens publicly shouts casteist abuses, for which they should have been booked under SC/ST Atrocities Act? Why has he not acted against the communal-fascist hooligans who have repeatedly disrupted and vandalized UGBMs and many public meetings, or tore up posters (which the ABVP proudly announced in their last pamphlet) with full immunity and complete impunity? If only images bother him, then why does he allow the ABVP to display public posters where Muslims are stereotypically depicted as ‘terrorists’ and aliens? The list of the crimes of the sanghi-giroh in campus is indeed long, as equally long is the account of Proctor’s reluctance to act against them, or to counter any of the crimes committed in the campus. What’s more, the Proctor himself appears complicit in these crimes through association and inaction. We do not expect that a closet-sanghi can do any better. Nor do we expect the sanghi-goons of ABVP to be punished by the administration. If anyone who has shown the sanghis their place, it is not the administration but the collective strength of the student community of JNU. The ABVP goons have been repeatedly taught lessons by the students in the past, and they will continue to do so in the future too, without pleading the Chief Proctor to punish them for their crimes. Nor do we hesitate to warn the administration that any attempt to intimidate, victimize or punish students for raising their voice against injustice, oppression and state terror is unacceptable.