Over the past few months, the country has seen a dramatic change in the student politics environment. Jawahar Lal Nehru University chalked out the condition of a religious and national mind while the injustice faced by Rohit Vemula at the University of Hyderabad ushered a new wave of student movements. While issues and ideas at both the places should have been dealt at the level of debate, the government decided to use their power in a ruthless manner.
However, another thread that binds both the universities together is Delhi University’s surreal silence. One would expect from one of the largest universities in the country, often looked upon for its high standards and prestige, to come out in support and to protect the vulnerable. Delhi University did none of that.
A huge issue erupted at the centre of which was the idea of nationalism. While people across the country discussed the issue strenuously, DU kept silent, almost to the point of ignorance. It was an indifference which was disturbing as it questioned the nature of education and the kind of critical thinking it should have fostered. A large number of institutions came out in support of JNU across the globe. DU decided to take none of the sides and instead turned a blind eye. While it would still have been agreeable to have a difference of opinion, the disappointment was an absence of it. It is true that students from DU did participate in the protests organised by various student groups, the University as such did not use its voice collectively to join the debate.
It is important to reiterate here that while a lot of universities signed petitions in favour of JNU, DU neither supported nor condemned it. In fact, very few discussions were formally conducted which also owed a lot to a fear that had been generated following the JNU row. Students were scared to organise any kind of events or discussions, especially those on the side of a new kind of understanding of nationalism which was being discouraged brutally by the state. Is this the kind of environment we should be nurturing at a central university? One would have overlooked this silence only if it wasn’t too evident. But in the huge, loud and fierce atmosphere of struggle carried out by students of HCU, AMU, TISS and others against all odds, it was a great disappointment to see DU quiet.
After the release of almost all students and teachers involved and an apparent settling down of issues, it is pertinent to ask some questions. How much of space are we left with for dissent? Is the fight that the students put ahead going to protect the spirit of debate and discussion? Or has the state artfully done what it has to by creating a fear psychosis in which one would question the culture of questioning the dominant in the first place? We as students of Delhi University, who have witnessed the sheer amount of indifference and ignorance that fellow students have shown, need to ask ourselves if there is something wrong with the education we are getting or have we already given up in this struggle of fighting for a freedom to speak and to ask questions.