A Statement by Professors and former Professors of JNU on the recent events in JNU
We former faculty members of Jawaharlal Nehru University are writing to express our shock and dismay at recent developments in the university.
We have taught for long years in JNU, a university that has been known for its academic excellence the world over, and whose students have shone in many different fields of work. All this was possible because of a tradition of total freedom of exchange between teachers and students. It was also possible because students have felt free to question what appears unjust and immoral and to base their views on sound reasoning and analysis. The classroom in JNU was never restricted to a space inside a building, nor was the syllabus confined to a prescribed curriculum alone. Teaching and learning encompassed the world itself.
This is a fundamental intellectual requirement for all universities, whose central function is to foster the freedom of thought and expression. Otherwise the institution cannot breathe, it resembles a despotic state in miniature where the voice of the authorities alone echoes and re-echoes endlessly.
We are informed that an Academic Council meeting that was held in unprecedented fashion in the midst of the winter vacation, was not allowed to discuss the most important issues raised in the Agenda, which were then declared to be passed without justification. We are also saddened to hear allegations of distortion of Minutes of statutory bodies of the University even with respect to matters with significant implications for its functioning, a matter which has been raised by many members of the Council.
Some students, who apparently entered the hall and shouted slogans after the Academic Council meeting was over, have been suspended without any enquiry. This is in marked contrast to the casual and cavalier approach towards other students who were guilty of physical violence against a student who has since been missing for more than two months.
Very distinguished members of the faculty who talked to the students subsequently have received humiliating letters of warning threatening disciplinary action and saying that they had violated rules by talking to students in an open meeting.
This constitutes unacceptably arrogant conduct from the university administration and a supreme contempt for the dignity and freedom of the faculty and students.
We see no reason why the administration should be allowed to direct university affairs in total disregard of students and teachers who are the lifeblood of the institution. To do so will inflict irreparable damage to intellectual life in the University, set up dangerous precedents for other universities and trample on fundamental academic values and intellectual freedom, without which democracy cannot survive.
We urge the Executive Council to intervene in the matter to ensure that the university’s smooth functioning is not disrupted so that it continues to maintain its excellent academic standards.
Harjeet Singh Gill