Govt Sees JNU As Opposition, Not As A University

Anurag, 25, son of a postman in Uttar Pradesh, says most JNU students are not city-bred nor studying on scholarship. For many of them, the study costs are high and they are justified in protesting against the hike

I belong to Gorakhpur and did my graduation from BHU (Banaras Hindu University). I always knew that I wanted to pursue my higher studies from the reputed JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University). Two elder cousins who had studied here had sown the seeds of this desire in me. Thankfully I got through JNU and am currently doing my M. Phil here.

Let us talk about the finances first, because the whole protest is about fees and affordability of quality education. I cleared the JRF NET (Junior Research Fellowship) exam, which only 1% of the students are able to clear, so I get paid a monthly allowance of ₹40, 000. However, those who haven’t cleared JRF NET are called non-NET scholars and are paid only ₹5,000 per month. PhD students are paid ₹8,000 per month, while the B.A. and M.A. students can’t avail any scholarship.

Before you think this is easy money, let me clarify that the investment on study materials is heavy and the laws of JNU are vague regarding whether an M. Phil student can work or not simultaneously while studying. So each rupee matters and this also means that most of us are just about surviving.

My father was a postman and even my education till now wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for the family. Just because I was able to crack this exam doesn’t mean I don’t understand the pain of those who have been affected by the fee hike, especially the graduation students who have just stepped out into the big, wide world.

Studying in JNU teaches you the most important thing missing in the world, empathy, and thus I lend my full support to this protest. Sections of the media as well as the civil society don’t read and understand or don’t care to understand the fine print when it comes to protests against fee hike. And if the protest is coming from JNU, then you know people follow whatever narrative the media tells them.

The room rent, maintenance charge, mess expense etc. have all been increased suddenly and there is nothing the students can do apart from protesting. If the VC was ready to hold a dialogue on the matter, the students too wouldn’t have protested.

Sometimes I wonder if the current government thinks of JNU as a political Opposition. There has been no solid Opposition since 2014 and JNU has risen up in public imagination like Opposition. The government cannot just force its way through, there are certain procedures in place before a huge change impacting the lives of many students is brought about.

People from all sections of society come to study in JNU but a major chunk of the students are from families that are below the poverty line. We know the condition of education in small towns and cities. While the school education system at the ground level is robust, it is not so at the college and post-graduation levels and even if it is, not everyone can afford education if it is not provided at a subsided rate. And JNU just doesn’t make you literate, it makes you truly educated.

The academic discourse here and the atmosphere of conducting healthy debates on diverse topics while not indulging in personal attacks on the other party that doesn’t agree with your point of view, are the hallmarks of education at JNU, and all these are in danger of being eroded. JNU has been at the centre of a non-stop storm ever since 2016 and I hope it ends soon.

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