JNU administration building has been blocked by students since the last four days including two holidays and no solution appears to be around the corner. The students demanded freezing of the implementation of the UGC Gazette Notification 2016 which will cause massive seat cut and halt admissions for up to 6 years in MPhil and PhD programmes.
The concerns of the students are genuine and while almost all teachers and students are in confusion the administration is not being clear about the admission policies. Still a pertinent question is how can the blockade be justified and how is it expected to bring any solution, if at all it can? From students’ point of view, they have been helpless and left without hopes after continuous protests at the face of no other alternatives. They are thus hoping that the Vice Chancellor will be compelled to address the issue and answer the questions raised by them if blockade continues and administration comes to a halt.
Now, if we think from the opposite side, we can see that the blockade has come to the rescue of VC amidst his attempts to turn over the JNU system. The blockade has absolutely made the administration dysfunctional and this gives the VC an excuse to take action against students and proceed to extreme steps- closing down JNU at least for some days if needed.
The day, when staff, teachers and students were not allowed to enter schools after a call for enforced strike, students had to face ire from many teachers and staff. Administrative work at schools was disrupted and severely affected many students. The blockade at Admin Block also will face the same consequences -students will be affected badly because no file is moving or being signed including that of fellowships and certificates.
As usual the blockade is also being made successful by the participation of activists and student leaders but it is important to remember how many of those affected are at the scene and how many of them support this blockade. MA second year students are the worst affected but there is no consensus among them regarding the blockade.
The VC is not ready and open to any discussion in this issue but blockade has not made any inroads either. Since VC is the head of the university, students have to go for options provided by him instead of compelling and forcing him to act according to students’ emotions. It is not preferred or not natural for a VC to address the mob to solve any issue where round table discussions are more suitable.
By putting an end to the blockade, students should request VC to talk; and students and not the VC have to take the initiative for this. Since admission notification is not out yet, students should be ready for a discussion and listen to what the VC has to say about seat cut.
If both sides remain adamant, no solution will come forth and the VC will have the last laugh. As Mohit, JNUSU President said, all protests may not be successful but to protest is a right. It should not go to extremes, or it will have dangerous consequences. If the VC thinks his implementations are correct, best and apt without taking into consideration the views of teachers and students, it is not wise to confront him through any mode of protest but strategic talks and discussions. Blockades and similar protests will only force him to adapt similar extreme measures against students.
JNUSU is the elected body of students but unfortunately it is not recognised by many students and it is under serious threat now. To argue that JNUSU is a failure is easy but it should be the JNUSU that should be the medium for students to approach VC even to protest against him. Any temporary formed movement or committee which does not have any accountability or even leadership should not be allowed to take the charge. Because this will end up in anarchism and it will always go for extremes like blockade.
Moreover, JNUSU is not a decision-making body and their limitations should be understood by others and that JNUSU cannot be a ‘carrier of emotions’.
The options available for students now are to continue protest, allow the administration to function, ask VC to sit for a discussion and wait for the notification to come. Even if the Ad Block is dysfunctional it will not be difficult for the VC to issue new admission notification. Students can approach the court against it but VC may have the final word.
Not all problems can be resolved but students can be optimistic. If VC remains adamant regarding the gazette and is unwilling to see the suffering of thousands of students, then that will be their fate.
The protests should go on, and all the possible ways should be adopted to save higher education and research. But blockade should not be one of the options.
The writer works with The Informer, views expressed are personal.