And Justice for JNU

 

That strange sensuous flower in winter green is blooming in the sleepless nights of JNU yet again, like an inevitable, fleeting melody which must arrive in this pink season of October-November. How can you sleep with this nocturnal fragrance moving like a sleepwalker's dream sequence, inside eyes, skin, memories, feelings, sleep? Those days you could still see a PhD student from Palamau or Warrangal,  trudging to that lonely letter box outside the Kamal Complex (nothing Freudian about it!), with a postcard written in clean, beautiful script, in Hindi or Telugu, even as the dawn seemed just a whisper away. A letter to the mother in her modest village home. "Pranam. All's well. Studying hard. Thinking. Talking. Eating in the mess. Debating. Dreaming. One day our world will change. One day the world must change. We shall overcome."

On the walls, hand-made posters. On bus-stops, graffiti. On notice boards, hand-written appeals on a kaleidoscope of social issues. On mess tables, pamphlets made with stencil, cyclostyled with money quickly collected from friends and foes. Inside dining halls, till late midnight, long discussions and public meetings. Guest speakers: from Govindacharaya to Tariq Ali to Kanu Sanyal. The world turned upside down, the revolutionary bonds across geographies and twilight zones - from Tiananmen Square to Narmada Valley and Kalinganagar, from the Berlin Wall to Palestine, from Sorbonne to Siwan.

A culture of pluralism and tolerance, the capacity to listen to the ‘other'. The internal struggle inside eclectic minds; that poster of ‘the thinker' - inspired by Auguste Rodin's famous sculpture - with that amazing slogan: I might not agree with you, but I will fight for your right to express. Inside seminar rooms, midnight dhabas, on the streets: endless questions, incomplete answers, unfinished footnotes, one threshold of self-discovery after another. The adventure of ideas. Inside the mind, the seductive, tortuous journey towards the principle, that yes, it's difficult, but finally, knowledge is liberation.

Remember Nehru, on the JNU prospectus? "A university stands for humanism, for tolerance,
for reason, for progress, for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth. It stands for the
onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives."

In the backlanes, bushes, rocks and moonlit shadows - freshers, friends, strangers, lovers. Reading Pablo Neruda, Mayakovsky and Muktibodh aloud. In the classroom, the invisible guitar of Pink Floyd: Hey Teachers, Leave Us Kids Alone! In the library corridor: Weapons of the Weak, Deschooling Society, Small is Beautiful, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Discovery of India, My Experiments with Truth, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Imagined Communities, Orientalism, The Making of the English Working Class, Madness and Civilisation, War and Peace, Metamorphosis, Age of Reason, The Outsider. Inside canteens, the first cigarette of the morning, rum-soaked hang-overs, Gopalan's fish curry. In the room: a table, a chair, a lamp, a surahi. Books. Che and Van Gogh on the wall. And a bucket in the balcony.

The pink season. This was also the season for the Great JNU Elections, also called, the Great October Revolution. The JNUSU Constitution as the supreme, sacred document. No money or muscle power, no criminalisation, no goondagardi, no gender bias, no racism, no sexism, a consensus against xenophobia and communalism. No administration or police or goons hired from outside. No violence, well, almost. All hand-made posters, in allotted spaces. All meetings, in allotted time and spaces. All interactions: personal, political, collective, national, international. A shared space. An argumentative campus. One violation of this code, and the EC will get after you, or you will be shamed in a general body meeting, or the students will rise in protest.

That is why a sensitive administrator like Lyngdoh praised JNU, where the students' Election Commission conducts the polls. Perhaps the finest elections held in any university in any part of the world. That is why JNU is one of the most life-affirming and liberating campuses in the world. That is why, the civil society, the political class, people's movements, teachers and students across the globe - and the judiciary - should back the JNU students' union (JNUSU) elections. This is because this is a great celebration of democracy, not witnessed in any campus of India. Because JNUSU is not only a students' union. It is also a Union of Students.