What Does the HC Order on JNU Protests Mean?: Ayesha Kidwai

Ayesha Kidwai

The Hon. High Court to JNU’s rescue again. Through this extremely reasonable and sober order, Justice Manmohan has put the ball in the JNU VC’s court, telling him that to punish the students without attending to their appeals (based on denial of principles of natural justice) would be to “condemn the students unheard”. The Court has given the ten plaintiffs heard today immediate relief by staying all the punishments until the appeals process is over, and thereby forcing the insensitive and callous Jagadeesh Kumar to actually respond to the students reasoned objections to the HLEC anv their replies to the Showcause notices. Mr. VC you can no longer hide behind the HLEC and the Chief Proctor’s office, because it is now YOU who must decide whether you can punish students on the basis of an enquiry proceedings and report that indicted students without showing them the evidence on the basis of which they were enquired into and indicted and ignored all the submissions they made.

This is a major rebuke to the JNU misadministration, which has thus far betrayed no intention of entering into the realm of due process,fairness and impartiality, as if it now wishes to truly “abide by the courts”, it will have to consider as to why these punishments are sustainable. And by ruling that the stay on implementation of penalties will continue for two weeks beyond the date that appeals have been rejected, the Hon. High Court has given the students time to approach the Court once again.

A major condition for the Court’s protection to hold is that JNUSU and its affiliated organisations must “immediately withdraw their strike and would not indulge in any strike or dharna or agitation or coercive action in future in connection with the issues before this Court and/or till the legal proceedings pending as of date between the parties attain finality.” PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS CONDITION DOES NOT PROHIBIT ANY PROTEST AGAINST UNRELATED TO THE HLEC AND PUNISHMENTS. This is not a unreasonable condition, and in no way restricts the JNUSU from taking up other issues.

As an individual teacher, I would like to reiterate JNUTA’s appeal to JNUSU to withdraw their hunger strike. In part this appeal is in an appreciative response to this court order, but it is also based on an appreciation of the political need of the hour and what our joint student and teacher movement have achieved in the past few months.

From the Hindutva-directed tragic institutional murder of Rohith Vemula at UoH and the attack on JNU, we students and teachers of JNU have jointly analysed the assault on the university across India as a space of critical enquiry and free political and academic expression as arising from a social and political order that draws its sustenance from the structures of caste and religious exclusion. From JNU, we have declared that this struggle against the Hindutva fascism is a call to battle to defend every right and freedom that we have promised ourselves in our Constitution.

Together, we have joined this battle in the most creative and yet rigorous of ways possible. Thousands of us have listened first and spoken last, we have probed and enquired into what needs to be defended and what must be refashioned and reimagined, and we have done this with humour, laughter, music and dance, and most of all an unwavering mutual affection and camaraderie that has constantly made us all feel secure just through the presence of each other, even in the face of the formidable challenges we have faced. These bonds of solidarity have not been restricted to JNU and its alumni alone or even to other universities, but have enveloped others far beyond university spaces as well; so much so that the firm and unwavering voices coming out from the students’ and teachers’ movements in India today are the major oppositional voice to a polarising ‘nationalism’ that is fuelled by the rape and murder of its citizens.

Before we were derailed by the vindictive punishments of the HLEC and forced to focus our attentions on JNU, teachers and students of this university and others had begun to take our experience and struggle to other places in the country, in a bid to try and build a meaningful resistance to the fascism that is thundering down upon us. In this intense period of three weeks since the HLEC punishments were announced,other universities, most notably Jadavpur University, have been attacked in similar ways as JNU and UoH. Moreover, caste and religion continues its killing spree, and regressive politics continues to bolster the inflexibility of our institutions towards concerns of social justice. The widespread national and international support the students and teachers movement of JNU has got is because it has allied resistance to Hindutva to a broader call for a social change that comprises of social and gender justice, of human rights, and the right to the freedoms of citizens.

In my view, it is therefore very important that the teachers and students struggle continues to broaden and expand, and that our efforts not be confined to solely firefighting within our institution. Withdrawing the indefinite hunger strike shall give you, student friends, some much needed relief to your bruised and battered bodies, in order to embark on this very necessary expansion of the struggle. It will also be a celebration of another extraordinary victory that you, the ever amazing JNU students, have won. Jai Bhim Lal Salaam to JNUSU and JNUTA!