Weapons, violence and militarization have become the norm of the modern India that we live in. However, the disappointing and excruciating reality to which this ideology has been extended to is shocking. Universities and colleges in India today have openly endorsed heavy security mechanisms, including the rampant usage of weapons and guns within the campus for apparent safety and security needs.
A noticeable starting point to the controversy emanates from a few months ago when the University Grants Commission issued guidelines to the extent of making Universities high profile security zones. Amongst other things, some of the most alarming guidelines mentioned are the setting up of police stations and a large number of CCTV cameras. The academic community from far and wide, including the likes of Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler and Ayesha Kidwai came together to criticise these horrible suggestions of the UGC.
Notwithstanding, Indian Universities have seen for quite some time a tug of war between administrations and students, who claim that university spaces are purely academic environments, which needs no presence of the police.
In the most recent of incidents in Universities, one student from O.P Jindal Global University were suspended for questioning the gun policy of the campus where guards were allowed to freely roam around with guns inside the University. Over a point of time, police constables with guns were stationed within the University and were allowed to roam around within the campus.
When a few students objected to the presence of police personnel and free access to guns inside the campus, one student was suspended, and another student was asked to immediately leave campus due to the threat to safety and security of life. The Director of Student Welfare mentioned to the student that because he had questioned the personal security of Mr Omar Abdullah’s son (who is also a first-year student at the campus), this could be seen as a national security question and could also be raised as an issue in the Union Parliament.
The students have been given a year suspension, and a semester medical leave respectively, and have been strictly warned not to disclose the matter to anybody. In an ironically Foucaultian take (which is so fervently taught in most classes in the University), the others are made to take psychiatric help. In fact, one of the students who was sent on medical leave is expected to return only after the production of a fitness certificate by a psychiatrist.
The intolerance and rage amongst people, especially youth is increasing day by day and the last thing that we need is free access to guns in University campus. Security reasons are certainly understandable, but whether VVIP privilege should be tolerated by University campuses, which ought to embody a strict rule of law and fairness to all ethos, is a question that needs to be answered. In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault writes in length about the subjugation of the mind with regard to disciplining and punishment measures. The prison creates specific rules in great formulaic intensity to achieve the desired subjugation of the mind to conform to the mandated discipline. The idea of the positivist Disciplinary Committee, with its elaborate rules and formulas to discipline and punish, is not just to subjugate the body from repeating actions but also to conform the mind to what is prescribed and expected of. Coupled with the increasing rate of suspensions and expulsions in Universities, academic spaces in India (especially elite violent bourgeois institutes such as Jindal and Amity) are becoming nothing more than a smartly devised, monitored and controlled panopticon. As has become the unfortunate norm, academic spaces are unfortunately trumped by politics of power and influence, and dissent and free thought are erased from praxis. Any transgression to break this norm or challenge the power kicks in the routine of disciplining and punishing to enforce conformism and thereby the pattern is set in stone and established as legitimate.
*The author wants to remain anonymous and India Resists respect that
(The author is indebted to various alumni of the O.P Jindal Global University for their comments and intensive feedback for the piece)