An open letter to the JNUTA/ JNU teaching community, from the suspended students

It is most unfortunate that certain sections of the teaching community, even the newly elected JNUTA rather than whole heartedly supporting the movement has been criticizing the Committee of suspended students and the manner in which they have been taking the movement for Social Justice forward. The various minor and major forms of criticism from different sections of the teaching community can be summed up along the following line:

1. Under the nationwide threat of proto-fascist government, the very existence of JNU as a premier university and the democratic ethos it stands for is under threat. Hence there is a growing need of students-teachers unity. Under these circumstances rather than accepting the JNUSU leadership and a general unity among students and teachers the Committee of suspended students has been advocating a politics of partisanship in the name of social justice.

2. The committee, which is not a legitimate body of student representatives have taken up upon themselves not only breaking the unity of the joint struggle of teachers and students but have indulged in modes of political action which are not concurrent with the democratic ethos for which JNU stands.

3. Though all the demands of the committee are just, the means adopted are not justified for the end in question. This criticism has been particularly prominent in view of the ‘total university strike’ called by the students where professors and staffs were also barred from doing their day’s intellectual or manual work.

4. Finally, there is rising tendency of blanket labeling teachers as casteist and against the cause of Social justice if they speak or act against the undemocratic practices of these students.

We would like to respond to these implicit and explicit allegations against us.

Firstly, from a politically strategic point of view we also welcome and desire a larger unity of students and teachers and staffs to fight a common political adversary.

However the reality of politics, as we all know, does not always fulfill our desired vision of politics. We have on a number of occasions tried to call for all organization meetings and tried to build a strategic alliance to forge a larger unity. However we have witnessed a growing disintegration of such a dream alliance in view of the irreconcilable differences which have grown particularly between the JNUSU and the Committee. Keeping aside the myriad practical reasons, or better all the various practical differences between the JNUSU and the committee sums up to a fundamental choice of sacrificing the concrete intensity and force of the movement for social justice in the name of a abstract unity. A students’ unity presupposes there is already a collective political substance like that of ‘common student’ who are sovereignly united on the ‘common’ ground of the democratic ethos for which JNU as an institution stands.

We are however extremely skeptical of such a position and its political implications. This is because caste as a social reality systematically divides and separates any desire for a collective political substance in the name of unity of common students. Hence we have unambiguously chosen a more intense and emphatic form of resistance against a hypothetical unity which is inherently untenable.

The fact that caste is a structural phenomenon which pervades the social reality of our country is something which cannot be made an exception of when comes to any section of the society, be it the students, karamcharis/staff or even teaching community. Thorat Committee, Rajeev Bhatt Committee and Nafey committee reports are a reminder to us that caste as a structural and historical reality of our society is equally prevalent in the teaching community as it is even among the students. Therefore it is not a question of blindly blanketing all progressive minded teachers of casteism but highlighting that as part of the systemic reality of caste based discrimination the teaching community is structurally implicated. Articulation of assertions based on identities necessarily does not mean an attack on progressive character of teaching community. We are pointing our fingers especially at those institutional methods from where casteism is operationalised, produced and reproduced through university discourses today citing brahmanical ideology of merit. This should not be taken individually or subjectively.

Finally regarding the mode of protest particularly regarding the strike we would simply like to remind all of us that a ‘total strike’ is nothing but the students calling for a general strike whose revolutionary history we do not have to remind ourselves of. It is the most intense and emphatic form of passive resistance. We have followed this precedence to call for a ‘total strike’ because we believe that a university in spite of its various functions other than pedagogy is a single complex organism. Here the intellectual labor of an individual teacher in his office or a faculty meeting unrelated to the issues at hand are as much part of the complex but single system of intellectual production as that produced within the class rooms. Hence merely closing down the classes had not been our intention from the start and we had informed the teaching community (JNUTA) beforehand regarding this strategic and political move on our part. The seemingly unrelated forms of activity within the university were to be stopped together simultaneously.

This was our response in order to intensify the struggle and we completely stand by its political viability. We would like the larger sections of the students and teaching community to join our struggle and forge a new alliance based upon more concrete and radical understanding of the current political crisis.
Keeping this fact in mind that JNU Administration is recklessly determined to implement the UGC Gazette notification at any cost, we would like to appeal to JNUTA and larger teaching community to recognize the exigency and the gravity of the situation in which we find ourselves as a teacher and a student. The admission process is due to begin any day. Once the admission process begins, the UGC Gazette notification will become applicable with immediate effect. And if admission process once completed under the provisions of this UGC notification, it will set a precedent for its future application despite all kind of objections and resistances against it. JNU administration has already started the process of its implementation in the admission for the coming year. The massive seat-cut announced by JNU administration few days back is clearly part of that process. Not only students but teachers are also going to be severely affected by this notification as the notification not only put provisions for students but teachers as well in the name of standardization and quality of research in higher education.

Though there are differences among the student community over the mode of struggle but there’s no doubt that students community as a whole has overwhelmingly rejected this draconian UGC notification. Since a section of teachers refused to recognize us as a legitimate body and thus refusing to cooperate with the total strike called by us on 6th Feb 2017, we would like to remind them the democratic tradition of JNU where innumerable committees (Joint Struggle Committee against Lyngdoh, Forum against war on people et cetera) in the past were formed to fight against all kind highhandedness of administration and attack on democracy. We have developed significant differences with JNUSU owing to their attitude towards the fight against draconian UGC Gazette notification and their mode of struggle. JNUSU has refused to take cognizance of the exigency of the situation and they are talking about long-drawn-out struggle which seems meaningless and giving a way for cynicism within student community. We would appeal to JNUTA to assess, understand and come up with a strategy where draconian laws on education can be fought and resisted with a more meaningful intellectual and political intervention rather than arguing for methods which has been proved redundant over a period of time given the saffronisation of education and proto-fascist attack on freedom of speech and inclusive idea of university. We maintain that student community has throughout in its history of struggle and resistances have kept its autonomy intact and we hope that JNUTA and larger teaching community recognises the autonomy of students’ movement.

Committee of Suspended Students for Social Justice

  • K SHESHU BABU

    Students and teachers should reach a consensus on the larger issue of saffronisation of educational institutions which affect a large number of present and future students. The petty differences may be sidelined for a larger cause of students welfare. The dictum ‘ unite all forces that can be United’ may be followed