By Anwesha Mukherjee*
I have moved out of the JNU campus after my marriage in 2014. In these two years, I have worked with a corporate setup, did part time job with a semi public institute, travelled bits of the world and also lived abroad for sometime. In this entire time, my only relation to the campus was my seldom visits to meet my guide for ongoing PhD supervision. So basically I saw myself involved in a whole lot of “other” activities, which were only self-indulging. JNU gradually took a backseat in my list of daily affairs.
So on the 10th of February, while scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across tons of posts and comments on the ruckus happening in JNU. Sudden twitter trends on #shutdownJNU and anti national JNUiites sent a shiver down my spine. With each day, the anti-JNU slogans kept growing their voices and I saw myself restless through all this. Here, I had my family and non-JNU friends lambasting JNU like frenzy and my newsfeed had all my JNU friends supporting the glorious institution.
The memories of four years I had spend living on the campus as a masters and Mphil student in Tapti Hostel, came rushing back. There would be constant political debates and discussions going on everywhere on the campus. I am not talking about all the formal political student party debates and academic talks. I very fondly remember the late night discussions I would have with my friends over a cup of tea or the long walks on the ring road. I had no political party lineage. Probably, one of the most apolitical person on the campus. I knew several like me too. But I would enjoy various discussions as it primarily involved knowing the other.
A different point of view, listening to it, giving it some space in my brain, contradicting the other’s opinion on particular topic and so on. I was learning a new way of looking at the world. Trying to accommodate the other in my own purview of thinking helped me grow as a person. I saw myself opening up to several viewpoints. Putting myself in another person’s shoe is a task most of us can never imagine. JNU taught me exactly that.
I am upper class Hindu Brahmin woman. At least that is what I have been made to believe since childhood. JNU made me question all of that. There was phase of existential crisis as well. I was intellectually more sound and open. Two years out of campus and I am back to square one. I think of just myself- my family, my desires, my wealth, my makeup, my food, my fashion, my cleanliness, my travels, my fun and so on. My thinking now primarily involves how I can make more money for a comfortable living in this country. Not to mention, I do think of settling abroad as well.
The space of the other has diminished completely. Self is primary. I feel this is the case of most of us outside the campus, especially people who have no clue about what goes on in the campus. The idea of thinking about the nation, questioning my own identity started from JNU. Initially I had full plans of getting a PhD degree abroad but JNU had taught me why India is equally good to excel academically. JNU had taught me why questioning certain deeds of the government is necessary. JNU had taught me which deeds of government are praiseworthy. JNU taught me to think beyond myself, think of other people, think of community, think of nation, think of India.
There were so many diverse views and opinions on any particular matter, be it why Israel attacked Gaza Strip or whether cats should be allowed in the hostel. Everyone had an opinion. Everyone had a voice. That was the beauty inherent to JNU. People did not think about themselves when voicing an opinion. I thought about other. Governments change but people in JNU raise voices. They do it peacefully. They don’t throttle you for your opinion. In fact, they teach you to have an opinion.
My family and non-JNUiite friends are frantically opposing me to go to JNU as they have safety concerns. My mother who would otherwise, coax me to study for PhD, suddenly stops asking anything regarding JNU. My parents-in-law are very scared for me. My husband is scared too. But it is very essential for me to support JNU. If I wont raise my voice for it, then how will I expect you to understand? I don’t debate vehemently. I don’t argue. I put forth my viewpoints. As a social science student, it is my duty to be the voice of my institution for so many of you who don’t know JNU and don’t think even once before terming us anti-nationals. I am not anti-national. Maybe your perception of nationalism is skewed. I feel proud that in my mind I am not leading a life within four walls. My mind has travelled far beyond. So, I want to tell you my dear that JNU is a big part of my existence and me as a person. This commotion sparked the old free thinker in me which had been submerged somewhere within the boundaries of commodity fetishism. Dont teach me about my nation and nationalism because I am too blunt to admit that what kind of self-nationalism we perform outside JNU on our day to day lives. I can never thank JNU, enough for that.
*A second year PhD student from SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, who calls herself “a woman, student, wife and patriot”. Source: http://www.indiaresists.com/