A Protester at JNU. (Photo: AFP/Getty)
Snapshot
  • JNU was started by Indira Gandhi to house-train and defang leftists, who pass off as opinion-makers—assuming such a thing as an opinion exists in the leftist world.

I have been wondering for the last few days as to why so many PLUs—People Like Us——my friends, in other words—hate JNU? It is important to note that virtually all my friends live in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and so on. My friends are pretty unanimous in hating or in at least disliking JNU. It struck me that their cities of residence had something to with their feelings. These are all productive cities, committed to the ethos of growth, progress, prosperity, constructive actions, entrepreneurship, making things, selling things, creating jobs and so on. They are distinctly different from our parasitical, unproductive and dysfunctional capital—Delhi.

Given my current business interests, my editor suggested that I write a piece recommending that the 1100 acre JNU campus be converted into an Affordable Housing Development. I baulked as I did not want to get trapped with an obvious conflict of interest. And then it struck me, that JNU is already an Affordable Housing Development whose residents include among others, those who are doing research forever and ever and others who have passed out, but still like to live on campus. We don’t need to do anything. The current residents clearly seem to be able to “afford” living there.

JNU was started by Indira Gandhi, probably with a Machiavellian plan in mind. At a time when anti-establishment leftist ideology seemed very strong even in rich countries——remember UC Berkeley? Remember Paris 1968?, it appears that our great leader who was a direct intellectual descendant of Chanakya, was concerned that these leftist loose canons could fatally weaken our country.

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She devised a beautiful plan to house-train, domesticate and defang leftists, especially shrill and hysterical academics among them, who pass off as opinion-makers in the world of leftists—assuming that such a thing as an opinion exists in that world. She decided to give jobs to these leftists at tax-payer expense in JNU and a dozen other places. Now that they had cozy jobs and an opportunity to travel to the paradisiacal cities of their choice—Moscow, Leningrad (not St. Petersburg as it is now called), East Berlin and so on——our homegrown leftists ceased to be an immediate menace to society. They wrote papers, which no one except their own kind read and they spent their time drinking tea and coffee (thus ironically increasing the profits of filthy multinationals like Lipton and Nestle!) and of course, also drinking rum (thus increasing the profits of Indian capitalists like Mallya and Chabria).

They resembled tamed pet animals. Indira Gandhi must have watched them with a level of bemused contempt. And when she was not watching them, it is pretty likely that she had her IB watching them! Indira Gandhi had a profound respect for the strategies of the European elite. She knew that the French and German governments paid scholarships and stipends to students not just for years, but for decades in order to ensure that these radicals were safely ensconced in academic museums from where they could not create much trouble. She implemented this strategy with JNU and a dozen other such institutions most of which are located in Delhi (surprise) and Kolkata (surprise, surprise!). In short, Indira Gandhi successfully purchased social insurance in the distant days before the Berlin Wall fell, at a time when leftism was seen as a distinct threat.

A prominent leftist intellectual (an oxymoron of course), recently wrote about the fact that among JNU alumni there were distinguished professors, NGO leaders,commentators and bureaucrats. I am sure he has his facts right. I am also pretty sure that there are no JNU alumni who have bothered to become entrepreneurs, start a business, make and sell something that consumers want and provide employment to people. If that had happened, the JNU professors would have thought of themselves as having completely failed. Their objective all along is to train and let loose upon the country, people with grievances, grouses, a sense of victimhood and above all a sense of entitlement.

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Tax-payers who live far away from the thousand acre comic opera house which constitutes the JNU campus, are expected to provide inflated salaries to professors who have over the decades successfully failed to make any intellectual mark. Tax-payers are also expected to provide scholarships and research grants to perpetual students who of course are engaged only in researching the weaknesses and ailments of Indian society.

On top of this, the JNU professors and students reserve the right to endlessly criticize tax-payers. This reinforces the old adage that the recipient of charity (receiving money for unproductive work can only be called charity) almost invariably hates the person from whom he receives goodies.

JNU supporters be they professors, students or alumni have taken up what appears to be a seductively reasonable position——— the principle of free speech needs to be defended against aggressive, xenophobic hyper-nationalism. After all Voltaire insisted on defending the right of his opponents to speak freely. And JNU’s objection to hyper-nationalism has great validity. In a TV program, the redoubtable Ashis Nandy, who is a neutral party with considerable credibility, made the point that nationalism has led to violence on a massive scale. I think the subtle point that JNU professors and Nandy miss, is that in fact sub-nationalism is far more cruel, violent and dangerous than larger nationalist narratives. Slovenia and Croatia made what seem to be reasonable arguments about their right to self-determination.

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The less said about the track record of Croat militias during World War II, the better. The break-up of Yugoslavia led to similar demands by Bosnian Muslims where Serbs were a large minority. The resulting violence was corrosive and unprecedented. Serb militias behaved atrociously. They lost the argument that while Bosnian nationalism, or sub-nationalism did have a case, did the Serbian minority have no rights? Going forward, the Serbs lost their holy places in Kossovo simply because by they were a minority, and by now one with no international backing.

Larger national narratives tend to be less oppressive. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Kosovaars, Bosnians, Macedonians and Montenegrins under a rubric of Yugoslav nationalism, even Yugoslav hyper-nationalism, were less violent than sub-national groups, a point that those who support Naga or Kashmiri sub-nationalism ignore at their peril. They should remember that Hutu and Tutsi sub-national causes were malign as against Rwandan nationalism, which may or may not meet with leftist approval.

When JNU professors support, or even confer legitimacy to sub-national struggles, be they Nagas, or Kashmiris, they are ironically supporting a more exclusive hyper-nationalism than any version of Indian nationalism can ever be. The Naga militants do not care about the rights or the lives of the Meitei. It might appear clever and “pro-subaltern” to support Naga insurgents. But that automatically implies that one supports the physical destruction of several non-Naga groups. I am sure Nandy would not support that.  But JNU professors do give support to such movements, simply because there is a sense of schadenfreude in encouraging disaffection with the Indian state and watching its discomfort.

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By supporting or providing sentimental sympathy for the Kashmiri sub-national “struggle” (of course many Kashmiris would call it a “national” and not a “sub-national” struggle), I would submit that they are playing with fire. Kashmiri Muslim separatists (and they can only be called Muslim as Kashmiri Hindus and Buddhists do not support separatism) have emerged as a very cruel group.

They have mercilessly murdered Hindu nurses and insisted that the bodies remain on the streets for days. They are the only people who have successfully ensured ethnic cleansing in recent times by driving out the ancient Pandit community with a continuous barrage of intimidation and murder. They support a bizarre lady called Andrabi, who is so heavily veiled that even the best laser-based TV cameras cannot see her. They have closed bars, beauty parlors and cinema halls in Kashmir. They are bent on moving in the direction of a full-fledged Wahabi fascism. While JNU professors may enjoy criticizing and lampooning the Indian state, they should not forget that India has behaved reasonably.

There have been no non-Kashmiri settlements planted in Kashmir. There has been no attempt to change the demographics of Kashmir away from its Muslim majority. The demographic assault by Pakistan on the Shias of Gilgit stands as a stark contrast. The Indian state holds reasonably free elections in Kashmir. Again the contrast with POK is glaring. Economically and socially, our side of the LOC is far ahead of the other side. If one does a content-analysis of the movie Haider, one comes across an interesting fact.

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The character who is modeled on Laertes, gets a job in a multi-national in Bangalore as a trainer in what appears to be an I.T. Firm. I wonder if a young man in POK could even remotely aspire to such a job. The Laertes lookalike seems quite welcome and successful in Bangalore. Do the Kashmiri sub-nationalists (sorry, self-styled nationalists), never stop for a moment to think that individual young Kashmiris could in fact benefit by Kashmir’s association with India? Could they not encourage these trends instead of encouraging stone-throwing and Jihadist slogans and supporting such activities as legitimate democratic protests entitled to human rights protections?

The leftist coterie at JNU believes it is its birthright to criticize the Indian state in Kashmir. Expressions like “occupying power” and “state violence” are bandied about easily. They do not seem to be sensitive to the fact that if their support results in Kashmir separating from India, the fate of liberal Kashmiri women, Ahmadiyas and Shias will resemble that of Yazidis in Iraq. If Kashmir joins Pakistan, the very next day, all Kashmiris will be required to take an anti-Ahmadiyya oath. It is all very well to show sympathy for Kashmiri human rights while sitting in south Delhi coffee houses. The tragic consequences of trying to weaken the Indian state’s resolve in Kashmir also needs some attention, if nothing else, from the JNU leftists who claim to be Kashmir-lovers.

In recent times, especially after the attack on parliament and the 26/11 attack, we have worries going beyond the ideological and the intellectual. Let us assume that a JNU professor goes along with a benign approach towards secessionist and anti-India slogans on the grounds that students have a legitimate right to protest and blow off steam. If they do not do it when they are young, when else will they do it? Words cause no harm. Universities are the proper arenas for these harmless gladiatorial contests. This is what freedom of expression is all about. Let us accept these arguments and take the scenario forward with the assumption that the students are very angry with the Indian state and sympathetic to the legitimate grievances of Kashmiris.

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If a young man, comes to a JNU hostel and seeks temporary accommodation in the room of one of these students, the hospitable student is likely to oblige. If the visitor stores Jihadist literature, it would be embarrassing to object. So that activity goes on. If the visitor makes secret contact with some deep penetration moles in Delhi and invites them over, then one can hardly object. He is just meeting his friends. If some seemingly innocuous items—pipes, timers, chemicals——are stored, our human rights conscious student suddenly gets worried. But by now they can blackmail him as he is compromised. They can actually smuggle in pistols and AK 47-s into his room.

Now what? The point that one is trying to make is that in the post 9/11 world, things have drastically changed. What starts as innocuous free expression and sympathy for Kashmiri separatists (sorry “nationalists”) can and probably will end up with support and even connivance in terrorism. Do the clever JNU students and their cleverer professors realize this? Mere words were in fact quite harmless several decades ago. Today, words can be the beginning of a grim journey down a path of violent no-return. That is because these separatists/secessionists/sub-nationalist/jihadists——call them what you will, are not polite gentlemanly university debaters. Our innocent over-enthusiastic students can become foot soldiers easily.

The path from expressions of sympathy and support, to passive witnessing and then to active involvement is a precipitous and vertiginous one. Russian professors who encouraged Chechen students to build up grievances regarding human rights violations by Russia, need to think about the children who died in Beslan.

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The JNU imbroglio is made infinitely bad by the slogans demanding revenge for the death of a person convicted in participating in the attack on the Indian parliament. One wonders what contours this revenge will take, irrespective of one’s opinion of the Indian judicial process. It is important to remember that the first instance of non-Irish terrorism in Britain was the killing of Mhatre, the Indian diplomat stationed in Britain by the JKLF which today passes itself off as a proponent of harmless dialogue. Mhatre’s family is hardly likely to concede that.The families of the security staff who died saving our vociferous parliamentarians, of course must be having even stronger feelings.

JNU has also been a place where Maoists have found intellectual and other forms of support. Manmohan Singh, who is known for his sobriety pronounced the Maoists our greatest security threat. In recent times, there appears to be a nexus forming between Jihadists and Maoists. Within the precincts of the JNU, this development might actually be welcomed as being a proper alliance among anti-imperialist forces. But this deadly combination represents a very real danger in the minds of many of us who cannot be conveniently dismissed as hyper-nationalists.

We remember the millions that Stalin and Mao killed with great cruelty and callousness. We are within our rights not to be convinced that espousing Maoist ideology is an innocent demonstration of freedom of expression by exuberant students. In our country, Maoists have killed with gusto. They killed a large group of politicians from the Congress party. They have started using child soldiers and they deliberately target schools and health centers, besides ensuring that productive economic activity is kept away from tribal districts. They do not want improvement in the lives of tribals.

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They want the creation of party-led Soviets in tribal areas. Again, in their case the straight line from thought and speech to bestial action is a short one. We shudder when we think of the dangers inherent in this bizarre Maoist-Jihadist nexus. To give it intellectual justification by focussing on the grievances, legitimate as they may be, of the subaltern tribals, a favorite theme of JNU professors, again may provide a cover of sorts. But frankly it does no service to the tribals.

For the last twenty-five years, JNU has been operating on the assumption that the Berlin Wall never fell, that communism has not been completely discredited. JNU has consistently and vociferously opposed all the economic reforms introduced by Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, Vajpayee and now Modi. The faculty and students hate what they call “neo-liberalism”. They do not like the fact that many young Indians like to work in I.T. Companies. JNU types carry on an endless diatribe against persons who they refer to as “cyber coolies”. The emerging Indian middle class, shopping malls, E-commerce —any area where there is economic vigor is “vigorously” opposed and lampooned by the JNU folks.

Their love of things Islamic is quite distorted. No JNU researcher would dream of doing field work among Muslims who are successful in business—be it software or pharma or retailing. The same holds true for JNU’s interest in Dalits. The entire focus has to be on Dalit victimhood. No attention at all needs to be given to emerging movements within Dalits to learn and master the English language. And of course, while there are angry demonstrations on the issue of Dalit oppression (which tragically exists in spades),there is no celebration of Dalit entrepreneurship and the Dalit capitalists who have emerged under the hated neoliberal dispensation.

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Instead of paying a little attention to the fact that young persons from the north-east and from Kashmir are coming by droves to places like Pune, Bangalore and Gurgaon taking up jobs in the dynamic I.T. And BPO sectors, JNU academics are still focussed on the grievances of yesterday and want to keep encouraging their students to keep on articulating these grievances in a hysterical manner. JNU is known as a university for social sciences and humanities.

Hard sciences and engineering involve hard work and require empirical validation—not just frothy radical slogans. It is not surprising that JNU is at the head of the movement against GM (genetically modified) crops which are routinely grown in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Korea and the U.S. and which India merrily imports, but does not grow, thanks to the influence, not only of JNU types, but of a bizarre rag-tag group of anti-science and anti-technology elites who are determined to throttle Indian science if they can.

It is not my case that there are no problems or legitimate grievances in our country. It is not even my case that economic growth is the sole panacea for all our problems, although I do believe that vigorous growth is a necessary condition for India. It is not even my case that my taxes should not be wasted on salaries and grants for mediocre leftists. After all, so much of our taxes are wasted in so many bizarre ways. A little mollycoddling of rum-drinking leftists can easily be rationalized and justified.

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What then is JNU’s problem?

No one, but no one defends the absurd acts of our incompetent capital police as they use colonial era laws to trouble others, while making fools of themselves. And as for the lawyers without briefs, who seek the oxygen of media publicity by indulging in outlandish aggression——the less said about them, the better. They do not even provide comic relief. Despite the clumsy behavior of their antagonists, why is it that JNU professors and students get so little sympathy from the rest of us? Why is there a sense of schadenfreude that they deserve what is coming to them?

I submit that JNU has a serious PR problem. The faculty, the research staff and the students need to do considerable introspection. Why are they seen as a lazy, privileged, incompetent elite completely out of touch with the country and indeed, the world as it is today? Unless they do this as a serious exercise, they run the risk of losing the legacy of Indira Gandhi——continued funding. And they may find that no one, not even their current supporters in the media and politics will bother to step in as JNU is slowly and inexorably de-funded and marginalized.

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The fact that JNU students have been attacked by lawless lawyers (a uniquely Indian phenomenon) should not give them the impression that the core issue of their lack of legitimacy will go away. Attacking the stupid and aberrant lawyers can divert attention for some time. But it cannot take away from a growing conviction, among many people, not all of whom are fundamentally ill-disposed to JNU and all of whom dislike and disapprove of the Patiala House lawyers, that there is something rotten in the state of JNU Denmark.

At a minimum, JNU needs to think of a campaign aimed at productive and tax-paying citizens outside Delhi. There is no point in quoting Foucault and Gramsci and expressing disdain for advertising. When survival is at stake, structuralism and post-moderninsm are of little use.

A good old advertising campaign is what is called for. Philip Kotler, the marketing guru (who JNU professors have never heard of) maintained that no amount of superb advertising can sell a bad product. In their own interests, the JNU folks should think about this too as they plan their advertising and PR campaign.

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