Reservation is a word that some administrators and intellectuals find problematic. This is in it’s own way against the tide, for socially inclusive learning, and companionship in an egalitarian class room has been the law for several decades, the battle ground being the Mandal agitations in 1992. While the Dalit and Tribal intake has normalised, because people have adapted to it, reservation for Other Backward Castes (OBC) continues to be opposed in singular ways. The reason why OBCs are always under the anvil is because it is presumed that being dominant castes (having numerical strength, land and wealth) giving them educational privileging would be antithetical to upper caste/upper class notions of equality. However, OBCs long to have the right to enter the professional class, and that can only happen through education. So they protest continuously. Once a law has been passed, however bitterly it was contested, the right to reservation to seats in education cannot be downplayed.
One way that blurring of categories takes place is to put students who have come through the open system, (merit) into the reserved category, if they are SC, ST or OBC. They want to be recognised as assimilated into the general system. However, this is denied to them, and this is obviously a setback to their own expectations that they will be seen as “meritorious students”. If they they have come in through the Open/General category, why label them as “Reserved”. Since faculty appointments were not made in a timely way, the lag between student numbers and faculty strength is more than visible. It is not a good idea for JNU administration to chop the numbers to suit the existing seats, like the old Greek innkeeper who did the same to his guests when their limbs were too long.
Other ways of keeping ‘quota’ students out is to block facilitation to studies, by not providing hostel rooms. Thus, only the middle class and upper middle class and wealthy can join the University, because they have family support, can rent accommodation at killing rates (ten thousand rupees in Munirka for a single room in the servant’s quarter in the DDA Flats) or live as paying guests at even more expensive establishments, or in minimally comfortable addresses in ghettos in adjacent areas. If they are from the North East, the danger of rape and being beaten up is very high. The security that University provides is completely absent. Inspite of repeated requests that the lacunae in hostel rooms should be made up by JNU renting accommodation for students with local landlords/landladies, who would take responsibility for lodgers, falls on deaf ears.
Pruning of seats by JNU Administration was done simply, by not making the University hospitable to new students. In 2016, dormitory rooms were not allocated, when JNU opened and new students slept on lawns right upto September, when chikanguniya raged. Then they shifted to sleeping upright in Centre Libraries, taking turns. This facility was denied to them consequently, as they were appearing dishevelled to class, taking their baths in the public toilets in the School, creating a new set of problems for teachers and students alike. Questions such as “How many of you have had breakfast before coming to the class?” was met with gales of laughter, since a diet of samosas and tea at odd hours, had overtaken these young peoples’ lives. And let it be repeated, only those joined JNU who had some resources to support austere student lifestyles. The wealthy students who came from other parts of Delhi often did not turn up at all, since they did not want to mix with the intelligentsia of the countryside. So new problems, quite unusual to alumni from 40 years previously, began to surface. Since the students were living in tents on the terrace and outside hostels, it is not surprising that two student parked their tents outside Administration in protest.
Najib going missing, untraceable till now, is a crime of such terrible velocity, showing Administration’s protracted indifference of the most unforgiveable kind, that Prof A.P Dimri resigned from the Enquiry Committee. It was the statistic of one “disappearance” that appeared mammoth to seven thousand students, not counting the guilty who had instigated the brawl that shocked JNU. Najib and his sorrowing family became the symbol that each student is valued in JNU, regardless of gender, caste, class, creed and religion.
The BJP Government has always seen JNU to be a problem, because the university has been known to produce a brand of scholarship, which is radical and socialist, rather than right wing and reactionary. Now that the clerical staff is substantially right wing, for a decade and more, the workers (karamcharis), staff, faculty and students feel they are being targeted as criminals, for upholding the secular constitution of the JNU which was passed by Parliament.