Weeks after the registrar of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said the “scuffle” between students associated with Left bodies and the ABVP took place after some of them objected to the holding of a ‘havan’ on the occasion of Ram Navami, its vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit said the administration has “no idea what was the trigger” behind the clashes.
Registrar Ravikesh had said the clashes on the JNU campus earlier this month began after students objected to the havan inside one of the hostels on the occasion of Ram Naval. Members of the Left bodies alleged there were attempts to stop non-vegetarian food from being cooked and served in the Kaveri hostel mess and those associated with the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad said some people tried to disrupt a Ram Navami puja in the same hostel.
On the contradiction, Pandit said, “There are different interpretations that are coming. There are versions from every side. The institute’s proctorial committee is investigating it and will submit its report soon”.
She said that whatever happens at JNU becomes the talk of the town due to the university’s negative perception. “The campus may be politically charged, but the university is not anti-national. More than 60 per cent of the bureaucracy serving the country is from this very university. Over 90 per cent of the students are apolitical, and they’ve come here to make a career. Most of them are from underprivileged backgrounds, and any such negative branding will affect them when they go out to get jobs. Every university has a lunatic fringe and JNU is no different from others,” said Pandit, who took over as the JNU VC in February this year.
Among one of her immediate plans, the vice-chancellor wants to improve the financial and infrastructural aspects of JNU, which recently celebrated its 53rd anniversary. She said that the university is currently operating at a deficit of Rs 130 crore and that she intends to make it “financially self-sufficient” through private partnerships, foreign contributions, and philanthropy.
“JNU has to learn to also become self-reliant and we will not get much from the fees or anything because here that is a very sensitive issue… We have to look for innovative ways to do that. A student competes with over 1 lakh students for a seat here, and many of them come from marginalised sectors. We want many schemes that will help our students get more scholarships and fellowships, both from private and foreign entities, depending on how opportunities come,” added Pandit.
Following the establishment of the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Centre and a chair that will conduct research on bridging socio-political and economic inequalities, JNU intends to establish a special school of inclusivity.
“We want to innovatively expand Dr Ambedkar’s vision as a national vision and not as a caste-based or regional vision. He was a national leader and one of the first few feminists in India. We want to build a school of inclusivity for marginalisation and women’s issues,” said Pandit.
She also acknowledged that there have been security lapses on campus, and she intends to replace the firm in charge. Recently, a man broke into one of the women’s hostels, and students claimed that he also attempted to take down a room’s door.
“There have been complaints regarding thefts in faculty housing, and security breaches. Last time, I was told that there were issues and it was not done through a proper tendering process. We will put out an advertisement in a month’s time and change the security,” she added.