Ruing about the present situation of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, who is also an alumnus of the JNU said that during his time the university was considered as a safe place for raising dissenting views.
Speaking about the long-tradition of the JNU being seen as enemy of the state, Banerjee claimed that he was sent to Tihar Jail in 1983 because JNU was seen as being too uppity by Mrs Gandhi.
Expressing concern about the growing culture of violence that has bedevilled JNU recently, Banerjee stated that the adopting violent measures is extremely terrifying for the future sense of policy because it does create this worry for the youth of today. The way of resolving a conflict by beating those who with the opposing views is a dangerous prospect, he added.
Banerjee, who was speaking at the Express Adda event on Wednesday echoed finance minister N Sitharaman’s statements on the University. He said, “What was remarkable about the university(JNU) was that it was a safe place for dissent. It was extremely vibrant but with a lot of diversity.”
The Nobel laureate continued, “JNU is always characterised as being a sort of Leftist hangout, but there was Nirmala Sitharaman, S Jaishankar, Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, and Yogendra Yadav. Coming from middle-class Bengal, I didn’t really know the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in any form, and then we met them (at the JNU campus). They were engaged in conversation, almost formally polite. It was the first time I’d encountered a wide range of views. But I think we got along.”
Speaking on people with diverse political ideologies engaging in civil conversations, Banerjee said “The Lohiyaites loved the communists, but last year when I was there, the Lohiyaites won the students union against the communists. The divide was there. There was enormous diversity of views.” He said that when he was with JNU, people could disagree but still listen to each other. “The recourse to violence, therefore, is extremely frightening for future polity,” he added cautioning that the future generation will grow up believing the only way to resolve conflict is violence.
Banerjee’s assertions come on the heels of the violence that was witnessed in the JNU on Sunday, January 4, when masked assailants barged into university and attacked students inside the campus who were registering for the winter semester. Left students had been opposing registration over marginal hostel fee hike which was eventually partially rolled back.