New Delhi: 2016 began for Jawaharlal Nehru University with the protest against the hanging of Kashmiri freedom protagonist Afzal Guru putting it smack in the middle of a heated national debate on patriotism and nationalism. JNU was dubbed a 'hub of treason', and the incident continued to colour every act in the university — of students, teachers and the administration — in the months that followed. A year later, the JNU fraternity is still grappling with questions about its identity.
In its 48 years of existence, JNU has established itself as one of the intellectually most vibrant Indian institutions of higher learning. Even with more protests and little study through the year, the end of 2016 saw JNU winning the presidential award for being the best university in India.
Amid such achievements, February 9, 2016 continues to reverberate on the campus, casting its shadow even on incidents like the disappearance of a student. The events of 2016 are often described by the largely leftist teacher body and student organisations as the attempt of a rightist central government to muzzle a left-leaning university. "The incident was a planned script meant to thwart students and teachers," alleged Ayesha Kidwai, president, JNU Teachers' Association. "Expressing dissent is not an offence."
But far from being a simple ideological confrontation, perhaps Anand Kumar, who has been associated with JNU for 40 years, first as student and later as professor, was more correct in describing the February event as "the rallying point for students, faculty and alumni for a long interrogation about the university's contribution to the nation".