Emergency Files: How the Students of JNU Fought the Emergency - Part 2

As students all across India are fighting the central government's nefarious attempts to curtail their political freedom, Bodhi Commons is republishing the Emergency Files, a series of pamphlets brought out by the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in Jawaharlal Nehru University, during the period of the Emergency (1975-77). This is the second part of the series. The first part can be read here.

While one of the first steps of the JNU administration to clamp down on the democratic rights of the students during the Emergency was to clamp down on the Students Union, the new academic year of 1975-76 saw the JNU administration trying to impose an authoritarian "code of conduct" and striking off from the admission list the names of students whose political opinions were not liked by those in power. The parallel to what is happening today in campuses across the country, where the RSS-BJP-ABVP is trying to muscle out those belonging to student organisations opposed to the Hindutva forces, is surely not a coincidence.

The parallel to what is happening today in campuses across the country, where the RSS-BJP-ABVP is trying to muscle out those belonging to student organisations opposed to the Hindutva forces, is surely not a coincidence.

The students of JNU, of course, did not take all these lying down. The SFI, in its bulletin welcoming the new students to JNU, explained why the crackdown on the Union is dangerous, opposed the "code of conduct" and warned the administration against tampering with the admission procedure. The President of the JNU Students Union subsequently brought out a pamphlet informing the students that B. D. Nagchaudhuri, the Vice-Chancellor, had arbitrarily struck off the names of some students from the admission list. Another pamphlet from the Students Union gave out more details of this anti-student action by the administration and urged the students to resist this attack. Finally 'The Resistance', through a secretly circulated pamphlet, called upon students to boycott classes. Here we reproduce the SFI bulletin, the JNUSU President's pamphlet, excerpts from the detailed JNUSU pamphlet, the Class Boycott call by 'The Resistance' and a report on the strike.

It needs to be noted here that the admission policy of JNU, which the Unions of the time (the SFI having been the leading section in the Union from its founding in 1971) had fought for and won, was one which enabled students from poorer backgrounds and backward regions to enter JNU. Under this policy, weightages were given for students from deprived socio-economic backgrounds and those hailing from backward regions. Student-Faculty Committees (SFCs) were set up with elected students in each Centre (the departments in JNU are called Centres). The SFCs were empowered to scrutinise the entrance tests and finalise the results. The results of this democratic admission policy was seen in the 1973 admissions, when students from diverse backgrounds were able to enter JNU. Therefore it was no surprise that the administration tried to weaken the SFCs as the bulletin described.


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A pamphlet by D.P. Tripathi, the President of the JNU Students Union, informed the students about the VC's arbitrary action.



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The statement by the JNUSU President was confirmed by the declared results of the JNU entrance examination and viva voce. Several students who had excellent academic records found that their names had been struck off the admission lists due to their political opinions. The victimised students included the JNUSU President himself.

A pamphlet issued by the Students Union and signed by Ashok Lata Jain, who chaired the Students' Council meeting held on 19 August 1975, gave out more details.Here is an excerpt from the pamphlet:

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The pamphlet then listed out 11 students whose names had been struck off the list due to political reasons. It also said that the final admission lists were yet to be declared for M.Phil./Ph.D. programme in various centres of the School of Social Sciences, and that considering the trend, further victimisation can be expected. The pamphlet said that these attacks on academic freedom and anti-democratic acts must be fought.

But given the climate of repression, what form this fight will take, was to be detailed in a secret pamphlet brought out by 'The Resistance', which urged students to boycott classes on 22 August. Very few copies of the pamphlet were made, and the students circulated them so as to keep the plans secret from the authorities. The pamphlet is reproduced below.

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While the class boycott was a success and a sent a strong message, the suspension of Ashok Lata Jain made it clear that the government and the administration were not going to tolerate any challenge to their authoritarianism. But if oppression is the ruling classes' privilege, the students were absolutely clear in their conviction that to protest and fight back is not only their right, but also their duty as conscious citizens of a country which prided itself as a democratic republic. They were determined to fight on, even as they knew that more repression was awaiting them.

(To be continued)