After attempts to bulldoze its agenda of commercialization and to tamper with reservation, the JNU administration is now going all out to muzzle freedom of expression and speech with a series of draconian measures. In a meeting of the Provosts held on 26th March, the Dean of Students has come up with a Proforma for all hostels regarding organizing Public Meetings and Film Screenings. The guidelines formulated unanimously in the meeting are nothing short of attempts on the part of the administration to suppress the democratic rights of the students. The guidelines stipulates that no film can be screened that doesn’t have a Censor Board certificate. Also, all details on the movie, its makers, and time duration need to be mentioned while filling the form for seeking permission to organize screenings in the hostels. This implies that Documentaries/Films made by independent film makers, cannot be screened. Furthermore, the guidelines also make it mandatory on individuals/organizations holding Public Meetings to provide all details of the topic, and list of speakers. According to the circular, any meeting the administration feels would be in contravention of ‘national harmony’ or ‘national integration’ or ' national security' could be disallowed and denied permission. Permission must be taken a week before.
These new guidelines under the garb of standardizing procedures for all hostels, are in fact draconian attempts to muzzle the voices of dissent, thereby seeking to curtail the freedoms of speech and expression. The pretext of the national interest and harmony is another excuse of suppressing the heterodox views. These terms are always defined conveniently to suit the hegemonic projects of those in power and against those who are challenging this hegemony. These anti-democratic guidelines thus are a systematic effort on part of administration to curb the progressive student movement and launching fresh onslaughts on the student community. In the absence of elections and an elected JNUSU, the administration has been increasingly getting high-handed and pushing through such anti-student policies. The administration has sought to conveniently use the stay on JNUSU elections surreptitiously to bulldoze such anti-democratic measures. It is a sad thing that most of teachers of JNU are either silent or supporting the JNU administration. It is pertinent that the student community in JNU remains vigilant and fight against such assaults on our democratic rights that have been won after hard-fought struggles. All right-thinking people should join hands with the progressive students of JNU in their fight against these draconian measures tooth and nail.
(Prakash K Ray is a Research Scholar in Cinema Studies at JNU)