As the ongoing protests against charging of three JNU students with sedition and criminal conspiracy inside the JNU campus have entered third week, the university is slowly moving back to business with academic work and protests going on simultaneously. However, the ripple effects of February 9 incident and subsequent police crackdown are still visible within the students, though many acknowledge the sense of fear psychosis is diminishing day by day. 

Every year during this season, hostels in Jawaharlal Nehru University wear a festive look to celebrate cultural nights and joint dinners, which includes families, friends and university staff including Vice-Chancellor among the invitees. But this year, not all are in the mood for celebration when their fellow students are in jail. 

At least five hostels – Sutlej Hostel, Ganga Hostel, Tapti Hostel, Jhelum Hostel and Chandrabhaga Hostel – have decided to postpone their annual cultural nights and hostel nights, which take place on the campus during February to April. 

b’JNU students agitate for the release of students arrested on sedition charges on the university campus in New Delhi on Thursday | Source: PTI’

“The kind of atmosphere on the campus currently didn’t allow us to hold the event,” Akhlaque Khan, President of Sutlej Hostel in JNU told ScoopWhoop. “We can’t invite friends and guests to celebrate cultural nights with us during the present situation. More than that, no guest or friend will turn up for the party amid fear psychosis on the campus.”

Khan, who’s pursuing his PhD in Persian studies, said there are 360 students in the hostel he presides. Last year, the hostel’s cultural night had witnesses a gathering of 1400-1500 people.

“It wouldn’t be like that this time if we decide to go ahead with the event.”

Since JNU campus has a diversified student populace from across India, cultural nights usually comprise performances from students showcasing their traditional cultures and rituals. The nights, also attended by families, friends and members of university, also include dancing and music. In fact, preparations for booking catering and other services are done weeks before. 

Hostel nights are followed with joint dinners some days later, when the students cherish a feast together. 

Most of the JNU students admit that the police crackdown on the campus “severely disturbed” the university’s atmosphere – in academic sense and security of students – for few days, but they quickly shot back with “they are not going to back down.”

b’JNU students agitating for the release of the Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi | Source: PTI’

JNU has 18 hostels for boys and girls along with one complex for accommodating married students.

President of Tapti Hostel Ambesh Pandey believes the state of university is still disturbed with the February 9 event and police action.

“The strike disrupted class work for only two days. But a general sadness seems to have descended on JNU with the kind of events happening since last three weeks,” Pandey, who also decided to postpone the hostel’s cultural night scheduled on February 27, told ScoopWhoop. The new date for the cultural night is March 7.

“The university is returning to normalcy and students are engaged in academics as well as the ongoing protests,” he said. “But still there’s something unusual about it right now.”

b’Students take part in a candle light march to pay homage to martyrs of Indian Army and Parliament attack at a meeting organised by ABVP on the JNU campus in New Delhi | Source: PTI’

According to students, a significant feature of JNU culture – post-dinner talks in hostel messes – have stopped altogether due to the ongoing crisis. 

Despite all the protests, two hostels – Mahi Mandavi Hostel and Lohit Hostel – have gone ahead with celebration of cultural nights in their hostels. But insiders told ScoopWhoop, the RSS-inspired student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) enjoy a good base in the said hostels.

“The celebration was more of a strategy to show the opposite view of the ongoing protest wave, so that everything appears normal to the outside world,” JNU sources told ScoopWhoop.

“I think it’s a brilliant moral gesture of showing solidarity with the fellow students,” Shreya Ghosh, a Phd student and part of the ongoing protests, told ScoopWhoop when asked about her reaction about the postponing of hostel nights.

b’xc2xa0Students agitating for the release of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar on the JNU campus in New Delhi on Monday | Source: PTI’

“The primary focus of our struggle is of course on JNU but that doesn’t mean we are ignoring other issues. We have continued our struggle against Rohith Vemula’s suicide, attack on Soni Sori, workers strike in Gujarat and Occupy UGC movement,” she told ScoopWhoop.

“At times, we also wonder why is media only focusing on JNU crisis and not about other struggles we talk about in our protests,” she added.

Pankhuri Zaheer, an M.Phil student at JNU, told ScoopWhoop “the class work was only affected for few days during the initial days of protests.” 

“Our struggle is multi-dimensional and all-encompassing. We had our university level issues like lack of hostel accommodation and the current crisis has affected the normal functioning of the students’ union,” she said. “However, we know, we are fighting a larger collective struggle.”   

Feature image source: PTI