Gender friendly JNU

The recent case of a spurned lover hacking his female classmate before killing himself shocks former JNUite JUANITA KAKOTY

It is sickening to hear of a premiere institution like Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) adding to women’s woes in the already traumatized capital city of New Delhi. More so because I was a student there during 2001-2007 and JNU has shaped me as a humane and social being much beyond what I could perhaps express in words. Coming from the frontiers, I was always an outsider in Delhi. I was made to feel like an outsider for almost three years because of the way I looked and spoke, especially Hindi. Till I came to JNU. For the first time, I felt at home in Delhi. There were many like me: from the frontiers, from India’s remotest corners who empathized with each other and helped each other to grow.

Coming to the recent case of murder where a spurned lover hacked his female classmate with an axe before taking his own life, I see it as a case of education and exposure gone waste on a university student. His inability to take no from his classmate had deeper moorings which obviously education could not mend. For most of us, the space JNU provided allowed a transition to maturity in understanding and action. Apart from interactions with the teaching faculty, frequent open debates through fliers, hand-made posters and lectures on burning social, political and moral issues educated and benefitted us. JNU transformed us and enlightened us. I, for one, would definitely want my children to go to JNU not for just getting a degree that will get them a job, but also to go through experiences in life that will make them stronger and richer.

From what I remember from my days in the university, no one cared if you moved about the campus in chappals and pajamas. But yes, if anybody teased a girl or misbehaved with her, physically or verbally, god save you then! Student bodies and the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) knocked the daylights out of these individuals. The campus was extremely women-friendly. I used to come back at about midnight all alone from the library to my hostel, which was a good ten-fifteen minutes walk, and in all those years never faced any untoward incident. Never did I ever hear my female friends complain of any undignified action towards them.

There used to be the age-old joke though how in the matrimonial advertisements from the prospective groom’s side there would be the occasional mention about “JNU girls need not apply”. A “JNU girl” was, I am not too sure if it still is (and I would like to believe that it is not), obviously seen as ultra-modern, fast, independent-thinking who moves about with men, chats with them, has no qualms about sharing tea and a drag with them. I understand these images jeopardize notions about how the Indian woman should be for some people. But these images don’t give anyone the right to misbehave with her.

In the recent murder case, the police recovered a four-page suicide note written by the assailant, where he mentioned feeling slighted by the girl’s indifference to him of late, that his “ego was hurt”. In the past, there have been other such stories that have placed JNU in a precarious position, if not in the media then in people’s minds: The rape case of October 2012, the suspension of a professor for sexually harassing a female student, the MMS scandal in 2011. Sadly these are all cases of education and exposure gone waste. And it is disheartening because they mar the image of an institution like JNU which continues to produce some of the finest minds of the country.

Juanita Kakoty

Juanita Kakoty

JUANITA KAKOTY loves to document life in all its complexities and textures. She has regularly contributed feature stories and documentation of socio-political issues in publications like The Deccan Herald, The Thumb Print and The Book Review. Her short stories (fiction) have appeared in Himal Southasian, Earthen Lamp Journal, Eastlit, New Asian Writing and Writers Asylum. She also has about a decade of experience in the field of development communication, where she has worked with both national and international organisations, state and central governments. Her academic articles on gender and identity have appeared in two books, published by Routledge and Anwesha; and she has contributed learning units in Sociology for the University Grants Commission (UGC) e-Pathshala programme and KK Handique Open State University, Assam. She quite enjoyed teaching Sociology to BA and MA programme students at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi and Gauhati University, Assam for a while. Juanita is from Assam, a northeastern state of India, and works with Apne Aap Women Worldwide as a communication and documentation specialist.