The armed mob attack inside Jawaharlal Nehru University on January 5, 2020, has been four years in the making. Ever since the orchestrated events of February 2016, within weeks of the current vice chancellor taking charge, JNU has faced assault after assault. The first phase saw charges of being anti-national made on the basis of doctored videos of an event around what was perceived as the unjust hanging of Afzal Guru. The slogans supposedly shouted at that event by masked men (the first entry of this species into JNU), gave JNU its honorific, ‘tukde tukde gang’. For over a year after that, students and faculty faced police complaints, arrests for sedition, physical assaults outside campus and mobs gathering at its gates with aggressive slogans.
That pot was shifted to simmer on the back-burner, partly thanks to the Delhi government refusing to go beyond the law on the sedition cases against JNU students. But there was also a strong pushback in the public domain by critical voices. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic sabotage of JNU ensued. By violating statutes to concentrate power in the hands of the VC, who filled the Academic Council with his invitees while removing non-compliant faculty members, several measures were taken to reduce and control student intake. Massive seat cuts citing a UGC regulation led to zero intake in most centres. The entrance exam was changed from the traditional handwritten mix of essay-type and objective questions, held in examination centres all over India in all languages, to online multiple-choice questions. Thus, students who attempt the entrance exam need to be conversant with computers and English.