The safest place in the city where an argument or misunderstanding is only settled through debate; a cocoon with a time-zone of its own, so different from the rest of the country’s universities with its thick overgrowth of bushes and trees and 24 hour cafes where women can sit with a laptop or a book at 2 p.m. That Jawaharlal Nehru University might just be a thing of the past – this was the real fear gripping students and faculty alike across the campus even as they struggled to come to terms with the fact that one student had allegedly stabbed another in broad daylight in the middle of a class, and that too in the name of love.
“There might be cameras, personal checks and restrictions on free movement. Everything we loved and took for granted might not be there anymore after this incident,” said Abhay Kumar, an M.Phil. student who had just woken up, when his roommate came back from his cancelled class and told him the reason why.
The libraries, hostel rooms and mess-halls, 24-hour dhabas and canteens had only one topic of conversation and by evening the anxiety levels had reached a crescendo. “I’ve never seen so many cops inside the campus, ever. I think about a lot of things, especially how this incident will affect the reputation of JNU, which was the one place where you could feel completely safe in the city,” added Abhay.
Faculty members were sorry that students could be made to feel this way. “I am so shattered as a teacher. I wish that the student had confided in someone or we could have somehow prevented this incident. Although I really don’t know how anyone could ever imagine something like this happening,” said French Professor Abhijit Karkun, who teaches in the School of Languages where the incident took place.
Siddharth, an English Ph.D. student who also belongs to the School of Languages, had left the building when the incident happened. “A junior called me up and I ran all the way but by then the police had sealed the area, my school was a crime scene,” he said, adding that all they could do after that was keep talking about why this had happened.
A wave of depression seemed to have swept the university, felt those who were not in the campus during the day and arrived later on. Yet, there were also those who were not in town but were affected all the same. “I was so shocked, I could only follow what happened to those students on T.V,” said JNU’s Prof. Chamanlal, who was travelling in Punjab.