She grew up in the lap of violence in Assam’s Bodoland. She left her home Kokrajhar to find refuge in education and build a new life in Delhi. Only she had not anticipated being at the epicentre of the recent violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). She or her parents had thought education institutions are the safest space for young people with dreams in their eyes. But far from it. Suneha Narzary is among many of those students who experienced and saw violence on Jan 5th at India’s foremost institution, JNU. She is among the many who stay at hostels, come from other parts of India and violence or attacks, they have no choice but to stay put. “Where will we go?” she asks.
“Since I am far from home, the campus is my only home here. I can’t even go out and stay somewhere else and I feel that we are kept inside the campus and there is no security so it is kind of scary. On the day of the attack, I was out on a walk inside the campus as that’s a usual routine because the campus, at least until the attack, was a safe place. Even at 3 a.m. one could walk around and wouldn’t have to care about safety. By 5 p.m. I and my friends were out on a walk all around the campus. We went to the North gate where we saw a fight between students at Periyar hostel,” notes Narzary, who is student of first-year International Relations course at JNU.
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“We came back from there and stopped to have dinner at a Dhaba after which we saw that people with sticks and rods started to run towards my hostel. We got really scared and I and my friend ran towards our hostel and locked ourselves inside our room. There was no internet so we don’t know what happened outside. There were some students who were guarding the gates of my hostel. We came out around 9 p.m. as people had asked us to gather at Sabarmati dhaba T point and even then there was uncertainty over the security issue and the fear of being beaten up was running in our heads.” Narzary says. She admits like many other students, she isn’t a ferocious protestor. She is shy and likes to keep to herself.
I am far from home, the campus is my only home here. I can’t even go out and stay somewhere else and I feel that we are kept inside the campus and there is no security so it is kind of scary – Narzary
“I didn’t participate in the protests where I thought that attacks could happen. However, I am proud of my fellow mates who are attending all protests without any fear. Sometimes, I did not attend protests because I was scared of being attacked or bruised although, I did join some protests,” she asserts.
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When asked what her conversation with her parents have been like, she says, “My parents obviously don’t want me to participate in protests but then it is our choice. They don’t stop me but they also say then, whatever happens, I will be responsible for it since I am far away from home. After the attack, I called my father and he already knew about it since he heard it in the news. He was shocked and he asked me to not go out of the hostel but then here I am.”
For those who come from conflict-ridden areas, they come to study away from home to find respite and explore new opportunities, and yet with the current state of affairs, there seems to be none. “I belong to Kokrajhar (in Bodoland Territorial Area Districts) and even there people have a bad impression that the place is violent so I came here thinking of the education and opportunities we get in the capital city. But things have become problematic here as well.” While she joined JNU last year in August, Narzary has been in New Delhi for the last four years as she did her graduation from Delhi University’s IP College for Women where she studied Political Science.
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Narzary also has an older sister who is also a JNU alumna. “She was on the campus for nine years so I always knew of the protests that happen in JNU. She also used to participate in protests. Now that I am here and I have heard from her about the protests that used to happen back then, I realize that there is a huge difference. This kind of violence never took place earlier as much as I have heard.”
The attack on peacefully protesting students and teachers of JNU by people with lathis and rods on Sunday evening has left society and public intellectuals in shock. These students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University were demonstrating against the fee hike when they were attacked and some even got badly injured. The incident has come as a major setback against the ideology of affordable education provided by public universities, claim JNU students.
Name of the student has been changed on request