JNU to shut down history centre library: students anxious about the fate of prized books, journals 

- August 4, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

We have books that have been out of print for 30 to 40 years that any student can access, says a student; the closure was implemented without prior intimation by the JNU administration, another student said

Students assembled at CHS library to protest against its purported shutdown

Students of the Centre of Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University have alleged that the university is arbitrarily shutting down the centre’s library, which contains several important books and journals.

The library is funded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and houses around 18, 000 books, PhD thesis, and journals. 

The closure was implemented without any prior intimation by the JNU administration, the students said. They raised concerns after the administration put up a board for the Special Centre for Tamil Studies outside the CHS library.

Last year, JNU received a sum of 10 crore rupees from the Tamil Nadu government to establish an independent Tamil Literary Studies Department.

The books of the CHS library are being shifted to the Exim Bank library in the campus. Students fear the potential loss of access to valuable academic materials and historical references that have been indispensable to scholars and enthusiasts alike.

“The library has curated and sourced private collections of legendary scholars such as Bernard Cohn, Satish Chandra, DD Kosambi, and they are organized as private collections. They are supposed to be preserved and not spread across various libraries. We have books that have been out of print for 30 to 40 years that any student can easily access or browse the bookshelf,” says Saib Bilaval, PhD Scholar at CHS and former JNUSU presidential candidate. 

CHS library books being shifted

Bilaval added that the students were not aware of the shifting of the library and got to know about it when a student sent a photo of the Tamil Centre board on a WhatsApp group for PhD scholars. “The problem is that many of our professors also did not know about it. Only the Chairperson and the Dean seem to be aware of it,” he said.

“When the Tamil Nadu government gave the money for a special centre, it is understood that the centre would be set up and constructed – and not to empty out a building,” he added.

In a letter to the VC, the CHS student community wrote “The collection at the CHS library is of extreme importance. The proposal of shifting it to the EXIM library is not feasible as it doesn’t have enough space to host the entire collection. Hence, some extremely important documents face the danger of being discarded. In addition, this is the students losing out on their library space. It is the responsibility of the administration to fund and nurture library spaces and hence, the excuse of closing the CHS library building due to lack of funds is not acceptable.”

The JNU unit of ABVP said that if Rs 5 crore was sanctioned for the Tamil Centre, then the university should erect a new building for it.  “We take this moment to state that National Education Policy (NEP) focuses on creating departments with multi-disciplinary approach, and imparting it with an Indic perspective, which ABVP has been demanding since the 1960s.”

The statement, which was put out on social media, added, “What gives more importance to establishment of the Tamil Centre, especially in JNU, is that the communists have kept Tamil out of research purview.”

Patriot tried to reach the JNU PRO office but did not get a response. 

Books at CHS library

In a circular issued on Friday evening, JNU said that the news of the closure of CHS Library is misinformation and that the university has planned to relocate the library to the adjoining building.

“Relocation has been always taking place in JNU. Moreover, this has been passed by the EC (Executive Council) unanimously. The proposed arrangement would not only facilitate the activities of one of the important Indian Languages but also ensure prudent use of space on the campus without affecting the academic activities of CHS or any other Centre. The concerned faculty and students are requested to cooperate in this regard,” read a circular posted by the university.

Students maintained that the Exim Bank library will not be able to accommodate the books from the CHS library.