‘3 Idiots‘ was one of the successful movies of Bollywood. It was based on a novel written by Chetan Bhagat. That novel was a Campus Fiction.
What is Campus Fiction?
Campus Novel or Academic Novel are the synonym for Campus Fiction. According to Wikiwand, “A campus novel can be defined as a novel whose main action is set in and around the campus of a university.”
Who Invented this Genre?
Who invented this genre is ambiguous? But The Groves of Academe by Mary McCarthy (1952) is considered as an earliest example of Campus Fiction.
Picture from an Institution (1954) by Randall Jarell and Pnin (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov followed the genre of Campus Fiction.
In India, The Long Long Days (1960) by P.M.Nityanandan is believed as the first ever campus novel. Surprisingly it was his debut novel.
It was followed by The Farewell Party (1971) by M.V. Rama Sarma and Onion Peel (1973) by K.M. Trisanku.
Kanhaiya Kumar is an alumini of Jawahar Lal University, New Delhi. He is Currently serving as National Executive Council member of Communist Party of India.
He was accused of the sedition charges & he was taken into custody by Delhi Police. Kanhaiya Kumar was one of the major members in JNU controversy in 2016.
What is Protagonist?
Protagonist is the main hero of the the drama or any piece of literature. He can be called as Leader or a Principal Person in any movement or mission.
Importance and portrayal of protagonist in any piece of literature is decisive. If we consider Kanhaiya Kumar as a protagonist, development of his character have utmost importance.
Development of Campus Fiction with Kanhaiya Kumar as Protagonist
Generally it is considered that Campus Fiction incorporates the settings of university and academics as principal characters with satirical or comical tone.
Teachers or professors are often regarded as a figures deserving immense respect and honor. But when teachers itself or students write a story based on academics experiences, their main objective is always to disclose the real side.
Undoubtedly such description possibly will become satirical or comical. But there are many sub-genre & varied themes that are possible in Campus Fiction.
When Kanhaiya Kumar is in main prospective, why can’t we look the thing from political point of view? The Drunk Tantra (1994) by Ranga Rao is a perfect example to understand this form of Campus Fiction.
This novel describes the involvement of political leaders and politics in routine affair of the university. Such involvement can be at very subtle level to top hierarchy of the university. Such involvements often ruin even the career of a deserving students.
Students of Jawahar Lal University were accused to raise anti-national slogans. But students denied such allegations. According to them, it was a cultural evening organised to question the working of Supreme Court. It was also meant to bring plight of Kashmiri People in lime-light.
If they are true, Who raised the slogans? This is still an unknown mystery. Was it a political influence or a political interference to demean a university?
Role of Academic Staff Example -I
The Corridors of Knowledge (2008) by M.K. Naik is another example to understand campus fiction enlightening readers about corruption inside the campus.
This is a story of Madhava Rao who lost his father at early age and grown up by his uncle. When he became professor, he looked the corruption in various departments of the university.
This novel is not conclusive or decisive about the corruption but it gives us an idea that everything is not correct even inside the most educated place ever.
Role of Academic Staff Example -II
More conclusive and elaborate work of Campus Fiction about conflicts within the faculty is The Awakening by Rita Joshi.
The protagonist JR protests against the dominating nature of principal and successfully eliminate the negative factors from the institution.
Hence any activity inside the university, positive or negative, may be under the observation, support, acceptance and denial of academic staff.
Were academic staff supported such activities inside the campus? Did teachers motivate students to organize such meeting on one side and played dirty game as informer to political rivals of those students on the other side?
University is an enclosed area with a limited boundary. In this boundary, students from across the country with different states, castes, religions, social backgrounds and cultures came for academic studies.
University nourishes them in multi-ways. It can be positive or negative. Both encouraging and discouraging ways available in this closed area. When political interference or political ideology start affecting any student, changes are inevitable.
Forms of Campus Fiction
According to Shridevi ‘The Origin and Development of Novels in Indian English Literature‘, There are five major forms of Campus Fiction Focused on –
- Teachers or Academic Staff
- Top Hierarchy of the University.
- Malfunctioning in the University
We cannot deny this fact that university campus has played a vital role in developing the mind of Kanhaiya Kumar. Nobody knew him before his university days. Hence something unusual and amplified was happened with him in the campus.
Kanhaiya Kumar can be focused as student in Campus Fiction. Simultaneously his growth from a student to a Scholar, An Orator, A Powerful Student Leader, A Voice of the University’s Students Union to finally a Political Leader of Communist Party of India can be understood as Bildungsroman.
Hence there are two possibilities and prospects of a Campus Fiction if Kanhaiya Kumar is taken as Protagonist. Next step is to understand his character and personality on the first day of university campus.
Development of Character – I
It is important to mention one of the best Campus Fiction Nampally Road (1991) by Meera Alexander. This is a story of female pratogonist Mira Kannadical, passionate for teaching literature, joined a reputed college as professor after finishing her education in England.
She fell in love with Ramu, a political activist. Through this relationship, she was dragged into the political activities. She noticed the political turbulence, problem of people and she was deeply moved after watching the world beyond literature.
There is an instance of brutal rape of a Muslim woman, Rameeza Be, and murder of her husband by the police itself. She became intensively involvement in protests thereafter.
Kanhaiya Kumar understands the problem of people. He knows poverty and helplessness. Kanhaiya Kumar’s father is paralyzed for a long time. His mother earns 3000/- irregular salary as Aagan-Wadi worker in Bihar.
She struggled to keep her husband alive and ensured education to her children. Kanhaiya knows the struggle to reach from a simple school at Masnadpur to reputed Jawahar Lal Nehru University.
Can we put Kanhaiya Kumar as Mira Kannadical and Najeeb Ahmed in place of Rameeza? Kanhaiya once said, “They could not find Najeeb, but they found 3,000 condoms in the dustbins of JNU. Don’t know how they managed to count”.
He was moved by political turbulence or just creating his space in Indian Politics?
Development of Character – II
We should remember Barun Ray nicknamed as Brandy in famous Campus Fiction Tin Fish by Sudeep Chakravarti. He was among four friends, whose adolescent lives were explained beautifully in political backdrop of India by an author.
University is place to allow aspiring minds think without any creative bound. Democratic nation like India & being a tolerant nation since ages, this practice strengthen the basics of human development.
Kanhaiya Kumar family is assumed to be associated with Marxist Ideology and surprisingly Jawahar Lal Nehru University is always associated with leftist ideology. His choice to pursue his PhD from JNU is not a coincidence. It is an opportunity for him to grow amidst experienced faculty.
Political Ideologue was always in his backdrop. He could be Brandy of Tin Fish. Kanhaiya had witnessed various political ideologue and he stood against the ideologue of RSS in the university.
Whether he is correct or wrong is not a question? Question is the potential of Kanhaiya Kumar as a Protagonist. If university has a thousand students, university may have thousand of campus stories.
Either it was agitation raised after suicide of Rohith Vemula or protests of students against the fee hike in the universities; majority of protests occurred at most renowned and top class universities i.e. Jamia Milia Islamia, Aligarh Muslim University, Hyderabad University, Jawahar Lal University and Jadavpur University.
A person after struggling from poverty reached a public university under provision of Indian Constitution that secures education, equality, freedom of speech & fraternity for all.
If any attempt will be made against those provisions, a strong resistance is inevitable. We have seen all such things in Kanhaiya’s life.
Kanhaiya Kumar can be a potent protagonist in a Campus Fiction.
Mridultulika Literary Intoxication Creative Team is grateful for valuable inputs and research work done by Mr. Ajay Lilrain to write on such a difficult topic.