Safi H. Jannaty | Caravan Daily
HE WHO opens a school door, closes a prison. So stated the scientist of all scientists, Albert Einstein. The government here seems to be doing exactly the opposite. The recent attacks on students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi (JNU) is an example.
JNU is well-known as a premier research and education centre. The university is now faced with a sinister design to weaken it. Even someone who never stepped into a school cannot accept brutality and vandalism on an educational campus. The silence of Prime Minister Modi in this matter and the muted response from the ruling BJP to the violence inside JNU speak volumes.
Who in the world could believe that veiled goons carrying sticks and bricks would roam inside the campus in the presence of the police? The cops’ lackadaisical approach and failure to take the culprits into custody and refer them to the courts are condemned from many quarters. On the other hand, their swift action in charging students of the university including the victims of the violence reminds one of an apt couplet from Dr. Rahat Indori, ‘Abb Kahan Dhoondnay Jaogay humaray qaatil; aap toh qatil ka ilzaam hum hi parr rakh doh (Where would you seek our killers; you better lay accusation on our head only).
It was nothing but a repeat of the February 2016 mayhem by cops in Jamia Millia Islamia University, where the police had accused students of being anti-national and locked them up with the help of doctored evidence, which eventually fell as a pack of lies.
JNU is an institution whose alumni includes Prof. Abhijit Banerjee, a 2019 Nobel Laureate. It produced hundreds of renowned scholars and top-notch Civil Service bureaucrats, but is now being labeled as the bastion of Communism and leftist campaigns. There is a sustained campaign to malign the students, weaken the faculty and curtail research work.
Unfortunately, in this fast-moving age, where people have lost patience to study issues thoroughly, it has become quite easy to weave a web of lies and spread it. A video clip wherein an unknown speaker spills conjectures about the founding of the university – he did it with “absolute authority” — is doing the rounds of the social media. The gullible audience seemed to be swallowing the statements without ascertaining facts.
The same is true of the ones watching the related lecture online. With all the conviction he could gather, the speaker asserts that the university was a brainchild of the erstwhile Leninist Soviet regime which had helped build it as a ‘quid pro quo‘ for India’s or rather Indira Gandhi’s support to USSR during the Cold War era; and that all of its objectives, goals and purposes were designed to revolve around the Communist agenda.
With all the invective he could tout against Communism, he makes people feel that the campus is nothing but a citadel and symbol of Marxism or rather a mini Soviet Union inside the Indian capital. In his tirade, he has no qualms to speak lies to the audience — that the Ministry of Education was led by the Parliamentarians from the minority community, and went to the extent of accusing them of being partisan. He does not care to realize that the lie would fall on its face.
The fact of the matter is that Prof. Noorul Hasan had held that chair, long back, during 1972 and 1977. How could this individual be oblivious of the fact that Maulana Azad had passed away before the university was founded and that, during the first tenure of the BJP government under Atal Behari Vajpayee, the post was held by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, a hard core right wing leader? Then, in the latter part of Narender Modi’s first tenure, ABVP leader Prakash Javdekar, who was in the forefront of the students’ movement during the Emergency period, led the ministry between 2016 and 2019.
An icing on the cake, at present, is that the human resource development ministry is led by Ramesh Pokhriyal who propagates claims that defy science and logic. In 2014, he had caused a flutter inside Parliament by asserting that the ancient Indians had the knowledge to transplant a severed head. He also claimed that “Sage Kanada had conducted nuclear tests hundreds of thousands year ago.
In the end, amidst cheers by the audience, the speaker in the video pronounces that the situation would change and the so-called egalitarians would be shown the door. In fact, he laid bare the plan of the government to fill the institution with such faculty and students who would help diminish the shine and sheen of the institution, to pave the way for its eventual closure.
The speaker is not raising an isolated voice. Nor is he speaking on his own. He is echoing the voice of the present dispensation, which is averse to any institution or centre that inculcates the habit of questioning, promotes thinking, or sharpens intellectual abilities.
CV FROM ROMILA THAPAR
Demanding the CV from a legendary historian of our times, Romila Thapar, who had been teaching history at JNU almost from the date of its founding and had been a professor emerita for over 25 years there, goes to show the scant respect which this government has towards academicians, scholars and intellectuals. Her refusal to toe to the line of the right wing and her questioning of the motive of the government in changing historical facts in the school text books must have irked them. She was also very vocal about the undue interference and intervention of the government in the functioning of JNU especially in curbing research work and appointment of the mediocre faculty.
EXCELLENCE AT JNU
Ironically, tireless efforts to label the students as separatists, anti-nationals and Communists or keeping them engaged in one struggle or the other notwithstanding, the students outshine others when it comes to success in competitive exams or progress in careers. This year, out of the total 32 seats for the prestigious Indian Economic Services, a part of Indian Civil Services structure, 18 seats have been taken by students of JNU, an envious feat altogether. Year after year, the university is assessed as the top research institution of India — all these, to the chagrin of the elements hell bent on discrediting the faculty and maligning the students.
It is another irony that the alumni is not devoid of people from among the quarters who label the university as the handiwork of the Communists and a safe haven for parasites to nurture anarchy and separatism. Amitabh Sinha, a noted BJP leader who too joined the chorus in labeling the campus as a citadel of Communism, had studied there, as also a host of other leaders of the right wing party including the current finance minister Nirmala Seetharam and foreign minister Dr. S. Jaishankar.
Safi Jannaty is a Saudi Arabia-based Indian writer and Contributing Editor. All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs and comments by readers are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan Daily