Opposition parties hit out, varsity’s student body chief calls request indicative of war-mongering
If making students read about India’s freedom movement, its glorious past, sacrifices of its founding fathers and the successes of its present generation doesn’t instill enough patriotism in today’s youth, here’s a unique solution that will do the job – install a defunct Army tank in educational campuses. Or at least this is what M Jagadesh Kumar, controversial Vice Chancellor (VC) of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), seems to believe.
Addressing an event organized in the JNU campus, on Sunday evening, to mark the ‘Kargil Vijay Diwas’, Kumar once again kindled the ‘patriotism’ debate. With union ministers VK Singh and Dharmendra Prasad present at the event, Kumar requested Singh – who is also a former Army Chief – “to help us procure an Army tank so that we can place it at a prominent place in JNU. The presence of the tank will remind thousands of students about the great sacrifices and valour of our Indian Army”.
On Monday, several leaders from Opposition parties as well as the JNU students union hit out at Kumar, who incidentally, has been in news more for his gaffes and controversial decisions than actually ushering in real educational reforms at JNU ever since he assumed the role of VC in January 2016.
Kumar’s most strident criticism came from the varsity’s students body chief, Mohit Pandey, who said: “By demanding a battle tank the VC has exposed his idea of nationalism, which is war mongering…We understand nationalism in a different way (sic)”.
The JNU Teachers’ Association also came out with a scathing statement, reminding the VC of his primary responsibility and how he has failed in it. JNUTA said it is “amused by the JNU VC’s earnest desire that a tank be rolled onto JNU campus”.
“It is surprising that Prof. Jagadesh Kumar can only be inspired to patriotism upon beholding instruments of war. This seems to be only a personal affliction, since the rest of the JNU community does not need these visual aids to feel love and concern for this land, its environment and all its peoples, whether in the armed services or elsewhere” JNUTA said.
The Opposition parties too hit out at Kumar’s remedy for his perceived lack of patriotism in the students of his institution. Senior Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal wondered: “How would an Army tank serve as an inspiration for patriotism” while CPI leader D Raja speculated whether the VC had mistaken the varsity for an Army station.” Raja demanded that if an installation has to be made at JNU then it should be that of mathematician Aryabhatta, saying: “At least it would convey some message…what will an Army tank do?”
Is the Army beyond scrutiny?
While Kumar’s comments clearly got most attention from the media, comments made by Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan too weren’t exactly the sort of stuff that make for great academic advice.
Pradhan, the minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, was clearly cheerful at seeing JNU – a hotbed of Left-leaning political activism – turn into a ground that resembled the venue for a more saffron-tinted event. The minister claimed that “JNU created history today (on Sunday evening) by organising a ‘Tiranga March’, setting up Wall of Heroes and raising slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Vande Mataram”.
Pradhan then went to suggest that questioning the Army wasn’t exactly an appropriate thing to do. “In no other country, is the Army being questioned. But as India is a democracy, some powers dare to show India in poor light.”