It’s not just Indians, Gandhian studies attract international students, too, says chairperson, Dr Manohar Lal Sharma, who feels “honoured” to be heading the department of Gandhian and peace studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, as it is one of the premier institutes in the country offering PhDs, MA and M Phil programmes.
There are a large number of applicants for all three programmes though the department has to reject quite a few as intakes are through entrance tests for the 29 seats in MA, and 10 in MPhil. For the PhD programme, one guide can accept as many as eight students. “We have about eight students from Iran pursuing their PhD, as part of the student exchange programme. Many, though, fail to get government permits and research visas. In any case, students who have qualified the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) NET, have to be accommodated first,” says Sharma.
Educating students since 1965, the department initially offered just a one-year certificate course in Gandhian philosophy, later converting it into a postgraduate diploma course in 1972. A postgraduate diploma in Gandhian studies through correspondence was introduced afterwards. M Phil degrees were offered from 1977-78. An MA in Gandhian and peace studies (a two-year postgraduate course) was started in 1984-85. Now a semester system has been started for MA.
The department has a specialised Library on Gandhian Studies and National Freedom Movement. Though its main focus is on research on various facets of Gandhi’s life, work and thought, eminent personalities and Gandhian scholars often visit for lectures and seminars.
“We also have a distinguished alumni list, among them scholars who have gone on to become Supreme Court judges, a divisional commissioner, civil servants. One has even been the deputy director of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh,” says Sharma.
Someone who developed an interest in Gandhian studies and did a diploma in the subject while simultaneously studying for a master’s in public administration in 1973, Sharma enrolled for a PhD on Gandhi at the department much later. “The department constantly strives to create more awareness about Gandhi,” he says. “ I see how people’s thinking and perception of life have changed after studying about this great man. When people learn about this legend, their lives change,” says Sharma.