The BJP-led government decided on Thursday to fly the Tricolour atop a 207-feet mast in all central universities across the country to evoke nationalistic sentiments on campuses, many of which have been rocked by anti-establishment protests over the past few weeks.
The first such flag will be unfurled at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which is on the boil over the arrest of a top student leader for alleged anti-India demonstrations and sloganeering.
The decision on the flag was taken at a meeting of all central university vice-chancellors called by human resource development minister Smriti Irani on Thursday, sources said.
“The flag will symbolise the unity and integrity of the nation, under which higher education would flourish,” a source said.
The meeting was called in the wake of the suicide by a Dalit student Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad last month, which had triggered nationwide outcry over alleged social discrimination on campus.
Barely a few weeks after Vemula’s death, JNU was plunged into a crisis after police arrested the university’s students’ union leader Kanhaiya Kumar on charges of sedition, drawing protests by a section of students and opposition parties.
Kumar was arrested over an event at the university during which anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted.
The government and the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) accuse a section of students of being involved in anti-India activities by shouting slogans in favour of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged by the previous UPA government.
Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya too had complained to the HRD ministry that the University of Hyderabad, where Vemula studied, had turned into a “den of casteist and anti-national activities”. Student groups and opposition parties blame Dattatreya and Irani of abetting Vemula suicide.
The sources said the VC’s conference also discussed the issues of socially and economically disadvantaged students and decided to put in place support mechanisms that would help them to perform better academically. The meeting also decided to strictly implement the regulations that have been issued for ensuring equity on campuses.
Besides, the meeting decided to set up professional counselling systems in the campuses to address stress and depression among students.
Ahead of the meet, the HRD ministry had asked all the universities to submit a status report on implementation of 2012 UGC regulations, including creating equal opportunity cells and appointing anti-discrimination officers.
Universities were also asked if they have taken any other steps for promotion of equity and strengthening of SC and ST students’ grievance redressal system or any other measures.