Banaras Hindu University (BHU) vice chancellor Prof Girish Chandra Tripathi is accused by his critics of attempting to saffronise the campus. He minces no words in taking on such detractors. He says if saffronisation means overall personality development of the students, enhancing their knowledge and inculcating moral values in them, he is making serious efforts for all these. If saffronisation means anything else, he “is no way involved in it”, he tells Sudhir Kumar in an interview. Excerpts:
As BHU vice chancellor, you have completed about two and a half years. What have been the university’s achievements and failures in this period?
There are many achievements. We have set up Mahamana Malaviya Research Centre for Ganga, River Development and Water Resource Management and a centre for study of climate change.
This university is for nation-building. Its national character needs to be protected. We have set up the Bharat Adhyayan Kendra that focuses on documentation, enrichment and preservation of ancient informal knowledge of Indian culture, values, and philosophy. The growing size of the cities has posed a serious threat to existence of rivers. The Mahamana Centre for Ganga has started working to find sustainable ways of river conservation. We are working fast to make BHU a solar energy operated university. By 2018, this will be a reality.
Do you have any plan to ‘globalise’ the Faculty of Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vijyan?
The Indian culture is based on Sanskrit. There is a need to revise our Sanskrit courses to generate interest among the students about the language. We are making efforts to restructure the courses in Sanskrit to make it relevant in the present scenario.
There have been controversies over the closure of the cyber library. Any plan to restore the library’s 24x7 operation?
As far as I know, no library in the country operates 24x7. Everything and everyone needs rest. Students need to take a break from studies for sound sleep. Machines, such as air conditioner and fans, need to be switched off for a few hours in order that they function well.
Opening a library 24x7 is an irrational demand by a group of students. Had it been a rational demand, I would have given a thought to it. There’s no plan to restore 24x7 operation of the library.
A few groups of students and social activists allege that saffronisation of education is underway at BHU. Your take?
I can’t recall even a single instance when I took any decision influenced by any ideology. If saffronisation means overall personality development of students, enhancing their knowledge, inculcating moral values, making them visionary, thoughtful and energetic, adopting 100 villages for their development, setting up Bharat Adhyayan Kendra, I am making serious efforts for all these. But if saffronisation means anything else, I am no way involved in that. The university is run on the basis of an Act passed by Parliament. I don’t think there has been any instance of violation of any provision of the Act during my regime.
There are allegations that RSS activities have increased on the BHU campus in the last two years. Is this true?
I don’t think so. This is a baseless allegation, full of prejudice. As they don’t find any loophole, the people against me are running this propaganda.
What has the BHU achieved by signing over 50 memorandums of understanding with foreign universities in the last few years?
The French, US, Italian, Nepalese ambassadors and the British high commissioner visited the BHU because of the MoUs. These are going to enhance our exchange programmes. In addition, the BHU has potential to become a soft power to spread Indian culture and ideas across the globe.
You are a professor of economics. Any plan to improve BHU’s economy?
We want to take the alumni and industry’s support to increase the BHU resources. As part of initiative, we have contacted many prominent alumni. Our efforts yielded results. Sudha Murthy has given Rs 15 crore for Bharat Kala Bhavan.
I don’t have a personal agenda. I am committed to carrying forward the agenda set by BHU founder Mahamana Pt Madan Mohan Malaviya.
Have restrictions, such as no non-vegetarian food or not allowing girls to leave their hostels after 8pm, been imposed?
There are some positive restrictions, keeping in view the most important and sensitive issue of girls’ security. We just tell the girls to not leave the hostel without informing the warden. In case of an emergency, after making the warden contact their local guardians on phone, they may leave. Non-vegetarian dishes are served at hostels as per rules. There is no ban.