JNU march in support of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.(Vipin Kumar/ HT Photo)
JNU march in support of JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar.(Vipin Kumar/ HT Photo)

JNU students are first among equals, idealistic and inquisitive

Nationalism is not jingoism but love for your country, a commitment to it and willingness to fight for your ideals for it
By Yoginder K Alagh
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2016 02:18 AM IST

I took the morning flight from Ahmedabad to Delhi on December 5, 1992, and landed at the vice-chancellor’s lodge at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). There were some policemen and security staff there. All the doors and windows were closed. The policemen were sent back to the police station and the security men to look after the university’s main gate. The doors and windows were opened, so fresh air could come into the V-C’s small bungalow.

From day one I let it be known that the V-C is available to each JNU student, if need be, the same day. Many nights this meant after 10pm. Every day, I would get a list of students who had completed their M Phil or PhD. I wrote a handwritten letter to each student who scored an A grade and all PhD students, saying how proud we were of their performance and how the university looked forward to their contributions to their profession and to the country. From Egypt to Canada, from Paris to Brasilia, somebody will tap my shoulder and would say, “Sir, you were my V-C, I treasure the letter you wrote to me.”

A teacher has many rewards. But we also had our share of problems. Protesting against proposals to raise resources from non-government sources, the students were not allowing the Academic Council to meet on the campus. The university V-C is about moral authority and I was not giving up that space. It was suggested that we call in the police. To me that was equally unacceptable as that, too, would mean ceding authority. For once the police came in, they would be the authority in charge, and if a boy threw a stone, the police would retaliate with force. These were our students and I told the student union activists stopping me that I was going on satyagraha until they let us in. I wrote a letter to the chancellor, PN Haksar, reporting the events and that I was instructing the finance officer to deduct my salary for the days I was on satyagraha. Haksar wrote an open letter to the community on ‘bended knees’, asking them to sort out the matters within the rules. Within two hours more than 50 teachers were standing with me in solidarity. Within two days the students gave in.

On another occasion some of them demonstrated at Jantar Mantar and were dutifully arrested. I spoke to the additional secretary (home) and the deputy superintendent of police in charge of Parliament Street police station, and got an assurance that they would be released in a few hours.

Read: JNU circumstances have changed, oppose Kanhaiya’s bail now: Bassi

V-Cs were not allowed to go to the hostels. Not knowing this, when I joined, I went to a hostel to eat my lunch and such visits became a common feature. If I did not go to a hostel in a particular semester, it became a matter of concern. The V-C ignores our hostel. Each hostel mess would invite me to all their celebrations, including Eid and Diwali.

A visiting Japanese scholar from Nagoya University had described the hostels in JNU as some of the most democratic societies anywhere. Every evening, out-of-the-box thinkers and leaders were invited to speak on problems and issues of the day: LK Advani on Opposition perspectives, comrade Vinod Mishra of the CPI (ML), and leaders, thinkers and alumni alike. The session would end only after ‘all the problems are solved’, which meant that the last question had to be answered before the meeting dispersed. This is the reason that JNU students do so well in the UPSC exams for the higher civil services. I found out when I chaired a committee set up to develop the recruitment and training policies for the higher civil services. They are all trained in disciplined argumentation and would breeze through any discussion.

And, it is humbug to say that they are all of one ideological hue. The late Manohar Lal Sondhi, a proud JNUite, a member of the National Executive of the BJP, appointed by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as chairman of the Indian Council for Social Science Research, was a favourite teacher and respected colleague. Like others he revelled in debate and the fiercely independent academic culture of a great university.

Read: Budget session: Modi govt to go on offensive in Parliament over JNU row

Now the HRD ministry is concentrating on flag hoisting in universities. Flag hoisting was a great event at JNU. The flag was raised at each hostel and in the Plaza on August 15 and January 26. Chandra Shekhar, (CPI-ML), who was president of the JNU students’ union, after the official flag hoisting, asked me to attend his flag hoisting at the Ganga Hostel, where a small tricolour was unfurled on a small bamboo pole, by the oldest Dalit Class IV lady employee.

Nationalism is not jingoism but love for your country in a quiet unstated manner, a commitment to it and willingness to fight for your ideals for it. I was teaching economics at the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College and had decided to come back to India. When some of the world’s top economists asked me why I did so, I said these, sirs, were matters of the heart and not money and global prestige.

Read: JNU row: Perfect case study to show how media is losing its credibility

Tens of thousands apply to JNU and only a thousand are admitted. These students are the first among equals, idealistic and intellectually inquisitive. Intensely patriotic, they are angry with those who play with its ideals.

JNU does not just teach skills in the way the IIMs or IITs do. It creates the skills to change the world. If Nalanda, Al Azhar, Berkeley and Oxford only taught skills there would be no progress because skills work the existing systems. JNU pursues the holy grail of knowledge in its complete form. As we say: Satyamev Jayate.

(YK Alagh is a former Union minister and former vice-chancellor, JNU. The views expressed are personal)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)
Elections in Kerala are punctuated by several controversies, both past and present (File Photo)

Espionage to smuggling, scandals spice up every poll in Kerala

By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvanathapuram
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:26 PM IST
  • controversies and scandals were part of the state polity in the last three decades and mushrooming digital media also played its part in amplifying them, said a political observer.
Close
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)
The 1962 baggage at the turn of century was such that for 40 years, subsequent governments did not dare build border roads on the ground that these could be used by the Chinese army to enter the hinterland in case of a conflict.(PTI)

Why 2021 political rhetoric is no match for 1962 fighting in Ladakh

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 02:15 PM IST
  • India and China came close to war last year after Indian army commanders atop Rezang La-Rechin La ridge threatened to fire at the advancing PLA tank regiment that sought to dislodge the Indian troopers.
Close
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)
Approximately half of the countries use population for delimitation, while another third use registered voters. Nowhere is it based on area and for good reasons (HTPHOTO)

J&K delimitation: Go by the population rule

By Haseeb Drabu
PUBLISHED ON MAR 01, 2021 06:39 PM IST
Having already decided on the number of electors as well as the number of elected, the only part of delimitation that has been left to the Commission is the electoral cartography — the redrawing of boundaries and enclosing people within the constituency framework. Notwithstanding these debilitating infirmities in the context of J&K, the redrawing of the constituencies is an extraordinarily complex and highly contentious exercise. It can potentially alter the electoral demographic balance.
Close
Representational image. (AFP)
Representational image. (AFP)

Congress needs to worry more about rebels than opponents in Puducherry

By Abhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:32 PM IST
The only time the Congress has lost Puducherry, it has been because of a rebel. The Congress and DMK together have won over 50% seats in every assembly elections in Puducherry since 1980, except in 2011
Close
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)
At a January meeting to review projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed displeasure at the process-driven bureaucracy (ANI)

Behind PM Modi’s stinging critique of the IAS, a Jan meeting holds the clue

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 17, 2021 09:35 AM IST
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given bureaucrats an earful at a January meeting of the country's top officials and underlined the price that India paid for their slow pace.
Close
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.
PM Narendra Modi was emotional while giving a farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad from Rajya Sabha.

Salute to Ghulam Nabi Azad underlined PM Modi’s personal ties with rivals

By Saubhadra Chatterji | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 14, 2021 03:37 PM IST
  • Leaders from the Congress and other Opposition parties have many stories to show that the Prime Minister has maintained personal rapport with leaders cutting across political boundaries.
Close
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)
Officials carry out search and rescue operation at Tapovan Tunnel, after a glacier broke off in Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district causing a massive flood in the Dhauli Ganga river on Sunday. (File photo)

Not just climate change, Chamoli disaster was human-induced

UPDATED ON FEB 08, 2021 12:15 PM IST
Stone quarrying, blasting of mountains and digging of tunnels in the base of the mountain system for two dams on Rishi Ganga and Dhauli Ganga rivers played havoc with the local ecology
Close
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)
In this file photo, a man hangs on to pole holding a Sikh religious flag along with a farm union flag at the historic Red Fort monument during a farmers protest against new farm laws in New Delhi(AP)

Perception is the truth in information warfare over farm laws

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON FEB 04, 2021 01:42 PM IST
  • The Chinese were among the first to recognise the role of information warfare to weaken the adversary from within
Close
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)
Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman. (Ajay Aggarwal /HT PHOTO)

A new confidence about India reflects in a bold Budget 2021

By Monika Halan
UPDATED ON FEB 01, 2021 09:59 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman has chosen to spend on generating future income using the higher capital spending, which has gone up by 35.4% over the previous year
Close
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)
Shaibal Gupta also made a pioneering contribution in explaining the historical roots and the evolution of Bihar’s politics, which have today become the staple of everyday political analysis. (FACEBOOK)

The life and times of a Patna intellectual

UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:20 AM IST
Shaibal Gupta was rooted and cosmopolitan; idealistic and pragmatic; and an insider and outsider — all at the same time. Patna’s public life will not the same without him.
Close
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar's address on India-China ties is a reminder to Beijing that the bilateral relationship between the two Asian powers is not a one-way street.(AP/File)

Jaishankar yellow-cards China for violating pacts, spells out the India way

By Shishir Gupta, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 03:02 PM IST
  • S Jaishankar’s speech on India-China ties signals India’s determination to continue to stand up to Xi Jinping’s expansionist plans for Asia as an equal and makes it clear that nothing that Beijing does against India will be overlooked, or allowed to go unpunished.
Close
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)
Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of China's Alibaba Group, in Chiba, Japan, June 18, 2015 (REUTERS)

Jack Ma story: China’s deep strategic ambition

By Manoj Kewalramani
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2021 04:50 AM IST
This statist vision of the future is very different from the government creating a level-playing field for private capital to compete and the market to do its job. It is about the State guiding capital and private entities towards what it believes are national strategic priorities, rather than allowing them to simply focus on generating greater revenue.
Close
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)
A Nihang Sikh aboard a horse inside Red Fort on Tuesday.(Sanjeev Verma/HT PHOTO)

Republic Day raid was pre-meditated, planned well in advance

UPDATED ON JAN 28, 2021 02:17 PM IST
With Delhi Police under firm orders not to open fire, the armed Nihang Sikhs provided the cover for the tractors to roll towards Red Fort.
Close
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.
A video of an unruly tractor moving waywardly towards police personnel at ITO emerged on Tuesday as farmers protesting against farm laws deviated from their route and moved inside the Capital.

How unruly farmers tried to embarrass India on Republic Day

UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2021 02:09 PM IST
The tractor-borne unruly farmers were minutes away from India Gate when they were blocked by New Delhi Range police.
Close
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
How do we address this cyclical pattern of hailing and rubbishing financiers? It is time for an honest review of the entire issue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The policy landscape around digital and physical micro-lending

By Amol Agrawal
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2021 06:08 AM IST
In 1870s, a similar backlash emerged in Poona and Ahmednagar districts of the Bombay presidency. The agriculture boom in the early 1860s led farmers to take loans from moneylenders
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP