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Scholars take on JNU over war gallery on campus, compares V-C with Hitler and Mussolini

Lal also alleged that both Patnaik and himself have received emails from the registrar’s office asking them to not participate in the meeting.

delhi Updated: Aug 04, 2017 23:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
JNU,JNU war gallery,tank at JNU
JNU has decided to set up a war memorial and install a tank on campus.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

Slamming the Jawaharlal Nehru University authorities’ request for a tank and the building of a war gallery on campus, retired JNU professor and Sahitya Akademi Award winner Chaman Lal likened the university’s vice chancellor to Hitler and Mussolini.

“The war gallery is a blot on JNU. No university anywhere in the world has a war gallery. Not even Pakistan. They have peace galleries... A war gallery can only be the idea of someone like Hitler, Mussolini or our V-C. No educated person would come up with this,” said Lal.

He was addressing a public meeting organised by the JNU students’ union on Friday where speakers, including former JNU faculty member and historian Harbans Mukhia, economist Prabhat Patnaik and ex-student and journalist Urmilesh spoke on “The idea of a university: democracy, resistance and future challenges.”

Lal went on to allege that the authorities were using tanks to attack ideologies.

“JNU is a symbol of thought, and they want to crush it... They are trying to fight thoughts and ideas with tanks. Thoughts can only be fought with other thoughts. If you bring swords to this, it shows that your thought doesn’t have merit,” he said.

Patnaik said, “It is a very depressing experience coming to universities these days and seeing the animosity between the students and the administration to the point that one cannot hold meetings here...The attempt to import vigilantism and lumpenism that we see outside is not acceptable.”

Lal also alleged that both Patnaik and himself have received emails from the registrar’s office asking them to not participate in the meeting.

“We were also served hard copies of the order while we were seated for the meeting,” he told HT.

In what was termed as further attempts to impede the meeting, the lights outside the administrative block, where the meeting was held, were also switched off, leaving the students and speakers to interact in the darkness after sunset.

“Discussions and public meetings have been a part of JNU since probably its foundation... (The switching off of the lights) is the maximum they can do. This just shows the pettiness of their minds,” said Mukhia.

“Questioning is essential to the advancement of knowledge, not just of others but yourself and that is the role assigned by society to university, especially in an environment when we are told that questioning is unpatriotic,” said Mukhia

Terming the switching off of the lights as an attempt to silence the meeting, Urmilesh also alleged that there was an attempt to destroy JNU “as we know it”.

“The administration is in coalition with the government, and they are trying to destroy the university,” he said.

Echoing Urmilesh and others, Lal also suggested that the students form a Save JNU Committee soon, as it was once considered one of the “model universities” in India alongwith the University of Hyderabad and it was now under threat. “You will need it. Get previous presidents of the JNUSU, like Prakash Karat (and others) involved, so that your voices resonate through the Parliament too.”

HT’s attempts to contact the JNU V-C went unanswered.

First Published: Aug 04, 2017 23:40 IST