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Army tank in JNU: It is not the VC’s job to inculcate nationalism in students

Educational institutions are not the grounds for what is obviously a politically motivated drive to inculcate nationalism. The vice chancellor has eroded the credibility of both his office and JNU

editorials Updated: Jul 24, 2017 17:14 IST
HindustanTimes
Jawaharlal Nehru University,Dharmendra Pradhan,VK Singh
Tiranga March was held on celebrate Kargil Vijay Diwas, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, July 23(Saumya Khandelwal/HT)

Jawaharlal Nehru University has been in the news in recent months for all the wrong reasons. The main one is the charge of sedition against many of its students for allegedly raising anti-national issues. Now the vice chancellor has undertaken an exercise that is bound to draw more unfavourable attention to the university. He has asked Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and General VK Singh to help him procure a tank to be displayed in a prominent place on the campus to be a constant reminder of the sacrifices the Indian Army makes. He also celebrated Kargil Vijay Diwas on the campus in collaboration with Army veterans for the first time.

It is not the VC’s job to inculcate nationalism in students and certainly not through installing a tank in the university. Of far greater import and relevance is the fact that given the recent turmoil, many students have suffered due to the inability to complete their courses. Seats for research have been drastically cut. The VC does not seem overly concerned about this. Celebrating military victories is best left to those who have expertise in the field and to politicians and the public if it so wishes, not to academics.

Nationalism is something which must come from within and not through external militaristic displays. This action by the VC will only evoke protest, derailing studies further. This is of a piece with carrying giant tirangas as a symbol of nationalism. These attempts to foist nationalism through these symbols are meaningless.

Pride in one’s country stems from the values and ethics that students witness in public life. The use of military hardware to instil patriotism is reminiscent of the worst of Soviet-style dictatorships where the State exerted its might through these. This has no place in a democracy where it is possible to not be a hypernationalist and yet be a good citizen.

Educational institutions in any event are not the grounds for what is obviously a politically motivated drive to inculcate nationalism. The VC has eroded the credibility of both his office and the institution by doing this.

A nation’s worth is not measured solely in military terms nor is nationalism synonymous with symbols of war. A comprehensive and relevant education system could be a far greater value addition to nation-building and it is this that should be the VC’s remit.

The ministry for human resource development should take him to task and ask him to stick to his brief. The Army is more than competent to commemorate its achievements without such interventions from academics. It can only be hoped that this does not start a trend at competitive nationalism among universities, which would spell danger for higher education.

First Published: Jul 24, 2017 13:13 IST