I wonder what is happening in my alma mater Jawaharlal Nehru University . At a recent meeting organised on its campus to discuss some instances of capital punishment two categories of slogans were reportedly raised. The first category included “freedom from hunger, casteism, hierarchy, poverty and communalism.” The second had “India, Go Back”; “Bharat ki barbaadi tak , jung rahegi, jung rahegi” ( Until India is destroyed, we will fight on ); and “Bharat tere tukde honge, insha Allah -insha Allah” (God willing, India would be destroyed into pieces).
The first category of slogans seems to be justified . These slogans are pro-humanity as well as pro-Indian Constitution . We all know the nature and character of our political class today. Look at any political party, finer values of its founders---- they all had the path of simple living and high thinking --- are missing . Today politicians in general are democratic only in form; in their taste and temperament they are heinously feudal . The successive political leaderships at the Centre and in our provinces have generally been too aligned with capitalist, communalist, and casteist elements to really care for the welfare of the masses, particularly , the oppressed ones .
In the process poverty , malnutrition , illiteracy, and squalor still stare in the face of our Republic. It is a solemn duty of conscientious intellectuals in our democracy to raise their voice against such ills and show a mirror to our rulers if the government’s action happens to destroy, directly or indirectly, the great idea that has gone into the making of the Indian Republic and its Constitution . The intellectuals must warn the rulers against going the way of the latter’s counterparts in the states, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, that are constitutionally totalitarian or sectarian or both to the detriment of their own citizens, particularly, women and minorities .
I, however, find the second category of slogans highly objectionable . These slogans indicate this premier centre of learning has started producing or allowing a space for elements that seek the disintegration of India . What a devastating downfall in its academic environment ! Nostalgically, I recall we had in our times at this university a vibrant atmosphere of debate among divergent ideological groups --- mainly, communist , liberal, socialist and Gandhian . There was absolutely no space for any sectarian or fanatic group advocating disintegration of India . We all took pride in what the idea of India is-- humanistic- civic and non-ethnic nationalism ; and we all would discuss to preserve and promote it, albeit in different ways .
I sincerely hope all academics on the campus today would take to self-introspection, detect what has gone wrong in the system and rectify it to advance the university’s rich tradition . They must remain vigilant against anti-India elements , in whichever ideological groups they may be hidden , and checkmate them from destroying their temple of learning.
The academic community in JNU ( and other universities ) may recall what architect of modern India and its first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, after whose name the institution is founded, said in a convocation address at the University of Allahabad ( December 13, 1947) : “A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for progress, for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth. It stands for the onward march of the human race towards even higher objectives.”
Nehru warned, “If the temple of learning itself becomes a home of narrow bigotry and petty objectives,” it would be hard for a nation or a people to “grow in stature.” He said that “a vast responsibility, therefore, rests on our universities and educational institutions and those who guide their destinies.”
Nehru appealed, “ Let us be clear about our national objective. We aim at a strong, free and democratic India where every citizen has an equal place and full opportunity of growth and service, where present - day inequalities in wealth and status have ceased to be, where our vital impulses are directed to creative and co-operative endeavor. In such an India communalism, separatism, isolation, untouchability, bigotry, and exploitation of man by man have no place, and while religion is free, it is not allowed to interfere with the political and economic aspects of a nation's life.”
Taking a leaf out of the national objective defined by Nehru, I would conclude it is natural for any conscientious Indian today to feel disappointed over the governance of our country. Our poor rights and development record shows the successive dispensations at the Centre and in the provinces have so far not conducted the affairs of the state in harmony with the spirit of our Republic and Constitution. However, for such lapses of governance, it would be naïve, rather self-suicidal , to question the idea of India itself. Let’s set right aberrations of our governance. Let’s build India .