JNU and the military

Harsha Kakar
The students’ protests at the JNU, one of India’s well known universities could not have come at a worse time. The nation was together, praying for the Glacier survivor, Lance Naik  Hanumanta Kopad, who was battling for his life, post being rescued from under twenty five feet of ice for six days. The bodies of the balance soldiers had been recovered, but could not be moved, due to adverse weather conditions. The Headley deposition had commenced and the nation was reminded of the direct involvement of Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks. The Pampore terrorist action had yet to commence, however, as events in JNU continued to unfold, Pampore continued to burn, claiming the lives of two young alumni of this university. Thus, all anger within the country was focused on the direct involvement of Pakistan.
It was at this time, that a group of students in JNU raised pro Afzal Guru and anti- India slogans. The parliament attack, for which Afzal was sentenced,and subsequently hanged, had resulted in the deployment of the military and created an almost war like situation with Pakistan. After all, the parliament is a symbol of India’s democratic values. Any attack on a nation’s values can never be tolerated. For a nation charged with strong nationalist feeling at that time, the students’ action was considered as sedition.
These are the very students, who occupy seats at discounted rates, accommodation at ridiculously low prices; all funded by the Indian tax payer and instead of supporting the nation raise anti- national slogans. The failure of the university to clamp down as soon as the event started only gave the public a reason to blame the management. The JNU incident and subsequent Government crackdown moved beyond the state and was replicated at the Jadavpur University in Kolkata and other places, some supporting, whereas others against. Recent incidents come to mind, where people not standing for the national anthem even in a cinema hall have been forced to leave, due to objections by others.
The jumping onto the bandwagon by political parties, seeking to force Government hand and gain brownie points was deplorable. It was a sign of growing manipulation of student minds for petty political gains. The issue is presently dominating the ongoing budget session of parliament and is unlikely to end in any form of agreement, though all would agree that no nation would desire anti- national slogans emanating within one of its premier teaching institutes. The Government in its opinion is firm and rightly so, that such sloganeering is uncalled for and completely unacceptable.
For the armed forces, the JNU has always had a special place. Most of us, who trained at the National Defence Academy, hold our BA or BSc degrees from JNU. Our training at the NDAincluded academic classes by professors associated with JNU, thus enabling us to obtain this degree. Officers of the armed forces are trained to be nationalists and hence there was immense hurt when such anti- national slogans were witnessed on television. Even during the peak of the One Rank One Pension agitation, there were only cries of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. The 54th batch of the NDA, of which I am a proud member, took the unanimous decision of returning the degree, as the actions of the present set of students insulted the association between the military and the university. The media was abuzz with support for this move and other batches were also willing to join.
Subsequent action by the Government and interaction between the alumni of the NDA and the management of the JNU resulted in the surrender of degrees being stemmed for the present. Amongst issues discussed during the interaction was the establishment of a memorial for the military alumni of the JNU, as also placingvintage military hardware like tanks and aircraft on the university premises. These could act as motivators and help enhance nationalist fervour in the students.
Individually I am against this concept of a memorial or placing military memorabilia on the premises unless the demand was to flow from the students themselves. If the students continue to be against the government and security forces, then the items placed are more likely to be defaced or insulted rather than respected or cherished. This would only add insult to injury and worsen the existing relationship between the JNU and the military. In fact, had the students of the university organized a candle light procession in memory of their two alumni, who sacrificed their lives battling militants at Pampore, there would have been a perceptible change in the public eye.
What is more important is for the university to stop supporting students indulging in anti-national activities and encourage them to be more nationalistic in behaviour and attitude. This has to flow from the curriculum and the attitude of the professors, without curtailing freedom of speech. Though police has no place in an educational institute, however, the internal security establishment of the university needs to be proactive to prevent such incidents. Any place of teaching is a revered institute and should remain so. Criticism of policies, actions and strategies of the Government can be accepted; however the nation is sacred and cannot be criticized.
The veterans of the military, who have obtained their first graduation degree from this university, continue to hold it in high esteem. It should remain so in the years ahead. Criticism from veterans and the returning of degrees would be an immense insult to the standing and prestige of the JNU and should be avoided. It is now upto the JNU management to change public opinion.
(The author is a retired Major General of the Indian Army)
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