This Blog is called Reflections. As one gets older there is time to reflect on life’s experiences and this one is particularly painful because it counters the memories of elation, inspiration and enthusiasm of past years.
I was there when this country was born, on August 15 ,1947
I was part of the first Republic Day parade when our college group enacted Rani of Jhansi in a parade depicting scenes from history.
I was there when Martin Luther King spoke of his dream.
I was also there when JNU was announced and constituted. Shri G.Parthasarathi the first Vice Chancellor was a family friend.
Now I am asked : Whoever called JNU an elite institution?
JNU was conceived by a well meaning set of founding fathers who tried to design a global studies dimension to the university. The university prides itself on its diverse student body. It is an inverted pyramid which admits students from the rural and distant regions of Bihar, Orissa and the Northeast to compensate for the neglect of the rural base by the “elitist” Delhi university, with its frankly elitist colleges which all student achievers aim to enter.
JNU’s emphasis on inclusivity is laudable, but it has quite naturally fostered a radical leftist “elite” drawn from the “left out” rural, Muslim and northeast youth. This is good in that education is now available to a wider section of youth, but it has given the radical Left an opportunity to nurture those who have a grievance about the lack of opportunity they complain about. I have nothing against competing political ideologies on campus, and I support freedom of speech and dissent in democracy. But because of the continuing failure of administrators, notably Vice Chancellors and senior Faculty, the attitude of students is self-centered and arrogant. Who gave them the right to rant against the country which has given them the freedom, the inexpensive education and vast campus space paid for by tax payers like you and me? And above all they forget that they have the advantage of this subsidised education (for several years as they linger on to do their PhDs) because of the selfless struggle of thousands who fought for India’s freedom. Today we laud our army’s sacrifices in fighting wars, an army we are proud of. But EVERY Student should go to the cellular jail in Port Blair and read the names of unknown common citizens who showed uncommon courage and died unsung and unrecognised in that bleak fortress in the Andamans.
I think the best thing that could happen now in the JNU – now that we cannot undo the mistakes of the past and continuing degeneration of student attitudes – is to add a new additional department of Sports, sports management and allied fields of training and vocational expertise. It would take away from the mistaken belief in the “elitist” nature of the university.
Today the only equalising space in our training and educational institutions is in the area of physical education, where we have people from ” backward” regions doing remarkable feats to add to our national pride ; ordinary people climbing the Himalayas, coal miners and boys from the slums featuring in cricket victories, farm youth excelling in football and hockey , -without screaming slogans of insults and hatred for the country that gave them birth. Communist countries of eastern Europe won most of the gold medals in the Olympics during the Cold War period, because the money poured into sports facilities attracted millions of young people to build their physique rather than waste time talking in Dhabas ! It has been demonstrated many times, that giving kids an opportunity to participate in sports raises self-confidence and improves academic performance, JNU never produced a Milkha Singh or a Dhyan Chand, a MS Dhoni or a Saina Nehwal.
I WAS THERE.
I was only 15 years old when my school principal asked me, as Head Girl, to unfurl the tricolour on August 15 1947 at our school assembly. I still remember with pride, – that memorable occasion when I made my first speech in which I explained the colours of the flag – saffron for sacrifice and renunciation –not Hindutva – white for peace and purity – and green for valour and courage – not Islam. It is the flag and the national anthem that still stir me and arouse my pride in India. Now that beautiful face of resurgent India has warts and scars, unwashed, uncared for. Occasionally we wipe that face on national holidays, and media generated programs publicising efforts to promote clean environment, or social harmony.
Today I weep for this generation of so- called bright and bold youth who are neither democrats nor communists, neither nationalists nor dissidents, neither orators nor demagogues. Just a motley bunch of misled young people who do not understand that leadership means accountability, that freedom of speech needs self restraint, and fighters need team discipline.
This is not about patriotism versus anti-nationalism. It is about a commitment to the integrity and integration of one’s homeland.
Kanhaiya, we are told, is maligned and misunderstood. We can also ask, Are you not the elected student leader? Are you not accountable? You can identify abusive slogan shouters on videos available. Can you honestly affirm that they are “outsiders”? Isn’t it true that you supported their actions and their slogans in the interest of “Freedom of speech”
The buck stops with you and you have to answer our anguished questions.
We are saddened to see that we citizens have suckled our public-funded universities, with a false hope that we are building our country.
I cannot march in protest. This therefore is my voice of dissent.