Jawaharlal Nehru University – a premier educational institute of India, has been in regular news over the last couple of years.
Unfortunately, for reasons not academic.
Not because its students or professors achieved anything remarkable connected with higher studies, research or anything related to learning for that matter. But, because of the battle of supremacy of one idea over the other accompanied by violent protests and clashes bordering in anti national activities.
Jawaharlal Nehru, after whom the university is named, was a free thinker and welcomed criticism of his own ideas. While he advocated secularism, he has also written books about the lofty heritage of this country. By no means he would have been delighted by the attempt to propagate anti-national ideas on Indian soil.
Healthy debates and discussions and free expression of opinions are the bread and butter of a citadel of higher learning. Even though the university was dedicated to the memory of Jawaharlal Nehru, it was the leftist leader Prakash Karat who formulated the major policies related to the University. Moreover, the student politics of the campus has been mostly left dominated. Hence, it can only be expected that the university propagates and zealously guards a particular point of view.
An ideology is just a notion. As a prodigious student, in stead of probing the origin or relevance age old ideologies, it is unfortunate that a citadel of learning has been a stage to propagate particular ideologies.
A student should be a skeptic, questioning everything. The faculty should engage in producing and encouraging that spirit of inquiry and should not in any way bring their own ideologies to influence their commitment for the intellectual growth of the students.
According to the Wikipedia page on JNU, while it is ranked third best university by India’s Ministry of HRD, it ranks 1177th in the world by an international study. Academically speaking, the university has still a long way to go in spite of attracting some of the best minds of India.
The events at JNU also raises serious questions as to whether student politics should be allowed across educational institutes in India. By the way, elections were banned in JNU from 2008 to 2011. At the age when students in India enter campus politics, are they mature enough not to be used as pawns? Moreover, by indulging in active politics, do not they lose precious student time that they would have devoted to learning? After all ,educational institutes are not meant to give hands on training about the nitty- gritties of winning elections. During my college days I witnessed classes being postponed frequently due to student activism over trivial issues.
As the JNU events show, students are used as pawns to push forth particular ideologies or carry on certain types of propaganda not at all related to the curriculum of study. The situation becomes dangerous when anti national propaganda are carried out in the name of free speech. Somewhere a line should be drawn between free speech that genuinely encourages spirit of inquiry and self reflection on one hand and propaganda by vested interests that questions the very fabric of a nation that after all gave them an opportunity to study in that university with a generous subsidy out of her citizens’ earnings.