India Today - - STATES - —Sid­dharth Rai


What Cam­bridge and Ox­ford are to the UK, the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity (JNU) is to In­dia. Its lib­eral ethos, egal­i­tar­ian learn­ing en­vi­rons and free­dom to openly de­bate have placed it in a class of its own. The bill for the estab­lish­ment of JNU was placed in the Ra­jya Sabha on Septem­ber 1, 1965, by the then ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter M.C. Chagla. In the dis­cus­sion that fol­lowed, Bhushan Gupta, MP, said that this should not be just an­other univer­sity; new fac­ul­ties should be cre­ated, in­clud­ing one for sci­en­tific so­cial­ism. An­other thing the univer­sity could en­sure was ac­ces­si­bil­ity to stu­dents from weaker sec­tions of so­ci­ety. The JNU Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Novem­ber 16, 1966, and the JNU Act came into force on April 22, 1969. Es­tab­lished as a tribute to the first prime min­is­ter of In­dia, the univer­sity was for­mally in­au­gu­rated by then pres­i­dent V.V. Giri on Nehru’s birth­day on Novem­ber 14, 1969, also the birth cen­te­nary year of Ma­hatma Gandhi. G. Parthasarathy was its first vicechan­cel­lor, Moo­nis Raza its founder-chair­man and rector. The in­sti­tu­tion has worked to­wards fostering the com­pos­ite cul­ture of the coun­try through de­part­ments for the study of lan­guages, arts and In­dian cul­ture. Essen­tially a re­searchori­ented univer­sity, it makes special pro­vi­sion for in­te­grat­ing cour­ses in hu­man­i­ties, so­cial sci­ence as well as sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy. It also pro­motes in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary stud­ies.


Free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion are at the heart of In­dian democ­racy. JNU has a num­ber of stu­dents’ groups, some even af­fil­i­ated to main­stream po­lit­i­cal par­ties, and all of them swear by this right. Hence the re­cent con­fronta­tions on the cam­pus. The com­mon min­i­mum draw is the free­dom to voice ideas. The fac­ulty plays a sem­i­nal role in this process.


From the stu­dent-ad­min­is­tra­tion fra­cas over the com­mem­o­ra­tion of Afzal Guru’s hang­ing to the dis­ap­pear­ance of its stu­dent Na­jeeb Ah­mad and now its vice chan­cel­lor Jagdesh Ku­mar’s sug­ges­tion that a battle tank be placed in the cam­pus to honour its stu­dents in the armed forces, JNU has be­come a ral­ly­ing point for lib­er­als as much as it is a red rag for the right wing. The road ahead for JNU lies in lever­ag­ing its tra­di­tional strengths that lie in the qual­ity of its fac­ulty, stu­dents and in­fra­struc­ture. As V-C Ku­mar says, what is needed most is to take the knowl­edge the univer­sity im­parts to so­ci­ety to help it face chal­lenges. There is a def­i­nite push to tap hith­erto un­touched ar­eas. An im­por­tant com­po­nent is to teach stu­dents how to de­velop en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills. An­other as­pect is the push to bridge the gap be­tween so­cial stud­ies and the sciences: hav­ing been renowned for so­cial sci­ence stud­ies, the var­sity is in­sti­tut­ing engi­neer­ing and man­age­ment cour­ses which will com­pul­so­rily re­quire stud­ies in so­cial sciences. Newer ar­eas such as nanoscience and molec­u­lar medicine are also be­ing of­fered.


RULES OF EN­GAGE­MENT Stu­dent leader Kan­haiya Ku­mar ad­dresses the me­dia as Romila Tha­par and Har­bans Mukhia look on

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