Nationalism class at JNU: You cannnot define nation by forcing someone to toe a line

At around 6 pm, teachers formed a semi-circular human chain around hundreds of students who sat on the ground outside the administrative block in rapt attention, some taking notes.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Published:February 18, 2016 4:04 am
JNU students at a protest against the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhiaya Kumar inside the campus Wednesday. (Express Photo Tashi Tobgyal) JNU students at a protest against the arrest of JNUSU president Kanhiaya Kumar inside the campus Wednesday. (Express Photo Tashi Tobgyal)

It was a class unlike any other at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). At around 6 pm, teachers formed a semi-circular human chain around hundreds of students who sat on the ground outside the administrative block in rapt attention, some taking notes. Many also occupied the steps to listen to the speaker. In the centre of them all stood Professor Gopal Guru speaking on ‘What is the nation?’

“This subject is important because some definitions of nation are simply unwarranted judgments. It is a serious problem that we are confused about what a nation is. For some of us, the response comes from emotions… I’m not to be bullied by somebody’s emotional definition of nation. You cannot define nation by forcing somebody to toe a line,” said Guru in his class, which was being live streamed.

Wednesday saw the first of the classes on nationalism that JNU teachers have decided to hold in the campus everyday in the evening, to counter the “anti-national” tag accorded to the students for organising an event on the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

Share This Article
Share
Related Article

Several well-known academics including Tanika Sarkar, Mridula Mukherjee, Achin Vanaik, Nivedita Menon and Ayesha Kidwai are scheduled to deliver lectures on various aspects of nationalism in the coming days.

With two cameras pointing at him, and many more phone cameras recording his speech, Guru spoke about the difference between nation and the state, and the nation and the government. “There is a tension between nation and state and the latter is becoming much more powerful. For understanding nation, we need to imagine nation in terms of the aspirations it is promising. It is not based on rumour, insecurity or humiliation. Today, there is growing stigmatisation and you can’t build a nation based on stigma,” said Guru.

Amidst claps from both students and teachers, Guru also spoke about the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. “The whole scheme is based on somebody’s labour, because you need the sanitation workers to make Bharat “swachh”. But you see a separation between the social and the economic, with only stress on the latter. If somebody dies in a manhole, you don’t speak. You must connect the social and the economic,” he said.

Talking about symbolism, Guru said there was a choice between following the symbolism of the Chakra or the symbolism of Bharat Mata. “Every spoke of the chakra has to go up and come down at some point. It is more egalitarian in that sense. We need to see which symbolism is better, the Chakra or the symbolism of Mother India,” he added.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

  1. B
    bansi gopal
    Mar 24, 2017 at 5:38 am
    could not understand anything, what he was trying to say. anyhow leftists are strange group of people.
    Reply
    1. A
      Anonymous
      Feb 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm
      i am sorry but non of JNU students should be hired in corporate world. they are pestisides.
      Reply
      1. J
        Jay
        Feb 19, 2016 at 5:25 am
        ur alreay are
        Reply
      2. J
        Jay
        Feb 19, 2016 at 10:56 am
        what the f are u in india teacher...tax payers ki money jo nationalist unke paise se roti khane mein sharam nahi aati tujhe gaddar
        Reply
        1. M
          MyTake
          Feb 19, 2016 at 5:03 am
          Guru, one question. Whose duty is to TEACH responsibility? Understood terrorists' duty is to teach terrorism and they are doing it well. What you give in return to the people when you take their money in exchange when you pose as teacher? Did say TEACH-er? Yes, I did. By the way why media now going on overdrive when Ram, Sham, Jadu, Madu ggiving "lectures" here and there? Where they were all these days??
          Reply
          1. G
            Gurdev
            Feb 19, 2016 at 2:07 am
            Yes they are parasites who are fed in the university on public money and they will keep eating this public money w of their life sitting in some government department or organisation like most of them are doing now
            Reply
            1. S
              Saurabh
              Feb 18, 2016 at 6:45 am
              ABVP and RSS are no benchmark for patriotism. They had hardly any role in Indias independence movement. They want to glorify some old vedic culture and own them and want to establish that as a Indian culture for their vested interests and also to come to power.
              Reply
              1. S
                Saurabh
                Feb 18, 2016 at 6:39 am
                Commenting here will do nothing if you have guts then go Delhi and close it...
                Reply
                1. Load More Comments