From an IPS officer in J&K

Dear Arnab Goswami, JNU, my alma mater, deserves your tax money

Written by Basant Rath | Published: February 29, 2016 12:02 am
A university is not a parade ground. It is an incubation bowl. It is not about the bottom-line. It is about the aspiration-horizon. It is not worried about the market. It is concerned about the political economy of the project of state-building. (Illustration by: C R  Sasikumar) A university is not a parade ground. It is an incubation bowl. It is not about the bottom-line. It is about the aspiration-horizon. (Illustration by: C R Sasikumar)

Partial disclosure: I studied sociology in JNU for six years.

I voted for the All India Students Association candidates in the JNUSU elections. Every time. All the time. Trust me, I’m not anti-national. My university deserves to be nurtured. I don’t hold a brief for my alma mater. That is not me and I don’t do that. Facts are more important than feelings. My university taught me. A university that deserves to be owned and supported. By the state, the government, the market and civil society. Here is why. Here are the reasons.

One, JNU has never been a waste of this nation’s limited resources. It has been a value-for-money endeavour right from the beginning. No riders. No ifs and buts. Yes, preparing for the civil services examination is a priority for a sizeable percentage of students who get admission there. Yes, most students spend a considerable part of their waking hours participating in political activities. Yes, there is too much sloganeering out there. But, Arnab, my dear friend, what do you expect a university to be? A money-making enterprise? Like the business projects financed by NPA-laden public-sector banks and promoted by the likes of Vijay Mallya? JNU has always been one of the top two universities in the social sciences and one of the top five in the physical sciences in India. Both in the private and public sectors. Regarding its standing amongst world universities, the issue is not lack of quality in academic research in JNU. The issue is much bigger. What is the quality of India’s R&D? What is the number of patents registered in the names of the stalwarts of India’s Brahman-Shravana research establishment in the private and public sectors? You know the answers.

What is the contribution of the university to India’s nation-building, you ask. Immense. Period. A university is not a parade ground. It is an incubation bowl. It is not about the bottom-line. It is about the aspiration-horizon. It is not worried about the market. It is concerned about the political economy of the project of state-building. State-building, I say. Not mere government-running.

Two, JNU has never been a platform for anti-India student leaders and their followers to hijack the educational space to promote their divisive agenda. I was there for six years. I should know. My professors and fellow students. True, there have been stray incidents of some students celebrating Maoist attacks on the police in Naxal-infested areas. True, some students have shouted slogans and carried posters supporting the causes of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. True, some student organisations are sympathetic to the causes of groups that are at war with the government of the day.

But Arnab, are we supposed to hold the entire university responsible for the activities of a few students who celebrate the deaths of policemen? Doesn’t your news channel differentiate between the death of an army soldier and that of a policeman? How many policemen got decorated with medals when they died undertaking rescue operations during natural disasters in the last five years?

Year after year, the issues of J&K and the Northeast have been close to the hearts of the JNU student community. Students with diametrically opposite ideas and ideologies. With unbelievable energy and unshakeable intentions. Does this fact make them anti-national as a matter of definition? As a matter of first principle? As a matter of divine imputation? No, Arnab, no. Name a place where an Indian prime minister goes to address a public rally and says that his government will do everything possible “insaniyat ke dayre mein” to wipe people’s tears. Atal Bihari Vajpayee said that to the masses in Srinagar. This phrase has changed the political discourse of our times. People are suffering in Kashmir, Arnab. They are suffering in the Northeast. When it comes to the causes behind their suffering of generations, and the broad policymaking contours of what the governments of the day should do, the students may not agree with you. Does the very act of highlighting the issues of J&K and the Northeast make the students and their leaders anti-national?

Three, JNU is not a communist bastion. Not a breeding ground for leftist organisations that do not believe in the idea of India. JNU has always been a home for all shades of ideas. The student community is as diverse as the subcontinent. Their ideologies are diverse. Their political plumage as colourful. The Brahman-Shravana RSS shakhas have been active in the university since the 1980s. You need to visit the campus to see how energetic they are. Not long ago, in 2001, the JNUSU had a president who belonged to the rightwing ABVP.

The students in JNU are as worried about India’s future as you and I. No leftist group has ever wanted the state to go away. They have been having problems with the gov-ernments of the day. That is a different point. From the leftist point of view, the
legitimacy of the “ideological state apparatus” is always to be interrogated. Some groups take public positions about wresting power from the ruling elite. But nothing like overthrowing Parliament.

Remember Comrade Chandrashekhar? He was our president when I was a student there. He was voted in twice as our leader. Of Aisa. Of Siwan. Of old-world idealism. A beautiful human being. A sweetheart. The most innocent pair of eyes I have seen in my life. He was killed. In 1997. Within two years of leaving the president’s chair. Shot dead in broad daylight. At a public meeting. Do you know the name of the venue? Jai Prakash Chowk. Was he not a patriot? Did he not love this nation? Was he a lazy slogan-shouting student leader?

Arnab, my dear friend, some students allegedly shouted anti-India slogans. Allegedly. This is the operative part. There is the law and there is the criminal justice system. The police, the evidence and the court. Why waste so many working days of so many sane people to blacken the name of my university? Nationalism is not a marketing tool. To be used by news channels chasing TRPs. To be used by political parties to prove their worth. To be used by some retired army generals who find every perceived slight as a nail to be banged on its head by an attractive and all-knowing hammer called patriotism.

Full disclosure: I’m not a communist. Never have been. I love my Nusrat Sa’ab. I love my Steve Jobs. I love my perfume bottles.

My university is yours too. It is ours. It is a part of the idea of India as a nation. A beautiful part. But a part apart. And a part apart. Arnab, my friend, it hurts. Please don’t speak ill of JNU. Don’t think ill of JNU. It hurts immensely. Comrade Chandrashekhar was Chandu for me. I was so privileged. Please don’t take away this privilege. Don’t hurt his memories. God bless you and your news channel and your co-investors.

The writer, a 2000-batch IPS officer, is a DIG in J&K. Views are personal

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  1. A
    Abhinav Gour
    Feb 29, 2016 at 6:43 pm
    Simply brilliant. I cherished reading this marvellous piece
    1. A
      Feb 29, 2016 at 5:28 am
      I have no understanding about current nationalism. News channels and so called intellectuals know every thing about india and they have freedom of speech to say anything e.g.. make comment on terrorist afjal guru and kasab and bring in that savarn and deprived cl of India. Arnab is doing his duty well he doesn't need any one suggestion of you have guts pls write an editorial to address presute (sorry) media channels. Is it possible to organise a function in the name of late terrorist Laden in USA. I am confused and pitty nervous about my country. If education system was good in past then I think society would not be divided as is today. Every one in India has right to speak. You have written well and only I read out your article because of my favourite Mr. Arnab
      1. S
        Feb 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm
        Mr. Rath : You blamed the entire 'Brahman-Shravana' organization and the current political dispensation at centre, but don't want a finger to be raised on 'entire JNU' by the observers who have been outraged by the happenings inside JNU ? You point fingers at 'patriotism of some retired army generals' , and overlook the fact that JandK police is incapable of keeping order without army's operational istance ? Or, the report in today's TOI that Haryana's police of 50,000 (and their IPS leadership such as yourself) could not bring order in recent Jat protests, but 5000 army soldiers did ? Your love for Steve Jobs reinforces the hypocrisy that the outraged public has come to realize of JNU niwasi's - that display of concern for the underprivileged is a 'fashion statement' to be jettisoned as soon as civil services or MNC position or post doctoral research in western 'bourgeoisie' university is gained . As far as your insinuation on 'patent filing' goes, I am looking at an Ad. by a respected public limited company that says '60 patents in Hybrid, battery management systems, alternate fuel, energy ...' . I trust, your ertions regarding 'glorious JNU' have been tempered, and if so, please work on next part of your ode to JNU for us to rip apart ...
        1. D
          Feb 29, 2016 at 1:42 am
          Hate to say that the DIG's opinion does not impress. It is indeed a shame that these responsible alumni of JNU continue to defend the elements that are undoubtedly anti- national. Who are these JNU alumni to teach us common Indians who have had to struggle to be part of the growth pathway of the country. Party does not matter - but these anti social elements who pay nothing to the exchequer - the so-called scholars - who live a subsidized life - cannot be allowed to continue the bashing of the nation. So called intellectuals living off crumbs of the Indian tax payers - start respecting the nation. Shame on you guys. Please see the writings on the wall!!!!
          1. Kanu Patel
            Feb 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm
            Dear author , Have you seen any world cl university as a ground of political breeding? Political science is not the only subject of study and to demonstrate. There are wide subjects of studies but you are spinning around politics ,social study and problems of JandK and North East. JNU students unions and leaders are doing the same business from years as you told. Did they solve the JandK and North east problems a little? Why do you take pride having the name JAI Prakash Chowk ? There should be no Chowk with any name in universities. Neutrality should be the base of any educational environment. The w country is open for the students after their studies to demonstrate and perform .
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