Updated: September 4, 2021 10:18:59 am
Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has backed the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor (V-C) in the controversy over the new course on counter-terrorism meant for engineering students.
Speaking at a meeting of central university V-Cs on Friday, Pradhan congratulated M Jagadesh Kumar and his team for introducing the course that has been criticised for singling out a religion as the only form of fundamentalist-religious terrorism.
In his opening remarks, Pradhan asked that if MIT can discuss counter-terrorism measures, why can’t an Indian university do the same?
The course, titled ‘Counter Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts and Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers,’ asserts that “Jihadi terrorism” is the only form of “fundamentalist-religious terrorism.” It also states that the erstwhile Soviet Union and China were the “predominant state-sponsors of terrorism” that influenced “radical Islamic states”.
The course will be offered to students pursuing an MS with specialisation in International Relations after a BTech in Engineering — online classes for the monsoon semester start on September 20. The Indian Express had first reported on August 30 that the course was passed in the academic council, allegedly without discussion, on August 17.
The university, subsequently, came in for a lot of criticism with one Parliament MP, CPI’s Binoy Viswam, even writing to Pradhan against the new course alleging it was “communalise and politicise geopolitical issues.”
Alluding to Viswam’s missive, Pradhan said, “Recently a colleague from Parliament wrote to me about asking why JNU has introduced a course on terrorism. Friends, some time ago, when I was in the US, I was getting briefed by senior American officers on terrorism.. during that briefing, I learned that technology and cyber warehads been adopted by terrorists to further their objectives.”
Pradhan was possibly referring to one of the new course’s modules, titled ‘Fundamentalist-religious Terrorism and its Impact’, that states: “The exploitation of the cyberspace by the radical Islamic religious clerics has resulted in the electronic propagation of jihadi terrorism world over. Online electronic dissemination of Jihadi terrorism has resulted in the spurt of violence in non-Islamic societies that are secular and are now increasingly vulnerable to the violence that (is) on the increase.”
The minister said further, “Our engineers today are not just engineers. They are involved in building social products. So if a course helps engineering students understand the kind of hindrances they could face in the development of social products, then I congratulate JNU for introducing such a course.”
Earlier this week, Kumar defended the course saying that it was “holistic” and would give students “broad-based knowledge” of the subject. “During the past few days, there was a needless controversy… without going into the academic merits of the course. The objective of the course, ‘Counter Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts and Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers’, is mainly to have an in-depth understanding on the challenges emanating from terrorism to India’s national security and how India can get equipped with adequate responses in case of any eventuality,” he had said.
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