Forty-six years after its first and only convocation, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is set to hold its second convocation this year. The date is yet to be finalised. “JNU will hold its second convocation to confer PhD degrees to students in the last week of February or the first week of March (the actual date will be notified soon),” read a notice by Registrar Pramod Kumar.
“We have just initiated the process. Right now it’s only for PhD but we will extend it to Master’s level. We are thinking of holding the convocation every year, but if required, we may hold it every semester. However, that’s not finalised. We thought of having a convocation because students stay here for a very long time for their PhD. Once they are done with submissions, they only come back for the viva, and disappear. So we thought there should be a graceful exit for students, which will help develop a strong bond,” said Rector II S C Garkoti.
The first convocation was held in 1972 when renowned actor Balraj Sahni delivered the convocation address. However, the then JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president V C Koshy from the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) changed his speech, which had been approved by the then Vice-Chancellor G Parthasarathy, the night before the convocation.
Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who had joined JNU in 1972, recalled the first convocation. “The basic debate was with Parthasarathy. He wanted to have a convocation but the students felt that their viewpoint should also be addressed in the convocation. He had called Balraj Sahni as the guest, and at that point, he didn’t want to cancel the convocation so he agreed. But Koshy gave a speech on ‘bourgeoisie-landlord regime’, poverty of the peasant and oppression of the working class — a very Marxist interpretation of the situation in India,” he said.
Chenoy said the media widely reported the convocation, drawing attention to it and the speech. “I think he took advise from other people who said there could be no convocation like this, where there is a kind of face-off at what was supposed to be a ceremony. So it became a sort of rule, that there would be no convocation till there was agreement,” he said.
In the 1972 convocation, Sahni had said, “No country can progress unless it becomes conscious of its being, mind and body. It has to learn to find out and solve its own problems in its own way. But whichever way I turn, I find that even after 25 years of Independence, we are like a bird which has been let out of its cage after a prolonged imprisonment, unable to know what to do with its freedom. It has wings, but is afraid to fly into open air. It longs to remain within defined limits, as in the cage.”