Coming under criticism over the UGC circular on observing Surgical Strike Day in educational institutions on September 29, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Friday that it was just an advisory and that nothing was made mandatory. Opposition parties have criticised the circular, saying the government was trying to politicise the Army. Education Minister in the Trinamool Congress-ruled West Bengal, Partha Chatterjee, on Friday said educational institutions in the state will not observe Surgical Strike Day.
“The allegations are ridiculous and false because we have not made any compulsions, neither to the institutions nor to the students. We have issued a programme because there was a suggestion from many students and teachers that we need to commemorate second anniversary of the surgical strike. Therefore on 29th of September we have asked the colleges, those who want to, can arrange a lecture by an ex-Army officer who can describe to the students how the country gets defended,” Javadekar said.
“This information needs to reach students, it is not political,” the Union minister said.
In a letter to vice-chancellors on Wednesday, the UGC suggested that institutions ask students to “pledge their support” to the armed forces through letters and cards, which the government will use for publicity.
“All the NCC units will have special parade on that day. That is also good. Where is the politics in it? This is patriotism,” Javadekar said.
“We never mandate anything, we just suggested. We don’t make anything compulsory,” he added.
Asked why the government did not observe the first anniversary and chose to do so in the second year just ahead of the elections in key states, Javadekar said, “Every time is good for noble acts.”
Bengal minister Chatterjee criticised the Centre’s move and said it was an attempt to spread the BJP’s agenda among the students. “This is an agenda of the BJP and it is trying to push this agenda by using the UGC ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha polls. It is a matter of shame that they are using the UGC to spread their political agenda. We would have understood if it had asked us to observe the day to honour sacrifices made by our soldiers. We have full respect for our soldiers and their sacrifices,” he said.
The state education minister also slammed the central government for trying to malign the image of the Army. “The Indian Army has always been above politics and controversies. But now we are witnessing that the BJP is trying to malign its image and politicise the Indian Army. This is not right and we won’t support it,” he said