India must stop funding traitors like Umar and Kanhaiya's studies
The taxpaying public has a right to ask questions and get offended.
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The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy has stirred the nation's conscience. Indians are, by now, quite used to the regular provocation by Kashmiri terrorists shouting anti-India slogans in Srinagar. But when such slogans rang in the heart of Delhi, at an institution considered as one of the premier universities in the country, Indians sat up and took notice. And when the videos of Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid jointly shouting these slogans came into the public domain, public anger turned completely against the students.
Teachers of the university, in private conversations, are applauding the government action. The hashtag #ShutdownJNU has caught up, with even JNU teachers, past and present, voting in agreement.
A professor who retired recently said, "Admissions are given only to cardholders. The entrance exam is an eyewash." This is how they have converted this institution into an extreme Left centre, she said, adding that this has been especially true in the last two decades.
Another person, whose brother had taught at the university for 40 years said, "My brother said by the time he retired, he had started disliking the university. Because it was no longer academic and there was no spark of intelligence or eagerness." Another professor, Amita Singh, said on TV that these students had terrorised the campus, and several complaints had been made against them in the past.
What has riled the public further are the statistics that are being shared through WhatsApp messages and Youtube postings. A video uploaded by one Ravi J Singh on the JNU has gone viral, receiving nearly 250,000 hits and left the listeners gasping in disbelief.
And this is what he begins his post with. Hostel and mess fee: Rs 20 month. College fee for BA and MA programmes: Rs 400 a year. Medical facilities for Rs 16. Sports fee: Rs 16. The statistics come tumbling. The government of India gives a grant of Rs 256 crore a year to the JNU, working out to an average subsidy of Rs three lakh per student. And once they secure admission, the students stay on and on, "pursuing" studies.
It is not as though the JNU has suddenly turned extreme Left and violent. Way back in 1989 when the Tiananmen Square massacre happened, a student of the JNU was in Beijing and was eyewitness to the crackdown by the Chinese army. She contacted me. I was working in 'Malayala Manorama' then. She gave her version of events, as she watched from the window of her hostel room. The report was published in the newspaper the next day. When she returned to India and her hostel a few days later, she was harassed by the communist union leaders, driven out of her room at night and forced to apologise before she could come back to the campus.
The JNU student leaders have always blocked any leader other than the leftists from addressing seminars or even delivering lectures. Dr Murli Manohar Joshi as HRD minister was among the few who "dared" to go the university. And his meeting was disrupted and protested by students.
The latest instance of hosting a memorial meet for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru is not new either. I have in my possession a compilation of 100-odd posters notifying meetings on Kashmir, all anti-India. When Naxalites gunned down 73 CRPF personnel, there was celebration at the JNU campus.
When Indian soldiers died in Kashmir, there were victory marches. Students like Kanhaiya and leaders like CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and D Raja of the CPI cannot distance themselves from these anti-national elements as Kanhaiya was seen standing with Umar Khalid and raising the slogans against India.
The legal luminaries and the chatterati club of Delhi are splitting their hair on what constitutes sedition. Soli Sorabjee, one of the most respected figures in the legal world, has said Kanhaiya's sloganeering did not amount to sedition.
Fali Nariman, another towering legal luminary wrote against the government action. In legal parlance, he may be right. He may even secure the bail and release of Kanhaiya in the case. But what Sorabjee is overlooking is the fact that nationalism is not a legal point. It is the spirit of the nation.
If a student, born and brought up in a remote village in Bihar is today the students' leader at a premier university in the country, it speaks of the nation's system that facilitated him to reach where he did. And when his study is being subsidised to an extent of Rs 9 lakh in three years, by the taxpaying public, the same section has a right to ask questions and get offended. It is the rights of the taxpaying public that Sorabjee should defend. Not Kanhaiya's.
The entire debate kicked off around what happened in JNU on February 9, when a section of the students demanded "azadi" or freedom for Kashmir, Punjab and Kerala. But, in order to defend Kanhaiya and his group and obfuscate the issue, a section of the media and the "limousine leftists" have released videos that has his speech of February 10 and 11, after the public outburst.
Social media, however, moved faster to articulate the public anger. The "defenders of Kanhaiya" have been repeating the names of JNU alumni, including a cabinet minister to buttress the greatness of the university. But the sad truth is that, despite so much state support, it does not rank among the top 200 universities in the world.
Recently, the university introduced the system of checking research thesis for plagiarism after several cases of cheating came up. This was resisted severely by the faculty and students. However, the checking has revealed the poor quality of work, as several of them failed in the plagiarism test.
In long-term, this round of ruckus may do more good to the JNU than we can see now. With media glare and demand for public audit, the academicians and students of the university have an opportunity to put things straight and make a fresh start.