The vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, M Jagadesh Kumar, has requested the Union government to help “procure an Army tank” that could be showcased at a “prominent place” on campus to serve as a “constant” reminder to students of the sacrifices the Army makes.
Speaking at the first-ever celebration of Kargil Vijay Diwas on JNU campus, the VC said: “It’s an important day for us to remember the sacrifices made by men in the defence forces to keep the safety and security of this country… We would like to request (MoS defence) VK Singh and also (petroleum minister Dharmendra) Pradhan ji to help us procure an Army tank so that we can put it in a prominent place in JNU. The presence of the Army tank will constantly remind thousands of students who pass through this university about the great sacrifices and valour of the Indian Army.”
With that request, the VC has raised a few eyebrows and many questions.
JNU VC M Jagadesh Kumar.
Why does a mature Indian citizen need a tank to be reminded of nationalist sentiments? Why is there a constant need to test people's patriotism (more so in the case of left-liberals and Muslims)?
Also, is a tank enough to instil patriotism and nationalism in citizens?
Most importantly, why do citizens have to "show off" their nationalist sentiments, unless there is a fear that the new breed of hypernationalists wandering the streets of India might resort to “open-heart surgeries” to unveil if a citizen is indeed patriotic in heart or not?
The bitter fact is that nationalist sentiments have been Hindutva-tised. Love for India is subject to love for Bharat Mata. And love for Bharat Mata is subject to love for Gau Mata.
Divine intervention has already been given a bovine interpretation by the "neo-nationalists" in emerging "Hindu Rashtra". (In the past three-odd years, at least 10 Muslims have been lynched in the name of cow.)
It sounds more than just strange in a country, where 12,000 farmers committed suicide every year since 2013 after failing to eke out a living, the government is busy spending millions on statues of Sardar Patel and Shivaji.
Coming up at the cost of Rs 3,000 crore, the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, is actually benefitting a Chinese firm to whom the work has been outsourced.
Defying the essence of “Make In India”, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s statue is set to be world’s highest at 183 metres. The upcoming Mumbai mid-sea Shivaji monument is even costlier.
Coming back to JNU, the idea of showcasing a military tank to “instil nationalism”, first came up in the aftermath of a controversial function hosted to commemorate the death anniversary of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru on the February 9, 2016. That time some students, including the then JNU president Kanhaiya Kumar, were arrested on charges of sedition for allegedly raising anti-India slogans, something which prompted the authorities to invoke the idea of inculcating “nationalism” through proposed showcasing of tank.
It's sad how a nation, blessed with the fundamental right to freedom, is being strategically cooped up in the narrow circle of imagined "patriotism".