Delhi based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is globally known for excellence in academics. Most of the elite politicians, Indian Administration Service (IAS) officials or the diplomats from India are ‘JNU products’. Even present-day Indian Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, too. Despite all this somehow the ruling party in India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its mother organization i.e. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) are keen on maligning the JNU as “the leftist den” or “a breeding ground of anti-national activities”. The JNU, named after the first Prime Minister of India ‘against his wish’ by Justice Mohamed Ali Currim Chagla, a Union Minister in the Ministry of Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi too. Surprisingly, a Gujarati Muslim Chagla, whose forefathers hailed from Kutch, was one who blessed the first national convention of BJP at Mumbai in 1980. Despite Justice Chagla telling the story in detail in his autobiography “Roses in December” how he as an Education Minister of India in Indira Gandhi ministry established the JNU in 1966, a leftist Editor turned BJP MP in Rajya Sabha like Dr. Chandan Mitra prefer to create wrong impression that JNU was ‘a brainchild of Indira Gandhi and her Sancho Panza Education Minister Syed Nurul Hasan’. Recently, the Pioneer Editor Dr. Mitra has joined Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee, the Chief minister of West Bengal after the BJP did not repeat him in the Rajya Sabha.
Since BJP led coalition government came to power in 2014, following anti-national and controversial slogan mongering since February 2016 in favour of the separatists of Jammu and Kashmir on the campus by the students of JNU and outside supporters, the student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid are facing the heat. The police had entered the campus and arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, the JNU Students Union President and others. The sedition cases are on in the court of law while they are released on bail. Some clashes between the leftist students organization with ABVP are also reported on the campus. The JNU has become a hot issue where even the leaders of various political parties are also hitting out at each other. The authorities have been taking a tough stand and actions since anti-national elements and ‘tukde-tukde gang’ cannot take the government and university authorities for ride.
Not that the JNU is being targeted these days only. It had undergone such attacks even during the Emergency (1975-77) imposed by PM Indira Gandhi. The real villain of the Emergency was Sanjay Gandhi, the younger son of the then PM and her heir apparent. His young wife, Maneka Gandhi, who is BJP MP and has been a Minister in various ministries, was a student at JNU during the Emergency. She was asked by D.P.Tripathi, the then President of JNU Students Union who rose to become a Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha, to go back home since the students had given a call for strike against the Emergency. “We opposed Indira Gandhi but our biggest opposition was against the gunda raj of Sanjay Gandhi”, writes Tripathi in ‘The Week’ in June 2015. Maneka conveyed it to Sanjay. The police officials reached the JNU campus. They were looking for Tripathi but ended up arresting Prabir Purkayastha, who later became a noted social activist. Of course, Tripathi was arrested on 25 November 1975. “For the next 14 months, I was in Tihar Jail along with many other youngsters from SFI, ABVP, the Socialists and Naxalite groups,” records Tripathi, who came out of the Jail only on 25 January 1977 with Arun Jaitley, a leader of ABVP leader then who rose to be prominent BJP leader and a Union Minister in Vajpeyee Government as well as Modi Government. The left dominated JNU and pro-BJP ABVP or pro-Congress NSUI dominated Delhi University campus have been grooming the political leaders of India but the authorities have to be cautious lest the campus clashes among the students take serious turn.
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(The writer is a Socio-political Historian. E-mail: [email protected] )
PM Indira Gandhi with her sons Rajiv and Sanjay, daughter-in-laws Sonia and Maneka and of course, grand children Rahul and Priyanka (Courtesy: Jitendra Arya, Femina)