Skip to main content

Prominent historian Romila Thapar terms JNU arrests horrific, calls students', teachers' protests "remarkable"

JNU assistant professor Dr Rohit addressing protesters
By Our Representative
In a strong defence of protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi against police action and arrest of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar on sedition charges, top historian Romila Thapar has said she is “delighted by the reaction” on the campus, where students and teachers came together to “defend” not just those who were arrested and also the university.
Saying that it was “really remarkable that the university came together in that fashion”, Thapar, who is professor emeritus at JNU, talking with writer Githa Hariharan in a video released by the Indian Cultural Forum, said, “It is striking at the heart of any institution that should be a viable institution in a society.”
Pointing out that no institution exists in a vacuum, Thapar said, what is happening with the institute is “horrific”, adding, all institutions “have a social context”, and if one creates “a situation where that institute is being attacked by the social context, then you are destroying both the context and the institution.”
Thapar said, “I think it was a real sense in which the teachers and students felt it was their institution. And that is extremely encouraging. It is something one is pleased about, because I have spent all my working life there.”
Sharply criticizing those who call JNU a Marxist bastion, called it a “propaganda” which was “absolute nonsense”. She added, “If you do a headcount of the number of people who declare themselves as Marxist it was a fraction, a tiny fraction.”

A different ethos

Pointing towards the new ethos JNU developed, Thapar said, even in 1970s, “in any other university, including Delhi University, you were very quiet about the fact that you were a Marxist, because then people would take it out on you in different ways. But in JNU it didn’t matter.”
She said, “I attribute this to the fact that in many of the other universities, to be a Marxist used to mean you have to be a member of the Communist party. But in JNU because we emphasized on reading so much, and the texts, you could be a philosophical Marxist without being anywhere near the Communist party.”
Thapar underlined, at JNU, the ethos of questioning was developed, where the institution took cognizance of the “historical method” in which “you question existing knowledge and you rediscover what you want to discover.”
Suggesting how this ethos took deep roots in JNU, “It goes back to the early years of JNU… Ours was among the first of the universities, which said, we will have student faculty committees, students sitting on the board of studies, we will have students sitting in the academic council.”
Pointing towards how the university asserted itself even during the emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1975, Thapar said, “It was during the emergency when the police first came in to pick up people in the university. At the time, the vice chancellor actually went and saw whoever was concerned and said you can’t pick up students like this, you may have problem with politicians.”

Comments

TRENDING

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

Include all workers exposed to silica dust in anti-TB programme: Govt of India told

Counterview Desk
In a letter, sponsored by well-known civil rights organization, Occupational & Environmental Health Network of India and signed by more than 60 professionals and activists*, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, has been told that Indian policy makers shouldn't just acknowledge higher TB risk to mine and stone crusher workers, but also “other silica-exposed workers”.