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

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

ASI has 'no funds' to protect five centuries old Goa church, a World Heritage Site

Counterview Desk
The century-old All-India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest Laity movement in Asia, has blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for neglecting the historic Bom Jesu church by keeping its ceilings  open to the vagaries weather, with no steps  taken to protect the five century old monument from damage on account of impending rains on the lame excuse that there are "no funds". In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AICU simultaneously asks the Government of India to devise a "comprehensive" national social security safety net, universal health Insurance and medical Infrastructure so that the “calamity” that has befalenl millions of migrant labour and jobless rural and urban poor in “the Covid pandemic-driven lockdown is “never repeated.”

Withdraw sedition charges against three young women activists: 1100 feminists

Counterview Desk
About 1,100 feminists from all over India – organisations and individuals across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders – have issued a solidarity statement condemning what they have called “the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi”, who were at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”