abvp stand
New Delhi: The students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) stage a demonstration outside the office of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha to protest against their Valentine's Day diktat in New Delhi, on Feb 14, 2015. (Photo: IANS)

Unfolding the JNU saga: Rakesh Batabyal’s Book Throws Light on JNU Origin

Those who are not familiar with Jawaharlal University (JNU) and feel it is only a leftist institution, here comes a book that demystifies the myth and traces the origins of one of the country’s prominent educational institutes.

The book, titled “JNU: The Making of a University” (Harper Collins, pp 459, Rs 799) launched recently by JNU academic Rakesh Batabyal, is an attempt to portray the institution beyond being perceived as a politically influential university

“The book, for the first time, studies the quality of the knowledge field of JNU and the way this knowledge is produced by the faculty and the students. The book also shows how the students and the faculty have been serving the society by proving to be the greatest pool of resources,” Batabyal told IANS of his reason for writing the book.

“JNU has an international reputation. One should know about the earlier contributions to the larger intellectual lifestyle and politics on the campus,” he added.

The book, however, is a record of events only from 1969 to 1989.

“I became a part of JNU from 1989. I was afraid my personal ideologies might influence my writing so I decided to put an end in the year 1989,” Batabyal, who teaches history of media at Centre for Media Studies, said.

The book also acknowledges all those who had helped in the making of the university. Batabyal names then education minister M.C. Chagla as the main brain behind the passing of the JNU bill in parliament, which led to its creation.

Apart from Chagla, there were many others who helped in the making of JNU, among them philosophy professor A.R.Wadia, leading mathematician B.N. Prasad and Left parliamentarian Bhupesh Gupta.

Beginning with the inception of JNU, the book elaborates on why the university was limited to post- graduation courses and undergraduate courses were never introduced.

“The original idea was to have a federating university with AIIMS, IIT and ICAR. Later it was argued that to make JNU unique, it should have only PG courses and not teach the same kind of things as was happening in most other colleges and universities,” the author responded.

The book explores many politically turbulent eras including the emergency era and an unfortunate incident in 1983 that shook the university’s foundations and led to its brief closure.

“The student’s union gheraoed the vice chancellor and registrar and kept them indoors for a couple of days for transferring a student from one hostel to another. Police was called to rescue the VC which angered the students leading to attacks on professors. Many students were arrested and taken to jail,” Batabyal elaborated.

Admissions did not happen in 1983 and resumed only in the next year.

The author who relied on sources like documents and private papers, took seven years to complete the book.

Batabyal, who was also a fellow of the National Institute of Punjab Studies and Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, noted that the years 1970-80 also hold importance in the history of JNU when it was gradually establishing its roots as a premier centre of education – and elaborates on how communist-oriented politics spread its wings.

“The student wing of the Communist Party of India- Marxist was formed during the early 1970s and it became active in JNU with a new vigour among many well-educated students who led the communist idea,” Batabyal maintained.

“JNU itself is a nation. It reflects how national politics emerges. JNU acts as a barometer if there is too much of inequality,” said Batabyal when asked about the winds of change in the political scenario of JNU’s students.

Batabyal is currently working on his next book, which is based on comparative history of nationalism in Eastern Europe and South Asia.(IANS)

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