FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Army tank in JNU: Should the sword be mightier than the pen?
Updated:Jul 24, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Rohan D’Souza 
 
Once again, there is an emphatic call for a major shift in India’s much beleaguered higher educational strategy. But this time, it is not emanating from the office of the human resource development (HRD) ministry. Rather, the demand follows from a chest thumping and energetic flag waving ‘Tiranga March’ that was recently held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
 
The vice chancellor, probably much overwhelmed by the occasion, asked the minister of state for petroleum and natural gas and the minister of state for external affairs to help the university procure an Army tank for the campus. Clearly, for the current JNU administration, it appears, that to instil nationalism one must reverse the long held maxim that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’. A few days earlier, in fact, the prime minister’s office in a similar mood advised the HRD ministry to draw upon elements from existing military schools (Sainik Schools) to ‘promote discipline, physical fitness and a patriotic outlook’.
 
But how do tanks, large flags, chest thumping marches, discipline-for-itself and martyr walls help inspire nationalism and patriotism? This becomes a particularly good question, if not a surprising one, because, historically speaking, ideas of nationalism and patriotism have never emerged from military cantonments, the soldier’s barracks nor from a general’s writings. If anything, nation-making and national identities have been crafted by politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers, thinkers, philosophers, historians and last but not least by poets.
 
The Indian national movement, we know, was driven by the intellectual robustness of the Indian civilian. It was led by ordinary peasants, workers and middle class professionals like lawyers and teachers. This undisciplined lot went on to brave bullets, were jailed, lathi charged and suffered untold humiliations at the hands of the British. In other words, nationalism and patriotism in India was constructed as a noisy affair involving disagreements, struggles for justice and moral courage by common and ordinary folk.
 
On the other hand, take the case of the now less remembered Royal Indian Navy mutiny (also called the Bombay mutiny) of February 18, 1946. Over 10,000 Indian sailors across 66 ships openly revolted against their British officers. While the Indian Communist Party welcomed the strike of the sailors, both the Congress and the Muslim League remained unconvinced. Their argument was that a rebellious navy could end up compromising the ability of the national movement’s leadership from achieving a negotiated and constitutional form of freedom. Put differently, the armed forces belonged in the barracks and not on the streets. Even members of the Indian National Army under Subhas Chandra Bose (incidentally a bureaucrat by training) acquired much of their legitimacy and standing in the freedom movement from the celebrated INA trials, which saw their defence carried out by legal stalwarts like Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai and Asaf Ali.
 
In other words, the Indian civilian through non-violence, ideas about justice, the ability to debate and through alternative historical imaginations brought down and ended one of the world’s most powerful modern empires: the British Raj. Any military tank will compare poorly with this magnificent and inspiring history of resistance and opposition of the mostly un-armed, the poor and the disempowered.
 
Odd that the JNU vice chancellor has chosen to ignore this dimension of the Indian civilian, whose history of suffering and sacrifice has given the world a unique and distinct form of democracy. Independent India will gain much more by ranking the pen over the sword. Perhaps, it would be better to ask the honourable ministers for more water tanks within the campus rather than military ones.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has confirmed his presence for the occasion. In an exclusive interview with INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS, Indonesia’s Ambassador to India, Sidharto R.Suryodipuro, reminded Nilova Roy Chaudhury that the first Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, in 1950, w
 
read-more
The words of Ho Chi Minh  “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty” rang true for the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan when, with increasing brutality, the West Pakistani oppression spread across the land, writes Anwar A Khan from Dhaka
 
read-more
In a significant boost to New Delhi's Act East Policy, India and Japan set up the Act East Forum on Tuesday as agreed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India this year for the annual bilateral meeting that would help to focus and catalyse development in India's Northeast.
 
read-more
  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated on Friday Washington's warning that “all options are on the table” to meet North Korea's nuclear threat while offering to keep the lines of communication with Pyongyang open.
 
read-more
What is commonly referred to as the “border dispute” between India and China manifests itself in two distinct and separate areas of contention. One is Aksai Chin, a virtually uninhabited high-altitude desert expanse of about 37,000 square kilometres. The other is what is now the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh,
 
read-more
The first thing that one sees when a flight approaches New Delhi is thick smog that envelopes the city and its lack of greenery.  In almost all other major cities of India lack of greenery is the most obvious sight that one sees when approaching it by air.
 
read-more

Pakistan has agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate after holding talks with the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) on the country's economy.

 
read-more

Two major global changes in the past year; the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the advent of Donald Trump, writes Sandeep Kaur Bhatia

 
read-more

It is also imperative for India to explore other regions for markets. Its trade deficit with Latin America has been narrowing. Also, its trade with Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala has increased, ...

 
read-more
Column-image

Over the last 25 years, India's explosive economic growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world's emerging major powers. Long plagued by endemic poverty, until the 1990s the Indian economy was also hamstrung by a burdensome regulat...

 
Column-image

Title: A Ticket to Syria; Author: Shirish Thorat; Publisher: Bloomsbury India: Pages: 254; Price: Rs 399

 
Column-image

Gorichen, a majestic peak in the Eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 22,500 feet, is the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. Beautiful to look at and providing a fantastic view from the top, it is extremely tough climb for mountaineers.

 
Column-image

It is often conjectured if the reason for long-standing conflicts and insurgencies, in the developing world, especially South Asia, is not only other powers fishing in troubled waters but also the keenness of arms industries, mostly Western, to...

 
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699