We are proud to serve those who have served our country” is the slogan of Georgetown University, which celebrates and provides assistance to students who have served in the US Army. Brown University, Princeton and several others have an annual graduation ceremony in honour of students who have served or are going to join the military. Their names are engraved on the wall of fame in alumni offices.
Despite being the torch-bearers of liberal ideology, US universities have never shied away from celebrating the sacrifices of their soldiers. So, when the so-called ‘leftist intellectuals’ claim that installation of a mere tank on a university campus is against the progressive ideals such institutions stand for, I am astounded. These are the very people who visit US universities more often then anyone else, but seem to have learnt nothing.
Is it that Indian nationalism and progressive ideals are like chalk and cheese? Obviously not. We have always celebrated nationalism while allowing diverse perspectives to shape it. But, only a nation of ingrates would claim that nationalism is a regressive concept whose validity should be incessantly scrutinised by a bunch of bumbling student leaders with a superficial understanding of it.
Firstly, nationalism is not and should not be an ideology that people can opt into at their own convenience. No one objected to nationalistic songs being repeatedly broadcast when our soldiers fought enemy forces on the border. No one objected to the installation of the statues of Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Maulana Azad and B.R. Ambedkar. If such acts were not problematic then, I fail to understand this sudden furore at the innocuous suggestion of installing a tank on JNU campus.
The next issue is whether educational institutions exist in a vacuum, exempt from the responsibilities of promoting national interest. The answer is a resounding no! The ideology prevalent in the universities is likely to mould the thought process of its students. So are we creating a generation of ungrateful citizens who are apathetic towards the efforts of our forefathers and our soldiers who traded their lives for our freedom?
Numerous institutions in India take pride in displaying military artefacts, be it universities in Rohtak, Kurukshetra and Hisar which have tanks on their campuses, or Delhi’s Modern School whose main attraction is the Hawker Hunter aircraft. At best, such displays spark an interest in the minds of their students, to dig deep into our glorious past and take pride in our military prowess. They don’t create an army of chest thumping, irrational and violent fanatics with an unquenchable bloodlust.
But, more importantly, most of these universities like JNU are either partially or completely funded by the same government they ceaselessly condemn. When the taxpayers’ money is directed towards payment of the monthly stipend of the PhD scholars and providing subsidies to the universities, they cannot act against national interest.
It is disheartening to realise that certain elements outside Parliament today are bickering over non-issues like this. The ones equating nationalism to undesirable fanaticism should not forget that the only reason Indian democracy survived, while neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh descended into political chaos, was because our brand of nationalism kept us united in the aftermath of a bloody partition.
The inconsequential views of the self-proclaimed champions of progressive ideals at these universities urge you to forget the historical significance of military artifacts, slamming them to be relics of tyranny and regression. Perhaps it’s time we reminded them that those who forget their history are doomed to live it again.
Lekhi is member of Parliament.