New Delhi: Central and state governments have launched into a full-fledged drive to instil nationalistic fervour in colleges and universities. After proposing installation of army tanks on university campuses, next on the agenda is building statues of patriotic personalities on institution premises.
In an attempt to make students ‘patriotic’, Rajasthan government has directed all state colleges to put up statue of Vivekananda on campuses if they do not have statues of such ‘inspirational personalities’ on the premises.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, a recent circular by the commissionerate of college education states that as per government instructions, each college in the state should have the image of a ‘great or inspirational personality’ displayed on campus so as to ‘inspire the students to live with integrity’.
The notice goes on to say that in the absence of an image of a ‘great figure’ on campus, colleges should begin the process of installing a statue of ‘Swami Vivekananda Ji’.
A senior official from the state higher education minister’s office, on condition of anonymity, told the Hindustan Times, “Vivekananda is an icon of youth power, which is why we want his statue to be there in colleges and inspire the youth. Our only aim is to make each student patriotic.”
The move has come under criticism from many who consider the move to be yet another one of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s measures to co-opt and institutionalise figures like Vivekananda.
Retired University of Rajasthan professor Rajiv Gupta told the Hindustan Times, “There is no place for personality worship or even worship of ideas in academics. We critically examine everything. Worship of personalities leads to creation of identities, and consequently clashes, which goes in favour of these rightist forces.”
This is not the first time the state government has been accused of ideological meddling in education, which according to critics, is being routed through multiple channels – from changing textbook content to installing statues.
For instance, in February this year, BJP MLA Mohanlal Gupta sought to add a chapter by Vivekananda on cultural nationalism in Rajasthan University textbooks. He had also proposed changes in the university’s textbook to claim that Maharana Pratap had defeated Akbar at the famed Battle of Haldighati.
Class X and XII textbooks of the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education were recently revised to glorify the Modi government and propagate the BJP’s Hindutva ideology.
Last year, Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh had told vice chancellors of state universities to install a statue of Vivekananda in their campuses.
It’s interesting to mention in this context the debate that was sparked earlier when the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar made a public request for installing a battle tank on the campus. However, he is not alone in asking for obsolete battle tanks and guns from the army. According to a report in the Indian Express, over the past two years, the demand from private organisations, educational institutions, schools, colleges and NGOs for such tanks and other combat equipment has gone up significantly.