As per latest reports, the JNU is all set to confer the Distinguished Alumni Award on the Union Cabinet ministers, S. Jaishankar and Nirmala Sitharaman. While the former is serving as the External Affairs Minister, the latter has been appointed as the Finance Minister in the current dispensation. As per the University Registrar, Pramod Kumar, the Executive Council has given its approval to the proposal of conferring this award on the two union ministers during the third convocation ceremony of the varsity to be held in the month of August this year.
The two ministers who are a part of the all-powerful Cabinet Committee on Security are alumni of the central university. While Sitharaman completed her MA and M. Phil from the School of Social Sciences and School of International Studies, respectively, Jaishankar studied M Phil and doctoral research in the School of International Studies where he specialised in nuclear diplomacy.
The University Registrar, Pramod Kumar, said, “Their highly distinguished career and achievements have made the university very proud and they are a great source of inspiration for JNU students and researchers. They will be the first recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award to be conferred by the university.”
Of late, JNU has become a centre of political attention, especially after the JNU sedition episode when anti-India slogans were allegedly raised by a bunch of JNU students inside the university campus. The event was held on the death anniversary of the Parliament attack mastermind, Afzal Guru. Those accused of raising such hate-filled and anti-national slogans were rightly booked for sedition by the concerned authorities. However, soon the entire opposition swung into action and tried to label the action against the accused students as a crackdown on free speech. While the issue was sedition, there were attempts to spin it off as a threat to free speech.
Certain elements have been trying to claim some kind of an inherent right over the legacy of the university and its functioning. Therefore, the decision to confer the Distinguished Alumni Award on the two Union Ministers was expected not to go down well with the elements who have assumed a right over the functioning of the central varsity. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that N. Sai Balaji, the current president of the JNU students’ union has questioned this decision. He remarked, “There have always been distinguished alumni in the government. So many ministers, ambassadors, high commissioners, etc. Why only them? And I do remember honourable minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s comment on JNU. She does not want the university to exist, how can she be a distinguished alumnus of the university. There are numerous other members of Parliament, Sitaram Yechury is one of them. Why only these two?”
This comment shows prejudice against a particular ideology and the aversion to felicitate distinguished alumni belonging to a particular political outfit which represents an ideology other than the one which the influential circles in the JNU espouse.
The university administration and the Executive Council have done well to ensure that the university is rid of certain prejudices and they have clearly not succumbed to the undue pressure existed by the leftist elements which dominate the university.