NEW DELHI: Noted Historian Romila Thapar believes JNU is unlikely to suffer a setback due to the row over an event against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru as there is "intellectual support" for it.
She also feels it is going to be difficult for any government to "control" the thinking process unless it turns into a totally "anti-democratic dictatorship". Thapar, who is Professor Emerita at JNU, told PTI in an interview, "JNU is not likely to suffer a setback as there is much intellectual support for it in the country. There are other universities too that discuss a range of ideas as are discussed in the JNU. The existence of a varsity is intended for that --to discuss ideas of every kind."
"It is going to be extremely difficult for any government to try and control this thinking unless it turns into a totally anti-democratic dictatorship. If it does that, then it will harm other aspects of governance as has been shown repeatedly wherever dictatorships have been established," she added.
Thapar, who had declined to accept Padma Bhushan award twice in 1992 and 2005, said attacking universities is an attempt to try and control the thinking of people and the effort whenever made had not succeeded. "This has never succeeded wherever it has been tried. It may work for a short while since the administration and the police are under the control of government but invariably people break away. Exploring ideas is part of the process of being educated and is necessary for a modern society and economy.
"Not allowing universities to function freely will doubtless have an effect on production and the economy as well. Education is an integrated process. If one part of it is stopped then that will damage the rest of it," she said.
Explaining her idea of "nationalism" amid branding of JNU as a "den of anti-nationals", Thapar said, "It is a concept that refers to people coming together in the building of a nation. It has to be inclusive of all communities and it has to be secular. It cannot be determined by any single identity such as religion, caste, language or such like."
In India, nationalism was associated with the anti-colonial movement of independence. It was opposed to communalism where the identity was religious and the purpose was to project the limited idea of a Muslim or a Hindu nation, she said.
"Neither of the two communalism's encapsulated in the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha-RSS had anti-colonialism as their primary concern. Their reference is to the limited identities of Muslim and Hindu communities.
"In India, a Hindu state can never be a national Indian state as it has to carry all non Hindus as equal citizens with equal rights," she added.
Jawaharlal Nehru University is caught in a row over an event on the campus to commemorate the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, where "anti-national" slogans were allegedly raised.
The varsity's students union president Kanhaiya Kumar is in judicial custody in a sedition case in connection with the February 9 event. Two other students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya are in police custody in the same case.
Joining the chorus of protest in the JNU row, Thapar along with other historians and writers had released a joint statement last week condemning the slapping of sedition case on students and said police action should not replace "dialogue" at any educational institution.