In defence of JU prof

Kashmir Times. Dated: 12/3/2018 12:25:24 PM

The controversy against Taj-ud-Din is frivolous, linking 'Bhagat Singh to terrorism' needs to be understood in the historical sense

The controversy over the alleged remarks on Bhagat Singh by Jammu University's history professor Mohd. Taj-ud-Din is frivolously and mischievously raked case of much ado about nothing. After the professor has clarified that he was merely giving an example of how states view public heroes who wage wars against the state and drew comparisons between Vladmir Lenin before the Russian revolution and Indian freedom struggle stalwart Bhagat Singh, alluding to the fact that the mighty British empire that the latter was fighting considered him a revolutionary terrorist, the controversy should have been put to rest. As part of his job to impart knowledge, the professor was merely offering the oft-repeated view about contested histories and contested perceptions about events and personalities. To project history as some kind of a linear narrative is to de-intellectualise the subject. The reference to Bhagat Singh as 'terrorist' is not a figment of imagination of the senior professor. It finds space in many text books including the NCERT books and books by noted historian Bipin Chandra. So the entire controversy being raked over the question is entirely bogus and unjustified. In 2016, when a similar controversy arose over references to Bhagat Singh in Bipin Chandra's book in Delhi University, a group of leading historians in the country sought to clear the mist with a statement, in which they revealed that "revolutionary terrorist" was in fact a term that freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh had practically used for themselves. His organization Hindustan Socialist Republican Association first used the term to describe their activity in the organisation's 1929 manifesto. Later in response to criticism of their violent means by Gandhi, the organization said in its statement 'Philosophy of the Bomb': "Terrorism is not the complete revolution, and the revolution is not complete without terrorism." The word terror, a century ago, had an altogether different connotation, much against today's definition of killing and terrorizing innocent people. The word terrorism came to be associated with revolutionaries and was probably born during the peoples' struggle against Russian Czar's tyranny. Prof. Taj-ud-Din's explanation seems to be in a similar strain while comparing the revolutionary spirit of Russian socialists and Bhagat Singh's group.
Clearly, the complaint is frivolous and completely needed to be disregarded. However, faced by protesting students, the professor has been disassociated from teaching and an inquiry headed by some senior professor of the university has been ordered against him by Jammu University vice-chancellor. In face of complaints, the University administration may be duty bound to follow such rules and regulations. But it is unfair to limit the scope of enquiry only to the learned professor. Far graver is the conspiracy that appears to have been whipped against him by some students, probably at the behest of some political interests. A 'two second' viral clip showing him calling 'Bhagat Singh a terrorist' is the basis of the complaint against the professor. The video is apparently shot in the classroom and obviously the entire length of the shot video is likely to be much longer but has been clipped, to mischievously de-contextualise the professor's remarks, and circulated to rake up an unnecessary controversy. The remarks made in the viral video are real but remain a half-truth which is as dangerous as a lie. It is important for the university administration to also trace the origin of the video and to find out whether the original video and the clipped two-second one that went viral have the same source. If university students are involved, there needs to be strict disciplinary actions against those students. Without investigating that angle, it would set a wrong precedent and encourage students to secretly videograph the class-room lectures, especially in social science disciplines where contested views are part of the learning, morph them or chop out the contexts to conspire against their teachers. The university is a space of knowledge, for promotion of freedom of ideas, a place where contesting opinions can be discussed and in light of this university teachers are supposed to enjoy immense freedom to be able to introduce their students to different ideas. It is hoped that the university administration does not succumb to the noises being made against the professor and resort to knee-jerk actions that hurt the university and rob it of its very basic purpose that goes beyond the purpose of simply handing degrees.



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