Is symbolism taking over our educational institutions?

Pranita Roy
Saturday, 5 August 2017

JNU VC had recently announced that the varsity will soon host an army tank in its premises to remind students of sacrifices made by our soldiers. But is this kind of tokenism really needed to inculcate patriotism among students?

Nationalism, patriotism, one nation and many more words have become so much like the flavour of the season in India that it now puts some restrictions on people voicing their opinions that might be perceived to be contrary. Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) M Jagdish Kumar had recently announced that JNU will soon host an army tank in the varsity premises. This has grabbed a lot of negative feedback from scholars, intellectuals and educationists, who have paled it to nonsense.

The idea to have stated a military tank on display will remind students of sacrifices and valour of Indian soldiers, as per the JNU VC. The VC will seek help from Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and General VK Singh to procure a tank to put it on a display at the campus. This is one of the kind modes by the university to instil a sense of nationalism among students. But does that really work? 

Symbol v/s ideas 
However, there is a need to look at whether this sort of tokenism is apt at educational institutions to take forward. Does this also mean that students in India are not aware of cross-border tensions, soldiers’ sacrifices, or have no sense of nationalism and patriotism towards the country? Well, nationalism has been defined in several ways and means from Veer Savarkar to Jawaharlal Nehru. 

Nationalism should come from within and cannot be inculcated by someone externally. It is not a first instance where an educational institution has promoted nationalism through tokenism. It is observed in many institutions where statues of great leaders of our country are placed to inculcate respect in students towards them.

We have known our heroes more closely via books, documentaries, films and historical places resided in our country where they have left their traces. An educative society does not require materialistic education but real education. There are several scripts that have jotted each incident, struggles and achievements of national heroes. While this also draws attention towards resemblance of a statue, which tells about the ideology of the idol and battlefield hardware is a symbol of warfare.

A free space for thought 
We are also forgetting the purpose of starting an educational institution in the country. It was started to impart knowledge and wisdom to people so that one can think and understand logically and rationally by reasoning whatever comes across. 

By just placing an architecture of military importance at an intellectual space where students assemble in groups to discuss regarding national issues will lose its significance if not used wisely. 

Am afraid that it may remain as an architectural monument to click selfies only. However, an educational institution is a space where a student should be given the liberty to evolve in a process. It is a think place where one should be allowed to reason and differentiate between right and wrong based on their intellects instead of imposing opinions. Moreover, an educational institution is the only holder of democracy in the country at a current situation, which needs to be free of tokenism


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