New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled a statue of Swami Vivekananda in the JNU campus, for long an ideological battlefield for the Left and Hindutva groups, and asserted that people’s ideologies should be seen standing with and not against the country in matters of national interest.
Giving priority to one’s ideology over national interest has harmed the democratic system of the country a lot, Modi said in his address to students after unveiling the statue through video conferencing.
“Everybody is proud of his ideology and this is natural. But our ideology should be seen standing with the nation and not against it in matters of national interest,” he said.
He spoke of the Struggle for Independence and the movement against the Emergency to note that people of different ideological persuasions had joined hands for national interest without compromising their ideologies to make his point. So when the question is about the national integrity and interests, then taking a decision under the burden of one’s ideology harms the nation, Modi said.
“It is wrong to believe that one will think and act in a certain framework in matters of national interest solely because this is what one’s ideology says,” he said.
Jawaharlal Nehru University has long been considered a citadel of the Left, with student unions affiliated to it calling the shots in the campus. The BJP and Hindutva groups, including RSS’ student wing ABVP, have often claimed that groups with “anti-national” sentiments have found support from the Left-affiliated groups in the campus. There have been violent clashes between them at times in past.
The decision to install a life-size statue of Vivekananda, a widely-respected Hindu monk who the prime minister considers an idol, in the campus is imbued with rich symbolism. The statue, Modi expressed confidence, will teach people immense dedication to the nation and intense love for our country which, he added, is the prime message of Vivekananda’s life.
“The statue will inspire us to realise his dream of a strong and prosperous India,” Modi said, noting that he had said at the start of the 20th century that the next century will belong to India.
Referring to the renowned university’s culture of debate and discussion of different ideas, he said they can now also do it in the statue’s shadow.
In his address, Modi said good reforms were earlier considered bad politics but now it is good politics because his government’s intentions and commitment are pure, and it has prepared a “protection shield” for the poor and other vulnerable sections before carrying them out.
People have endorsed our reform measures with their votes, he said, suggesting JNU students to undertake research on how reforms undertaken by his government have drawn popular support unlike earlier.
In a swipe at earlier governments, he said the poor were given only slogans but efforts to include them in financial and other systems were never made, and they remained “neglected, unconnected and financially excluded”.
His government has provided them with houses, electricity, drinking water, digital banking, fast internet connection, Modi said, describing these measures protection shield for the poor which has given wings to their aspirations.
The prime minister said the statue in the campus will inspire everyone and instill courage and compassion that Swami Vivekananda wanted to see in everyone.
“Swami Vivekanda wanted that education in the country should be such that it provides self-confidence to individuals and makes them ‘atmanirbhar‘ in every way. The new National Education Policy is on the same line and has inclusion at its core,” he added.
India’s young population is its brand ambassador across the world, he said, adding that they are expected to not merely be proud of its ancient identity but also to carve a new identity for the country in the 21st century.
The statue’s unveiling by Modi drew protests from the JNU Students Union.
Students flashed posters of “Modi go back” and “we want answers” ahead of the unveiling of the statue by him.
He has chosen this university for installing the statue but whenever students raise their voice on any issue, everybody comes “hounding” and demands that the university should be shut, said JNU Students Union president Aishe Ghosh, who was leading the protest at the varsity’s north gate.
N Sai Balaji, former JNUSU president and national president of left-backed All India Students Association (AISA), asked, “Why is the PM not coming to inaugurate a hostel on the campus? Why is he not making a speech about students who have not got their scholarships? Our library has had an 80 percent budget cut. Why is he not coming to announce that the funds will be sanctioned?”
Earlier in the day, the union had written an open letter to the prime minister saying they have profound disagreements with his idea India.