The nation celebrates January 12 as the National Youth Day to mark the 158th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, so do the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). This January 12, however, on the 158th birth anniversary of Swami Ji, the celebrations in JNU will be a clarion call to all the youth of this country, as it announces the victory of nationalism against Communism in the campus under the leading light of the newly unveiled statue of the great son of India.
Born as Narendranath Datta, Swami Vivekananda devoted his life to the cause of the people. His teachings continue to inspire people across the world and people of all ages, especially youth.
When on November 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University campus, which gained a worldwide praise, it became crystal clear that JNU was on a move in a new direction, a positive direction towards nation building, towards the creation of “New India.” But very few of us know the struggle behind the establishment of the statue on the campus.
“There was not even a single framed photo of Vivekananda in JNU”
Given the Communist dominance on the campus, this should not surprise anyone that there was not even a single framed photo of the global youth icon Swami Vivekananda in JNU in any official space.
Sharing the struggle of establishing Swami Vivekananda statue on the varsity campus, Dr Manoj Kumar, ex-student of JNU and Delhi University professor told Organiser:
“I got admission into JNU in 2001 in the MA programme in the School of Social Sciences. One day, during a get together in the Periyar Hostel I came to know that in 1996, the students associated with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) made an attempt to put a framed photo of Swami Vivekananda in the Students’ Union office. At that time, there were portraits of Marx, Lenin and other communist leaders, but the photo of Vivekananda Ji was not allowed to be put up. Since then, I along with my friends, seniors and juniors, such as Dr. Ashok Sharma, a professor in Australia, Prof. Dhananjay Singh, JNU, Dr. Ranvijay Singh, JNU, Mr. Pinaki Routray, Dr. Shiv Shakti Nath Bakshi, Dr. Mukesh Mishra took oath that we would continue to strive towards getting a life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda on JNU campus.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiling the statue of Swami Vivekanand
at JNU campus via video conferencing
“When the VC denied permission for Swamiji statue on the pretext that there was no statue on the campus”
Before the statue of Swami Vivekananda, which was unveiled on November 12, there was only one statue on the varsity campus that was of former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru after whom the campus is named.
Dr Manoj further said: “In 2003-2004 during the tenure of Prof. GK Chadda as the Vice-Chancellor, we put forth to him the proposal of raising the statue of Vivekananda, but he denied the request by saying that there is no statue of any personality on the campus, and he would not allow this to happen.”
But on November 14, 2005, during the Chancellorship of Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh, the statue of Jawahar Lal Nehru was installed at the administrative block of JNU. The statue was unveiled by the then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, in the presence of Shri Arjun Singh, the Union Minister of HRD.
On that day, a group of Leftist miscreants protested and raised slogans against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Although the Prime Minister finished his speech and left the campus, tensions continued to flare up with clashes between AISA and NSUI members. The police intervened, and four students were taken into custody. We in the ABVP defended the PM, as he was a democratically elected leader.
“Next day, I, along with other students, went to the Vice-Chancellor and said ‘Sir, now the campus has a statue, so please consider our proposal of installing a statue of Swami Vivekananda.’ He assured us of fulfilling our demands, but nothing happened. Later, when BB Bhattacharya was appointed as the Vice Chancellor in 2005-2006, we met him and requested him for the cause. He was convinced and asked us to give the proposal in writing. He assured us that he would share the proposal in the Executive Council and Academic Council of JNU. But nothing materialised.”
Dr Manoj told Organsier that unlike in the case of the statute of Jawaharlal Nehru, for the statue of Swami Vivekananda, JNU has not spent any amount. The University had made all the expenditure accruing to Pt. Nehru’s statute. However, the statue of Swamiji was made possible due to fund contributed by my NRI friends and the sculptor, and also some alumni of JNU
“Even after leaving the campus, I had been trying to get Vivekananda statue there”
“In 2010, I left JNU and joined Delhi University as Professor. On January 26, 2017, at Republic Day function of JNU, I was invited to the campus as an alumnus, and I met M Jagadesh Kumar, the current VC of JNU and Rector Prof. Rana Pratap Singh. I discussed our long-pending demand of having a statue of Swami Vivekananda on the campus with them. They were extremely forthcoming and pleased that I was making all this effort and they assured that they will do their best to provide a space for the statue,” DR Manoj recalls.
“Finally our dream came true on June 30, 2017, when the executive council of JNU in its 168th meeting unanimously approved the installation of a 12 feet height Vivekananda Statue.”
Dr Manoj Kumar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi
“Who paid for the Statue?”
When JNU’s Executive Council had approved the proposal for Swami Vivekananda’s statue demand, a committee was formed to oversee the project. In 2019 when university was facing the students’ protest, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) questioned the source of the funds for the construction of Vivekananda’s statue.
JNUSU and JNUTA filed RTIs asking the JNU administration to disclose the statue’s source of funds. Dr Manoj told Organiser that unlike in the case of the statute of Jawaharlal Nehru, for the statue of Swami Vivekananda, JNU has not spent any amount. The University had made all the expenditure accruing to Pt. Nehru’s statute. However, the statue of Swamiji was made possible due to fund contributed by my NRI friends and the sculptor, and also some alumni of JNU.”
On being asked why they wanted to place Vivekananda’s statue only and not of any other leader, Dr Manoj Kumar replied, “There is no doubt that our present generation has made great progress in infrastructural development but it has somehow not been as sensitive to its social and patriotic roles under the influence of the colonial education. This has led to an increase in anger, lack of compassion among the young people. Swami Vivekananda’s thought is a perfect example for today’s generation as to how they should mold their true character.”
Week-long Programme every year on the National Youth Day
In the 250th Executive Council meeting held on November 25, 2020, it was decided that henceforth a “Swami Vivekananda Memorial lecture” would be held every year on January 12, i.e. on the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
Further, the council also decided that a week-long programme “Swami Vivekananda Youth Festival” would be organised annually, wherein various events such as sports, cultural events, technical festival, exhibitions, academic events, lecture series, and seminars, conference, debate and discussions will be conducted for students.
The council also passed a resolution to constitute a committee to develop academic/research programmes on Swami Vivekananda.