Admitting that gaining entry into politics is easier if one had a particular surname or belonged to a particular family, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday said this, however, did not imply that there was no place for others.

“It is easy to get into politics if you have a particular surname or come from a particular family. But that’s true in every sector, be it sports or films. So politicians’ children find it easy to become politicians. That’s true, but it does not mean there is no place for others,” said the scion of the Abdullah family at the Annual Convocation of Jamia Millia Islamia here.

In an impromptu speech, the young leader made an earnest appeal to the graduating students to join public service.

Addressing the students, he said: “After graduating from this university you will get into different spheres of life. I hope some of you will get into the sphere of public service. I hope you will take this difficult decision. I know politicians are a reviled lot. Some bad apples give others a bad name.”

“But I believe that there is no better institution than public service if you contribute in making a better India and a better world.”

The J&K Chief Minister also told students: “Don’t follow us as an example, follow what we are telling you.”

Referring to his 11 years of experience in politics, Mr. Abdullah asserted that even though the world was full of challenges, no task was unachievable through perseverance.

Giving students some pep talk, he said: “You have two choices. To sit back and lament about the system, or stand up and say that you won’t accept the way things are. Be a part of the change you want to see.”

Mr. Abdullah’s speech drew a generous applause from the audience comprising students and faculty members.

Earlier, Vice-Chancellor Najeeb Jung conferred honorary degrees of doctor of letters on Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh; former Chief Justice of India V. N. Khare; former Jamia Vice-Chancellor Lt. Gen. (Retd) M. A. Zaki; and historian Prof. M. Amin. Gen. Zaki received a standing ovation from the audience when he walked up to receive the honour.

In his address, the V-C pointed out that the Sachar Committee Report detailed the vulnerabilities faced by Muslims in the country and said one of Jamia’s priorities was to redress the imbalance that the report brought to the fore.

“One of Jamia’s greatest successes has been the greater representation of women in both the faculty and the student body of the university. For anyone gripped by the stereotype about the alleged reluctance of Muslim parents to send their girls to college, a ten-minute walk around the campus would be enough to disabuse them of any such notions,” Mr. Jung asserted.

A total of 3,279 degrees/diplomas and 112 Ph. Ds were awarded at the Convocation. Over 137 gold medals were conferred on toppers. All degrees were for the academic year 2007-08.