‘Administrative reasons for discontinuing convocations at JNU after 1972’

No controversy or sinister design at play, say veterans who have taught at varsity

Wearing a Punjabi tehmat, he came to the old Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus canteen in 1972. Late actor Balraj Sahni was in JNU to address the faculty and students at university’s convocation.

That was the university’s last convocation, till JNU decided to commence the tradition once again 46 years later ‘for greater alumni connect’.

Sources at JNU said the university is mulling inviting President Ram Nath Kovind for the convocation or some other dignitary in case he is not free.

However, veterans who have taught at JNU since its inception said there were sound administrative reasons for not having convocations after 1972.

Veteran political scientist and emeritus professor at JNU, 85-year-old Prof. C.P. Bhambri said the reasons for deciding to discontinue the convocation were routine and that there was no controversy or “sinister design” at play after Mr. Sahni visited the campus.

“I was present as faculty member when he came. That convocation is a memory. He spoke in chaste Hindustani and gave a speech that called for a secular India,” Prof Bhambri recalled.

‘Huge expenditure’

He listed the administrative reasons why the university decided not to have convocations after 1972: convocations entailed a huge expenditure, needed infrastructure – which JNU, running from the smaller old campus with no auditorium did not have in those days – and disrupted the semester cycle, as the faculty and administration had to get involved in preparing for the convocation.

“Universities have convocations to invite political leaders to request for funds and build networks. We at JNU have political leaders visit us and address students on a routine basis anyway. So JNU had no need to have a convocation,” he said.

Veteran historian Prof K.N. Panikkar, who retired from JNU over a decade back, said he vaguely remembers a section of the students saying that convocations were a “colonial practice” and JNU should avoid them.

He added that he saw no rationale for convocations at JNU.

JNU Rector Satish Garkoti said, “We have noticed that JNU students study here, pass the course and disappear. There has been little institutional bonding except person-to-person bonds. We want greater institutional connect with our alumni and hope the convocation will provide a platform for such bonding.”

Prof. Bhambri said there were convocation-like occasions when JNU conferred honorary doctorates on world leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the events were held at Vigyan Bhawan in Delhi.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 10:19:38 PM |

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