The unrest in Jawaharlal Nehru University is slowly blazing into a national crisis. Student groups in several universities and educational institutions across the nation have stepped out of their class rooms to take rallies and dharnas to the streets. The anger is wide-spread with everyone trying to take mileage out of the current stalemateEnough has been written and is still being written on this topic. So I am not going to write yet another article on the JNU milieu. My attempt here is to talk about a much larger issue. The JNU episode is only symbolic of this larger issue that I am going to delineate.
The real issue is that our Universities, instead of becoming centers of learning have become centers of mayhem, unrest and politicking. What is the root cause of this indiscipline and how do we deal with this? What measures our leaders, academicians and responsible citizens must take to bring about a change?
I am reminded of an incident from the life of Dr. D.S. Kothari, famous educationalist of yesteryears. Dr. Kothari was appointed as the Chairperson of Indian Education Commission which later became popular as Kothari Commission. Government of India had entrusted him with the task of modernization and standardization of education in India. Those days he was deeply concerned about student unrest prevalent across Universities and Colleges throughout the country. On one occasion, he was on a visit to the Satsang Ashram in Deoghar to meet his spiritual Guide, Sree Sree Thakur Anukulchandra. In the course of his conversation with Anukulchandra, Dr. Kothari narrated how he was getting increasingly disturbed by student indiscipline in universities and colleges across India.
‘Well, what is the true meaning of discipline?” asked his Spiritual Guru, Anukulchandra. Dr. Kothari stumbled and stammered to give an apt response. Seeing his struggle, Anukulchandra, replied, “The word discipline has come from the word disciple. If you want to make the students truly disciplined, you must first make them disciples. Without being a disciple, no one can ever become disciplined.” “Disciple to whom?” enquired Dr. Kothari. Pat came the reply, “Disciple to the living acharya or teacher.” Anukulchandra went on to say, “Allegiance and adherence to the teacher or acharya is the foundation of a strong moral character. A strong moral character is the cornerstone of discipline and adjusted behavior. Alas, where are the ideal teachers and the ideal students today? Unfortunately there is a lack of true disciples and true acharyas in our Universities and educational institutions today. This has left a void difficult to fill.”
In this conversation, Anukulchandra made a compelling statement about the root cause of indiscipline in our Universities and educational institutions. In the absence of ideal teachers and ideal students, our Universities have reduced to bodies which just produce employment seeking degree and diploma holders. Swami Vivekananda said, “One should live from his very boyhood with one whose character is like a blazing fire and should have before him a living example of the highest teaching. My idea of education is personal contact with the teacher – Gurugriha-Vâsa. Without the personal life of a teacher there would be no education. Take your Universities. What have they done during the fifty years of their existences. They have not produced one original man. They are merely an examining body. The idea of the sacrifice for the common weal is not yet developed in our nation.”
From this it is clear that Students can contribute to nation building by being disciplined citizens and not by being unruly and way-ward men and women. In the absence of a strong moral character, students would fall prey to the tactics and maneuvering by opportunistic politicians, anti-social elements and anti-national and separatist out-fits. On the other hand, a strong moral character will act as a shield for these future citizens of the country.
We still have not forgotten the golden words of Mahatma Gandhi: “By Education, I mean an all-round drawing of the best in child and man in body, mind and spirit.”
(The Author is a senior HR professional based in Bangalore. World HRD Congress awarded him as one of the 25 Most Talented Global Training and Development Leaders in 2014)