Bhubaneswar: Former students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University hailing from, or residing in, Odisha will soon launch a collective effort to help the state build a robust environment for higher education and foster more inclusive development of its people. A decision to this effect was made at the maiden annual convention of of the Odisha chapter of the Alumni Association of JNU (AAJO).
The convention on Sunday, which saw participation of several eminent alumni members including Minister of Science and Technology Shri Ashok Panda and chief secretary Asit Kumar Tripathy, also decided to explore ways to build a digital repository of the vast body of research work that currently lie scattered in universities and institutions around the world.
Addressing the valedictory session of the day-long event at Geeta Gobind Bhawan, Bhubaneswar, Shri Panda highlighted the contribution JNUites had made in different walks of life – from politics to policy making, social justice to creative thinking.
“Wherever you go, you will find a JNUite,” he said adding, “the finance minister and the foreign minister of the country are from JNU. Here, the chief secretary of the state is JNU, so am I. Each one of you assembled here is holding an important position, doing an important job, playing important role in the society.”
In his address, Shri Tripathy, who studied political science at JNU, sought to highlight the democratic ethos and values of the university. “JNU is unique,” he said, adding whoever went there became an activist for a cause. “I also became an activist. I also went to jail,” he said referring to the imprisonment of hundreds of JNUites in 1983 during what is considered the most famous student agitation in the university’s history.
The alumni meet of the Odisha chapter, the first-ever state chapter, came against the backdrop of a sustained campaign that has sought to malign JNU, vitiate its democratic environment in recent years. Several speakers at the convention stressed on the need for JNUites to come together to fight this onslaught.
“JNUites never bothered to organize in defense of their alma mater, because there was no threat. But today JNU is under attack. They want to kill the idea of JNU,” said Anand Kumar, professor of sociology and one of the most active voices of JNU. “Today, JNU needs you. We need to come together, to save our alma mater.”
As late as last week, the JNU administration sought to significantly hike hostel fees and imposed several restrictions on students staying in the campus. In recent years, authorities have increasingly harassed faculty members and students questioning their decisions.
“Pensions and settlement on retirement are being held up deliberately. Steep fines are being imposed on flimsy grounds. Court cases are piling up,” said Ajay Patnaik, a professor of international relations and a rallying figure for Odias in JNU for the past four decades.