Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) held its second convocation on Wednesday, 46 years after the first and only ceremony held by the varsity. The university’s first convocation in 1972 saw noted actor and theatre personality Balraj Sahni gracing it as its chief guest .
Among the former students who collected their degrees at the ceremony on Wednesday was 78-year-old Vishnu Swaroop Saksena, a retired postal department employee. Saksena came to collect his degree accompanied by his wife, two sons and a daughter. In 1998, after retiring as a member of the Indian Postal Board, Saksena, then 58-years-old, had enrolled in the university.
In the convocation ceremony that was held at the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) auditorium near JNU, the chief guest was university chancellor VK Saraswat.
Saraswat, who is also a space scientist and Niti Ayog member, handed out PhD degrees to 400 students from 13 schools and special centres of JNU.
Speaking at the event, Saraswat, said that these students are the “future of the country”. Service to society is more important as compared to personal achievements, he told students, urging them to be humble in learning from their fellow workers.
“JNU is generally perceived as a training ground for intellectual politicians and has produced some of the finest politicians and bureaucrats and researchers like Muzaffar Alam, Alok Bhattacharya, S Jaishankar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Sitaram Yechury and so on,” Saraswat said while addressing the gathering.
Also speaking at the ceremony, JNU vice chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar said that the varsity was committed to encouraging critical thinking and freedom of thought among its students and faculty.
“The best ideas are born when minds are allowed to be free and think critically. JNU is committed to this freedom of thought and critical thinking with an emphasis on our fundamental responsibilities,” Kumar said.
Kumar’s comments came in the backdrop of the student union’s decision to boycott the event. The union had accused the V-C of trying to muzzle dissent.
“JNU should strive towards advocating the voice and aspirations of 1.3 billion Indians who would like to see our country become stronger, remain inclusive and united on the foundations laid down by our ancient civilization,” Kumar added.
Recalling the first convocation, professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, who was a student at that time, said Sahni had made a Left liberal speech during the event and talked of Lenin.
“In 1972, our V-C was G Parthasarthi, who was a famous diplomat and was close to Nehru. Given the university’s radicalism, the V-C thought he would ask Balraj Sahni to speak, as Sahni was pro-Left. However, following Sahni, the students’ union president VC Koshy also gave a speech which was controversial in nature, after which the ceremony was discontinued,” said Chenoy.