Published: 12th June 2020
Sarasvati Civilisation only part of RSS mythology: Why JNU's CHS doesn't want anything to do with Maj Gen GD Bakshi's webinar
In a letter to the VC, 14 out of the 19 teachers of the Centre said that they were not consulted before deciding that the CHS's same would be associated with the webinar
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration is in a fix, again. JNU Vice-Chancellor Dr Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, on June 8, tweeted a poster of an upcoming webinar — The Sarasvati Civilisation: A Paradigm Shift in Indian History — by Retired Major General GD Bakshi. He also said that the Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences is the organiser of the event.
However, the teachers and students of the Centre have heavily criticised the move and have since dissociated themselves from the online lecture as the faculty was allegedly not consulted before the decision to associate the Centre's name to the webinar was taken. In a letter to the VC, 14 out of 19 teachers of the Centre said that seminars, conferences, workshops and all matters of academic functioning are a "Centre’s prerogative and are addressed by professional and eminent scholars who are invited by the faculty for this purpose". They also said in no uncertain terms that using their name in vain was just not done, "If this is an individual initiative on your part, then you are being requested to issue a clarification so that the name of the CHS is not used for a programme that has not been endorsed by the faculty," the letter added.
The primary problem they have is with the choice of speaker. "We organise lectures on a weekly basis and have invited eminent professors before. People with proper credentials to speak on the subject. But this decision to invite GD Bakshi was made without the knowledge of the faculty," said Dr Sucheta Mahajan, a senior faculty member. "The professors who have been named in the poster (Dr Heeraman Tiwari, Dr Umesh Kadam and Dr Dipendra Nath Das) are just using their position to associate the Centre's name to this event," she added.
The letter from the faculty said that since all faculty members are in contact on mail and "on the WhatsApp group and other mechanisms", updating the faculty and seeking its endorsement on academic matters are "essential and desirable." They went on to add rather contritely, "In the long-term interests of the functioning of the Centre, it is important that we all remain committed to established practices and norms, and not dispense with them without due process. Also, minuting decisions and circulating these is crucial for the long-term functioning of the Centre, even if meetings are held through virtual communication."
The students of the Centre denied any association with this event as well. "Scholars of early India have rejected the attempt to collate the Harappan Civilization with Rig Vedic culture. It has been done based on the existing chronological gap between the two cultures, which is the difference in material cultures of Harappan Civilization and material milieu depicted in the Rig Veda," said the students. Dr Mahajan agreed with the students, "There is no evidence to support there was a Sarasvati Civilization. It is still in an RSS-propagated mythological space with no one to support the claims," she added.
The students also said that it is "deeply concerning that GD Bakshi has often been in the limelight for making sexist and communal statements, apart from the constant vilification he has subjected JNU and its students to". Even though the teachers have not made a comment in the letter about the Major General, Dr Mahajan said that she agreed with the students' critique. "Previous speeches and comments made by General Bakshi have been flagged for their hate-mongering nature and factual inaccuracy. Under such circumstances, it is alarming that the university administration chose to invite this person and give him a stage," the letter said.
The VC or the administration has not made any comments on the issue. This copy will be updated when they do.