Published: 09th November 2020
Modi to inaugurate JNU's Vivekananda statue on Thursday: Why this statue has been mired in controversy
We take a look at the various allegations and controversies around JNU's life-sized statue of Swami Vivekananda, which will soon be inaugurated
On November 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a life-sized statue of Swami Vivekananda on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, via video conferencing. The statue, the construction of which began three years ago, in November 2018, will be unveiled at 5.30 pm the same day, an hour prior to the inauguration, the university said in a statement.
"The statue of Vivekananda has been installed in the University campus with the support of the alumni for which the university is grateful to them," said M Jagadesh Kumar, the university Vice-Chancellor. However, the statue was constantly a matter of controversy among the students and the teaching community of JNU.
An RTI filed in February 2019, by the then JNUSU President N Sai Balaji said that the university does not have permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to fell the trees or break the rocks at the proposed site of the statue. At the same time, he also shared two satellite images of the site with, one from February 28, 2017, and the other from September 28, 2017, which showed that the trees have been felled. Around the same time, the students had also raised several questions over the sources that funded the statue, discrediting the university's claim that the alumni funded its construction.
In August, Balaji received the response to another RTI that he filed, which indicated the university's Engineering Department hadn't sought the necessary internal permissions for its construction. "No request regarding the construction of Vivekananda statue at AD block was received from the engineering department," read the response by Gagandeep Singh, Deputy Registrar (Finance).
A few months later, in November 2019, the statue, which was then nearing completion was vandalised. Messages targetting the right-wing outlets were written on the statue. While the leftist groups said that this incident was meant to divert the attention from the real issue of fee hike, the right-wingers called the opposition 'goons' and said the act shows the intellectual bankruptcy of left-leaning student organisations.
As the statue's inauguration nears, the JNUSU is yet to comment on this. Balaji, however, said, "Even at a time where there is an immense fund crunch, the university has decided to divert its funds to construct statues. It is yet to disburse a lot of fellowship money and must be making arrangements to bring students back to campus." He added, "Instead of constructing the statue, the university could have increased its library budget and bought books on Swami Vivekananda."