While unveiling a 13-feet tall statue of Swami Vivekananda at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told students why they should put national interest above ideology. He reminded students of how Mahatma Gandhi attracted leaders from different ideologies in his struggle for independence, and how leaders of various hues at that time gave priority to the common cause for independence and kept their ideologies aside.
Modi also reminded JNU students how during the dark period of Emergency in the Seventies, leaders from Congress, Socialist Party, Jana Sangh and Left parties joined hands under the leadership of Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan.
“In this fight against Emergency, none of the leaders and workers had to compromise with their ideologies and the common cause was ‘national interest’. I was fortunate to be part of that struggle, I saw all that happened and had personal experience. I was a direct witness. So, on questions of national unity and integrity, if we take decisions under the weight of ideologies, it can cause harm to the nation. Of course, it is also wrong to compromise on ideology because of self-interest and opportunism. But, a healthy debate is a must to keep democracy alive ”, Modi said.
Modi also spoke of the need for a ‘self-reliant (atmanirbhar) India’. He said, it has now become part of the aspirations and collective consciousness of more than 130 crore Indians. “A nation becomes self-reliant when it relies not only on its resources, but is also self-reliant in thoughts and values (sanskaar)”, Modi pointed out.
This was Modi’s first address to the students of JNU, considered a citadel of Left-leaning students and teachers, and his words were meaningful and significant. He was unveiling Vivekananda’s statue, which was scheduled two years ago in 2018, but at that time some ultra-Left students had thrown black paint on it after deriding Swamiji as a proponent of Hindutva.
“This is not a mere statue. It is a symbol of the great ideas on the basis of which a saint introduced India to the world. Swamiji had a vast repository of Vedanta knowledge. He had a vision and he knew what India could give to the world. He introduced the world to India’s rich cultural heritage, its ideas and traditions, with pride.
“Can you imagine what Swamiji told the Michigan University at a time when we were all despondent, groaning under the weight of foreign rule? That too, at the beginning of the last century? He told the American students and professors, ‘this may be your century, but the 21st century will belong to India’. On our shoulders rests the responsibility of translating his vision into reality.”, said Modi.
Modi’s words assume significance because the JNU campus had been in the centre of controversy during the last five years, when anti-national and separatist slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde hongey, Inshallah, Inshallah’ were raised by, what we call the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang, and students
leaders like Umer Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar were given a platform to spout anti-national ideas.
It was in this context that Modi advised students to indulge in healthy debates, stick to ideologies, but refrain from weakening national unity and territorial integrity. His advice was clear: do not speak of breaking the nation in the name of ideologies.
Modi unveiling Vivekananda’s statue in JNU campus has a political connotation too. Assembly elections are due next year in West Bengal. Swami Vivekananda and his guru Ramakrishna Paramhansa are great icons in the consciousness of Bengalis. Modi had spent several years of his life at the famous Belur Math set up by Swamiji. He had decided to join the Ramakrishna Mission order of monks but on the advice of a senior monk, he abandoned this idea and returned to Gujarat. To state the obvious, Modi has his sights trained on West Bengal elections now.
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