Millennium Post

Getting there

What India has been gloating about since the evening of October 14, Kolkata's another gift of a Nobel laureate to the world is a reminder to look into what makes an achiever. A product of top-notch institutions, Laureate Abhijit Banerjee has behind him a rather distinguished journey of being an alumunus of Presidency University at Kolkata, then Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and later Harward University. He shared his view that the government action has "endangered the safe space that universities have traditionally provided." In an article published in 2016, Banerjee shared an interesting anecdote when he and his friends were kept in Tihar jail for 10 days and were beaten up for staging protest against the JNU VC in 1983. Unlike the situation in 2016 when JNU sedition row made national headlines and debated on prime time television blared with discussions surrounding colonial-era restrictive law, a bunch of JNU students was arrested and "beaten up" by the police in 1983 for "gheraoing the vice-chancellor in his house for the umpteenth time" for expelling the president of the student union. "We were beaten (I was) and thrown into Tihar jail, charged not quite with sedition, but attempt to murder and the rest. The charges were eventually dropped thank God but not before we spent 10 days or so in Tihar," he said in the article. He recalls that the police action was backed by Congress government at the Centre and Left-leaning faculty at that time and said that the state's intention was to "establish the lines of authority". With reference to the context to present time JNU row, the Nobel laureate said that the government intervention in the matter once again shows that it wants to establish authority over the university campus. Recognised worldwide for his work on global poverty alleviation, this episode from the Professor's journey is but a reminder that universities are cradles of critical thinking, ideas of consequences and potentially big changes.

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