Baba Ramdev JNU ban: Logic betrayed?


By Roshni Chakrabarty

The Jawaharlal Nehru University’s invitation to yoga guru Ramdev to address the 22nd edition of the International Congress of Vedanta as the keynote speaker was met with protests from the students, who believed that Ramdev didn’t have the credibility required for a keynote speaker.

“It does not befit the stature of an academic institution like JNU to have persons with such a questionable and shameful background to address an academic gathering,” said Shehla Rashid Shora, the vice president of JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU).

Students from JNU, known for its strong student politics called the move a “silent Right-wing onslaught” and asked for a withdrawal of the invitation, failing which the University officials would have to face protests.

In the Twitter debate that almost immediately flared, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that the JNU, which was central government funded, should not take “fascist and stupid arguments” into consideration.

JNU’s ‘leftist idelology’ also took a hit from other Twitter users.

The students claim that JNU cannot stand beside Baba Ramdev’s regressive ideology and opposed him addressing the lecture on the grounds that he is not an academician or a professor.

“The person in question harbours extreme hatred, bias and prejudice against various minorities — religious, gender and sexual minorities, and also against girl-child,” Shora stated, saying that this invitation would take JNU “several steps back.”

“His views on Indian science are not academically driven, but deeply ideologically grounded in a regressive and hegemonic understanding of what constitutes the ‘Vedic’ way of life. If anything, his views are anti-scientific,” another student said.

Does JNU students’ protest represent Lack of tolerance to debate?

However, according to Hindu tradition and philosophy, one’s merits are not judged by the certificates one holds, but rather by ones in-depth knowledge of the scriptures. In this light, Ramdev may well be asked to be present in the Vedanta conference on account of his knowledge on the subject.

In a statement to the Indian Express in late October this year, Baba Ramdev said the Union government would soon set up a Vaidik Education Board on the lines of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “in agreement” for the same.

He stressed on the need for a “shiksha kranti” (revolution in education) and an indigenisation of education. He went on to speak of his aim to establish “700 gurukulam and acharyakulam all over the nation.”

“The board will be set up on the lines of the CBSE and Sanskrit will be compulsory from nursery to class 12,” Ramdev said. “We will teach Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharat and the entire Vedic education and Ayurveda. The coursework will be modern but will be indigenised.”

Ramdev’s schools would follow the model established by ‘Acharyakulam,’ a Haridwar school run by him, which was inaugurated in April 2013 by PM Modi.

The prospectus of Acharyakulam claims that children “generally” gain “one percent” enlightenment every year, and adds that “with the help of intellectual efforts we can develop this enlightenment physically, intellectually and spiritually by one to ten percent.”

Acharyakulam routine

While advocating the intake of “sattvik” vegetarian food, and a dress sense “based on Bharatiya parampara,” the school’s rule-book also states that all general utility items should be sourced from Indian manufacturers.

“We make a blend of eastern and western schools of thought,” said a school official.

“The students learn modernity through science, English, and grammar but they also need to know about the glorious past and our ideals which are missing in Bharat’s leaders today.”

This clearly establishes Ramdev’s bent of mind regarding Vedic values and a “swadeshi” education system, a discourse of which would only add to the Vedanta conference at JNU. The ‘ban’ being advocated ironically shows the intolerance amongst the masses and also finds ample number of supporters in the ensuing Twitter debate.

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