Following outrage over Bihar’s Jai Prakash (JP) University’s change in syllabus, the chapters on socialist icon Jayaprakash Narayan and revolutionary Ram Manohar Lohia which were removed, have been restored. The Nitish Kumar government has ordered a reversal and sought action against those responsible for the decision. The state’s education minister, Vijay Kumar Choudhary released a strongly worded statement on September 2, stating that the “upset” chief minister has termed the changes as “improper” and “uncalled for”, and has asked for immediate corrective steps.
Between 2018 and 2019, during the tenure of the veteran BJP leader Lalji Tandon, the syllabus of JP University had been revised. The implementation had been halted because of a delay in rolling out the choice-based credit system (CBCS). The chapters on the life and ideas of prominent social and political activists – ‘Lok Nayak’ Jayaprakash Narayan and communist revolutionary Ram Manohar Lohia – were removed from the MA Political Science syllabus of the university, which is also named after Narayan. Instead, chapters on right wing leaders such as Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya and Subhas Chandra Bose were included.
The issue came to light post reportage on the same by a vernacular newspaper. Controversy and outrage sparked after Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and former Bihar chief minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s tweet calling the Nitish Kumar led BJP-JDU alliance government a “Sanghi” government gained traction. On September 1, Lalu Prasad Yadav, who set up the university when he was the chief minister, tweeted in Hindi, what translates to, “After the name of Jayaprakashji, I established the JP University thirty years ago at my Karmabhoomi. Now, at that very university, the Sanghi Bihar government and officials who follow the Sangh’s ideology are removing the ideals of the great socialist leaders JP-Lohia. This is intolerable. The government must take immediate actions.”
Though Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is in alliance with the BJP-led NDA, Kumar is also an ardent follower of the ideologies of Jayaparakash and Lohia. According to Education Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary, upon knowledge, Nitish Kumar took no time in taking immediate actions on the changes and stated that “tradition was not followed” and that the government will not accept a syllabus which is “against the public mood”. In his statement, Choudhury also noted that the chief minister has warned other universities in Bihar to consult education officials before making syllabus changes and asserted that no such steps will be allowed in the future, keeping in mind public interest.
Allegedly, JP University has also violated the rules while approving the changes in the syllabus. According to protocol, any changes in the syllabus must go through the state’s Governor, who is also the Chancellor of the University. However, in this case, Governor Phagu Chauhan appeared to be in dark regarding the exclusion of chapters on Narayan and Lohia from the syllabus.
The university’s vice-chancellor and other top officials were summoned from Chhapra to Patna on September 2 to provide an explanation on why a university named after Jayaprakash Narayan scrapped chapters about his movement and of Ram Manohar Lohia.
Speaking to the Times of India, the education minister also informed that the additional chief secretary of the education department, Sanjay Kumar, and the director of higher education, Rekha Kumari had summoned the vice-chancellor and registrar of JP University for satisfactory clarification, failing which they will be summoned to the department and asked to present a detailed background. He further informed that any new ordinance, statute and syllabus can’t be implemented without the approval of the Bihar Higher Education Council and the governor, and that in this instance, the norm has not been followed.
According to a report by the Print, former professor of Patna University, B.K. Mishra, who was also a member of the academic committee which reviewed the syllabi of universities in Bihar, explained, “There were several sub-committees for various subjects and after it was finalised, it was sent to the universities with a rider that 10 percent of the recommended syllabus can be changed to meet the local needs and aspirations. Say that the university in Darbhanga wanted to introduce Maithili poet Vidyapati, they could do so under this rider. In Patna University, the syllabus remained unchanged.”
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JP University’s registrar, R.P. Babu, told the Indian Express, “We had adopted the revised syllabus given by Raj Bhavan for our scheduled 2018-20 Master’s courses. We do not want to go into the merits or demerits of the decision, or the reasons why the chapters on JP and Lohia were dropped. But we will restore the chapters with immediate effect, as it is within our powers to do so. We are going to add chapters on JP and Lohia in the second semester.”
While the controversy will certainly lead to the revision of the syllabus of the JP University, under strict orders of Chief Minister and JDU supremo Nitish Kumar, it is noteworthy that the changes were made during the gubernatorial tenure of veteran BJP leader Lalji Tandon. These recent events are likely to further dent the BJP-JDU alliance in the state.