HYDERABAD: A University Grants Commission (UGC) circular to vice-chancellors of all universities to get students to pledge their support to the armed forces by writing letters and cards to them on September 29, 2018, designated as Surgical Strike Day, has been heavily criticised by students, educationists and opposition parties. The UGC circular reads: ‘The Government of India has decided to observe September 29 mas ‘Surgical Strike Day’ to mark the second anniversary of the Indian Army’s strike against terror cells across the Line of Control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The NCC units of all universities should organise a special parade on September 29 after which the NCC commander shall address them on the modalities of protection of the borders. The varsities may organise a talk-session calling ex-servicemen to sensitise students about sacrifices made by the armed forces.
‘A multimedia exhibition will be organised around India Gate on September 29. Similar exhibitions may be organised in states, Union Territories, important towns and cantonments across the country. The institutions should encourage students and faculty members to visit these exhibitions.’
The circular further added, ‘The commission suggested that students pledge their support for armed forces by writing letters and cards which may be produced in both digital and physical format. The letters can be publicised on social media as well. The letters and cards should be shared with PRO Defence and PIB for publicity across various media.’ The UGC circular has been called a surgical strike on educational institutions.
Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar told the media that, “the circular is only advisory in nature, not mandatory or imposed. The move has been initiated only to pay respect to the armed forces and highlight their contribution and is not compulsory for the universities to follow. In fact, students and college authorities themselves conveyed to the government that they wanted to mark the day.”
N. Narayana, convener, CERA (Centre for Educational Research and Analysis) said, “The purpose of UGC’s circular is a political strike on students. Previously also such strikes have been carried but it was never revealed because it’s a defence matter and related to defence strategy of the nation. There were also doubts whether such strikes were actually carried out or not. This has been planned keeping in view the 2019 General Election.’’
He added that it was forcing students to observe the day because government “wants to draw mileage out of it. We are sending wrong signals to other nations and it only builds tension with our neighbours.” He said there is “no doubt that defence people sacrifice for the country, but every citizen is sacrificing for the nation. This government always glorifies the Army, so its intentions are clear.’’
Prakash Kona, proctor, English and Foreign Languages University, said the university has not received the circular “but we have heard about the circular. Since it is not mandatory to observe Surgical Strike Day it gives the universities an alternative.” Arif Ahammed, general secretary, UoH Students’ Union said, the central government and UGC have come up with many such circulars. He said they use higher educational institutions as a tool “to fulfil their political propaganda. We are not at all surprised as right from the beginning when they came to power they have been using the Indian Army and higher educational institutions for their political benefit. By talking about the reputation of the Indian Army they are indirectly degrading it.”