I dedicate myself to preserve the unity, integrity and security of the nation and also strive hard to spread this message among my fellow countrymen. I take this pledge in spirit of unification of my country which was made possible by the vision and action of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. I also solemnly resolve to make my own contribution to ensure internal security of my country.
That’s the pledge the University Grants Commission (UGC) wants around 30 million students to take on 31 October, the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The apex higher education regulator wrote to all universities on 17 October, asking them to pass the message to their thousands of affiliated colleges.
Patel, a lifelong Congressman, was the first home minister of independent India and is considered by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as an icon of national unity. Patel’s birthday has been observed as National Unity Day since 2014.
In its note, which Mint has reviewed, UGC has asked universities to also invite freedom fighters to campuses to talk about nationalism, Patel, and “current issues”.
While none of these are mandatory, UGC has asked the universities to keep the human resources development ministry posted on the events and programmes conducted.
“As a mark of befitting respect to our beloved leader, you are requested to kindly ensure these activities may be undertaken in your esteemed university and all affiliated colleges,” the circular issued by UGC secretary Jaspal S. Sindhu said. “I would feel highly obliged, if the action taken on above activities...is sent to ministry of human resource development....”
In February, the HRD ministry said all 46 central universities would prominently display the national flag. In May, UGC wrote to universities, asking them to avoid plastic flags (for environmental reasons), give the national flag a position of honour on campuses, and to ensure no disrespect was shown to it.
Both were a response to events earlier in the year when a meeting in Jawaharlal Nehru University to mark the third anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru, one of the people responsible for the attacks on Parliament in 2001, saw anti-India slogans being raised.
That resulted in the arrest of the university’s student union president, sparking protests by students across the country.