JNU introduces course on ‘Jihadi Terrorism’ in violation of assurance to Delhi Minorities Commission in 2018

DMC had told JNU that it finds repulsive the notion of introducing ‘Islamic Terrorism’ as a subject of research and teaching because this subject is hyped by Islamophobic powers at home and abroad

JNU campus
JNU campus
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Zafarul-Islam Khan

In May 2018, it came to the knowledge of Delhi Minorities Commission, which I headed at the time, that Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) is going to introduce a course on “Islamic Terrorism” in its proposed “Centre for National Security Studies”.

DMC issued a suo motu notice to Registrar, JNU asking:

(1) Is there any concept paper or proposal to include “Islamic Terror” in the proposed “Centre for National Security Studies”? If so, please provide a copy;

(2) Is the subject of “Islamic Terror” being taught in any Indian or foreign university, if so, please provide details;

(3) What areas are to be covered under this subject and what are (a) the sources, (b) methodology, (c) reference books/works/studies to be followed, and (d) who are the main experts who will take part in the implementation, research and teaching of this subject?;

(4) Has the current administration of JNU considered the implications of introducing this subject in the campus, on its students and on the broader society outside? If so, please provide a copy of any such assessment note prepared on this subject;

(5) Please provide a full list of the members of the Academic Council of JNU marking those who were present during the meeting where the above proposal was adopted;

(6) Since there is a report that “many members” of the Academic Council objected to the introduction of this subject, was there any voting and if so what was the result;

(7) Please provide a copy of the minutes of the said meeting where the subject was discussed and approved.

In his reply dated June 4, 2018 to the DMC notice, JNU Registrar Dr Pramod Kumar said that “there was no course on ‘Islamic terror’ proposed in the Academic Council”. The Registrar provided DMC with a copy of a concept paper on the proposed “Centre for National Security Studies”.

He further informed DMC that JNU has no knowledge if a course on “Islamic terrorism” is taught in any Indian or foreign university. He further informed DMC that a committee has been formed to consider comments received from the Academic Council members on the concept paper.

The Registrar also provided DMC with a copy of the minutes of the 145th Academic Council meeting where the concept paper was placed for discussion. The minutes say that some comments said some similar courses are being offered in other departments and centres of the university and therefore, overlapping should be avoided. To discuss these comments, a committee was established during the Academic Council meeting on December 1, 2017. The Committee held a number of meetings in which it discussed suggestions and comments on the concept paper.

JNU introduces course on ‘Jihadi Terrorism’ in violation of assurance to Delhi Minorities Commission in 2018

DMC found from the papers sent by the JNU Registrar, that contrary to the assurance given by him, the concept paper provided by JNU did include “Islamic Terrorism” as part of “key areas” of the proposed centre which will first do research about these areas before starting teaching them.

DMC wrote back to the Registrar, JNU saying, “You say that ‘there was no course on “Islamic Terror” proposed in the Academic Council’, but we find that ‘Islamic terrorism’ is mentioned as part of ‘key areas’ under ‘Areas of Work’ for the proposed Centre for National Security Studies. You may be technically correct taking the plea that the issues related to the proposed Centre are still not finalized and that members of the Academic Council have been asked to submit their comments and suggestions for consideration by a special committee established for this purpose.

DMC said that it finds repulsive the notion of introducing ‘Islamic Terrorism’ as a subject of research and teaching because this subject is very much publicized and hyped by Islamophobic powers at home and abroad. Moreover, this will cause deterioration of the communal atmosphere in the campus and beyond and will create wrong notions about Indian Muslims.

DMC advised the JNU Registrar to introduce ‘religious terrorism’ as a subject because some followers of all major religions have used religion as a cover for their political ambitions. A larger focus will cover this phenomenon properly and will help in a better understanding of the scourge of terrorism.

DMC in its letter further said, “In this way you will also avoid spreading communalism in the campus and beyond. The Commission will continue to monitor this issue and, if need be, will take further action” (See Delhi Minorities Commission Annual Report 2017-18, pp 92-94: https://archive.org/details/for-archivedmc-annual-report-2017-18-email )

It is shocking now to find, as per an Indian Express report dated August 30, 2021, that JNU has indeed introduced a course on “Jihadi Terrorism” and State-sponsored terrorism. The course, strangely says that “Jihadi terrorism” is the only form of “fundamentalist-religious terrorism”, and that Communist regimes in the erstwhile Soviet Union and China were the “predominant State-sponsors of terrorism” that influenced “radical Islamic States”.

According to the Indian Express report, the course will be offered to students pursuing an MS with specialisation in International Relations after a BTech in Engineering — online classes for the monsoon semester start on September 20.

Arvind Kumar, Chairperson of the Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies at JNU, told the Indian Express that he has designed the course. Asked about the reference to only one religion in the module on “fundamentalist-religious terrorism”, he said it was “because Islamic terrorism is a world-accepted thing. After the Taliban, it has gained momentum now.”

He added that “to the best of my knowledge”, he has “not come across” an instance of any other religion resorting to methods of terrorism. On the reference only to Soviet Union and China as “predominant state-sponsors of terrorism”, Kumar said: “State-sponsored terrorism is very difficult to define, we have to find evidence for it and only then we can include it.”

Clearly, the course is beyond the expertise area of Prof. Kumar. He is blissfully unaware that people from all religions, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism etc. have indulged in terrorism. Prof. Kumar is unaware of dozens of Hindu terrorist outfits in our own country.

(The writer is former Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission. Views are personal)

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