Tuesday, July 5, 2022

JNU: Nationalism and India's Uncivil War by Makarand R. Paranjape (Book Review: 4.5*/5) !!!


13th Book of 2022


I don’t generally read books which are written on very heavy topics or are too historical or contains stuff that might make more than 50% of the book not comprehendible to me. Hence, I never pick up such pieces in either of the genres- fiction or non-fiction. Luckily, there are few topics which are of such character that you wish to know about them – either because of curiosity or to understand what exactly happened which made it so famous or relevant. One such topic for me has been about JNU – the college, what happens in its premise and what is the reason that makes the environment there so political and leftist rather than academic. I had no idea about the institution until 2016 until we know how a boy named Kanhaiya Kumar launched an agitation which became the talking point country wide; well, in international media too. I just completed reading the book named “JNU: Nationalism and India's Uncivil War” written by one of the oldest and prominent professors from the same university, Makarand R. Paranjape.


I am ashamed of myself that I didn’t hear his name or got to know about his stance against the Leftist crowd and particularly, Kanhaiya Kumar. It is only through this book that I went online and checked a lot of content which involved the author. This 270-odd pages book published by Rupa Publication is a combination of two aspects – Paranjape's memoir as an insider and personal journey at JNU and his stance and opinion on the activities that takes place in the JNU premises which gives it enough negative limelight. The book starts from his own journey – how he joined JNU and what made him leave IIT and move to this place which is always full of controversies and is completely different from what IIT offers. Then, author takes the story forward and explains how he got involved in the JNU row.


There is an extensive chapter where author shares a lot of open letters and how he responded to them vs how his responses were accepted. It is fun and exploratory to understand the viewpoints and opinions of both the sides – left and right and try gauging ourselves which side we want to stand with. It makes you question a lot of things – if favouring state and system completely is good or going extremely against them and bringing things on standstill a right choice. Author tries to give us a deep account of how typical JNU crowd thinks, what they need, what they do to get what they need and what is their agenda behind this. Everything that author mentions are highly debatable and controversial. You will definitely find complete support to this piece of work or a complete disregard- there's not going to be a normal reaction though author keeps insisting that he falls somewhere in between the left and right wing of our nation.


In a chapter, author gives a nice brief of the lives of Tagore and Gandhi – as their professional work and personal opinions at times stood completely with nation or it questioned the moral of the state. I really enjoyed reading this as I never knew much about Tagore’s various aspects of work and his opinions about our country. Few things really opened my eyes towards the history of our nation and how we have always been handling the extreme opinions and standing tough with all these voices roaring around us. Author speaks of how JNU has also produced great alumni's like Nirmala Sitharaman, S. Jaishankar, Abhijit Banerjee etc. and raises an expectation as well as question if JNU will produce such likeminded productive and nation-builders in the future considering its current opinionated and politically-influenced crowd. 


Author doesn’t shy away from narrating how JNU students run away from studies and want to protest on meagre issues even when it is something like rise in fees by some hundred-odd rupees or mandatory 75% attendance rule etc. He tells how students want the institution to be closed or lecture not happening for more than half of the year hence they find some issue to revolt against and ensure the whole attention is towards the same than studies. Lastly, author discusses how JNU can be further saved from such toxic and extremist culture and what needs to be done to make it an institute that can bring change and reform to our country in a positive manner and gets mention for great things happening than the reasons why it is currently mentioned regularly. Author’s hope and genuine care towards the institution is evident in every sentence that he’s written. The research work and documentation of all the JNU events since 2016 displays the hard work author has put to give this book a proper shape. 


Overall, if you have always questioned about JNU, leftists, anti-nationals, tukde-tukde gang and what the whole 2016 azadi slogans were all about, you should definitely pick this book up which has an equally sensational cover page. For a beginner, the language is tough as there are instances where you’ll have to refer to dictionary 7 times in just one sentence. Haha! So, pick it only if you have been reading journalism content since a long time and have good vocabulary prowess. I loved deep-diving into this complicated and controversial subject through Makarand Paranjape’s lenses. I give this book 4.5 stars out of 5. I have learnt a lot about the other side which I was looking forward to know since long.







Leif said...

I completely agree with what you have written. I hope this post could reach more people as this was truly an interesting reviews.

Charito said...

Thank you for this piece. I am so happy to have discovered your blog. Your review expresses much of what I’m working to express in the book I’m writing. I’ve posted an excerpt and link on my book blog readersmagnet review. Thank you much once again! I am delighted that I came here for your review.

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