By becoming more diverse, JNU can aspire to be a truly great institution, writes Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University has once again found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons

  • The disturbing scenes of a broken server room and mayhem-seekers having a field day around the campus have caused discomfort in every citizen's mind

  • What has happened in JNU cannot be undone, but new beginnings can always be made

Jawaharlal Nehru University has once again found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons. The disturbing scenes of a broken server room and mayhem-seekers having a field day around the campus have caused discomfort in every citizen's mind.

The nursery of ultra-leftism, JNU, first entered the national conscious in the digital age via the disturbing scene that saw a clutch of students show their fangs by raising "tukde-tukde" slogans. While people have called for the cauterisation of this wound I call JNU, one should investigate the problem through the process of scientific enquiry — a practice that JNU has always prided itself upon.

First, we need to ask ourselves how the thought processes of Left-leaning and Right-leaning individuals differ. For that, we need to rely on the Rotter Locus of Control Test. Developed by American scientist Julian Rotter, the test is a set of 29 questions that differentiates people into those with External Locus of Control and Internal Locus of Control. In a paper published by psychologist Theodore Dembroski, it has been found that leftists have an External Locus of Control, while rightists have an Internal Locus of Control. In other words, rightists have greater internal control while leftists consider external factors as the culprit for their actions.

It should be noted that Dembroski's paper on locus of control isn't based on economic principle — it only deals with the basic behaviour of the Left and Right. Dembroski found that leftists and rightists are different personality types. Then why is the ideology that is being nursed in JNU dangerous? The answer lies in a social psychology theory called 'Moral Foundation Theory', developed by psychologists Joshua Greene and Jonathan Haidt. It states that each of us have a morality meter in our brain that determines what we consider wrong or right. There are six parameters to judge our morality: Care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty.

 By becoming more diverse, JNU can aspire to be a truly great institution, writes Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

File image of JNU protests. PTI

It has been found through research that the morality of Right-leaning individuals is sensitive to all the six parameters but considers loyalty as the most important factor of their morality, but a Leftist's brain is sensitive to only "liberty, care and fairness". Thus, it seems moralistic for the Left to raise Azadi slogans as a celebration of "liberty". The problem lies in the fact that because a Leftist's brain considers "loyalty to the country" as a lesser trait on morality scale, the sloganeering can often be viewed as 'anti-national'; they can raise slogans for terrorists as they did on the death anniversary of Afzal Guru by raising 'tukde-tukde' slogans in 2016.

As 'sanctity' is another parameter that is also not important to them, they have on occasion hurt the honour and sanctity of our armed forces as well as the sentiments of some Hindus. In 2010, when 76 soldiers were killed in a Maoist attack in Dantewada, there were celebrations on campus. In 2000, Pakistani poets celebrated their country's deeds during the Kargil war while denigrating the Indian Army inside JNU. In 2013, Mahisasura Day was celebrated where Goddess Durga was depicted in a disparaging manner.

These actions have always rubbed a section of the general population and Right-leaning individuals the wrong way. It is the Right-leaning emphasis on 'loyalty' that is often mocked by the Left when they call people "Bhakts". Left-leaning individuals are habitual disruptors, as on their moral scale "respect for authority" is not important; this is a troublesome quality as they may sometimes be prone to vandalism as a display of their resentment. This is not the first time in JNU that a vice-chancellor has been harassed. In 1983, JNU was closed for a year as the Left student union went on a rampage and looted then-vice-chancellor PN Srivastav's residence — an act for which the university had to be closed for a year.

We must question ourselves about the role of JNU and the media in shaping the nation's ideology and how an ideological cold war being waged by a section of the Left extremists masquerading as Left-leaning intellectuals? To answer that, we must first understand a theory called "confirmation bias". If a student is thrust into a Left ecosystem and taught largely Left-inspired literature, the thought process begins to take hold and 'confirmation bias' can take root in the mind of a student.

Confirmation bias is what happens when people tend to screen out information that doesn't conform to their pre-existing world view and will only accept those bits of information that makes their political ideology stronger. The next step from this is 'informational dominance' that has seen simple students turn into ultra-leftists. One would do well to recall the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where the company tried to dominate information that a person receives, so that the public view can be shaped in a particular way.

In a university, information about the world often comes from professors. If one's professor has a particular ideological leaning, it is possible that the teachings will shape the student in that manner and the student will only read papers and journals that adhere to that ideology. In a paper by Susan Friske, it was found that confirmation bias was the main reason for inter-group conflicts. The rot in JNU isn't the students, but the confirmation bias coupled with informational dominance that is perpetuated by some professors.

What has happened in JNU cannot be undone, but new beginnings can always be made. I am reminded of an experiment to find the Law of Weighted Average, where people were told to guess the total number of jellybeans in a bottle. It was found that when fewer people guessed, the combined answer was far away from the real answer, but as more and more people started guessing, the final count was close to the real answer. This shows us the importance of diversity in opinions. We need to make JNU diverse. This is when this institution will truly become great.

Before concluding, I want to acknowledge that a lot of Left-leaning intellectuals and narrative-creators will find what I have written problematic. I request them to read about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognise their own incompetence. It is time for the Left intellectual to stop belittling the Right intellectuals as such attempts reaffirm the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

The author is Union Minister of Jal Shakti, Government of India

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Updated Date: Jan 14, 2020 11:11:31 IST