'Observe 29 September as Surgical Strike Day': UGC issues circular to universities, Opposition terms it 'another jumla'

On Thursday, the University Grants Commission (UGC) directed universities and higher educational institutes across the country to observe 29 September as "Surgical Strike Day".

The UGC told the universities and institutes to mark the second anniversary of the Indian Army's strike against terror cells across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

University Grants Commission (UGC) issues circular to vice chancellors of all universities, provides list of activities which maybe undertaken on 29th September following Govt of India's decision to celebrate it as 'Surgical Strike Day'.

The UGC has planned various activities to mark the day-long celebrations. Talk-sessions by ex-servicemen about sacrifices by the armed forces, special parades, visit to exhibitions and sending greeting cards to pledge their support for armed forces, are among some of the activities prescribed by the UGC.

"The NCC units of all universities should organise a special parade on 29 September 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," the UGC said in a communication to all Vice Chancellors on Thursday.

"A multimedia exhibition will be organised around India Gate on 29 September. 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 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 said in its circular.

However, the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry said, "The circular is only advisory in nature, not mandatory or imposed". HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters the move has been initiated only to pay respect to the armed forces and highlight their contribution and achievements and is not compulsory for the universities to follow. He said that, in fact, students and various college authorities themselves conveyed to the government that they wanted to mark the day commemorating the Indian Army.

However, academicians expressed their displeasure over the move and criticised the idea of taking a pledge of nationalism. "This is typically the BJP trying to project themselves as nationalists. They have this great deficit of not being part of the national movement. Now they are trying to force it on people and militarise campuses," The Hindu quoted historian and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Aditya Mukherjee as saying. He also added that the right way to arouse nationalism in someone is to create an idea of a nation that is "appealing and inclusive".

Social media is also abuzz with reactions from politicians and journalists on government's decision to mark a day as Surgical Strike Day even as army jawans are being abducted and killed by Pakistani forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that instead of celebrating Surgical Strike Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should go and meet the family of the slain jawan who was brutally killed by Pakistani forces a few days ago.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal took to Twitter, and called the Centre's move "another jumla" of the Modi government.

Meanwhile, Congress's student-wing NSUI also expressed its opposition to the move, calling the circular an attempt at "increasing militarisation of universities" and labelling it as a "government agenda".

RJD leader Manoj Kumar Jha said the government circular is "a spectacle crafted meticulously to hide complete failure of the regime on all fronts besides digressing public attention from issues like the Rafale scam."

However, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar welcomed the move and said that, "Observation of 'Surgical Strike Day' on 29 September, 2018, by universities is a welcome move to pay our tributes to the armed forces. JNU is proud of our defence forces as the officers who graduate from India's six major defence institutes are our alumni."

Meanwhile, West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee said that educational institutes in his state would not celebrate Surgical Strike Day. "This is an agenda of the BJP and it is trying to push this agenda by using the UGC ahead of elections. It is a matter of shame that they are using the UGC to achieve their political agenda," Chatterjee said. "The Indian Army has always been kept above politics and controversies. But now we are seeing that the BJP is trying to malign and politicise the Indian Army. This is not right and we won't support it," he told PTI.

Reacting to the allegations, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said the TMC government has made it a practice to oppose each and every decision of the Centre. "Earlier also, we had seen Bengal government opposing directions by the UGC. This is not new," he added.

The Indian Army carried out 'surgical strikes' on 29 September, 2016, on seven terror launch pads across the LoC with the army saying its special forces inflicted "significant casualties" on terrorists preparing to infiltrate from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Sep 21, 2018 15:54:21 IST