New JNU, New Motto

The adoption of the new motto aims to preserve institutional legacy of JNU and its distinctiveness underlining its commitment to vanish darkness of ignorance and disseminating light of true knowledge, well encompassing any ideological absolutism by opening our minds to newer possibilities and contributing to the global knowledge creation. 
Keywords: JNU, Education, University, Motto, Logo, Institution, Legacy, Study, Knowledge
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The motto of a University is an expression of its educational philosophy and is a source of value orientation amongst its students. It need not always be unique and forward looking, rather it is a reflection of thoughts and principles which is well representative of its learning model and culture. More so, it should be emotionally resonating with the mood of campus. 

I can well recall my boarding school (Colvin Taluqdars College, Lucknow) motto “Noblesse Oblige” drawing my early childhood mental inquisitiveness to absorb with its meaning of nobility entails duty and social responsibility, or to say my graduate years at University of Allahabad trying to understand Latin phrase “Quot Rami Tot Arbores”. It is well signified with the University seal featuring the Banyan tree and conveying the message of penetrating power of knowledge and outreach of wisdom, meaningfully summing up as many branches so many trees. 

The prestigious western institutions like Stanford University (California) with the motto adopted in german “Die Luft Freiheit weht” well encapsulates the vision of intellectual freedom and spirit of enquiry that drives towards change in forging new paths through education and learning. Similarly, the motto “aa no bhadrah kratavo yantu vishwatah”, of new Nalanda University (Bihar) well translates into letting the glistening force of knowledge and wisdom come from all sides. If we look back in history, it was the force of this idea that had made Nalanda the attractive seat of higher learning, predating the formation of leading modern European Universities of today. It drew the attention of global minds from East and West both. Nalanda’s approach to the power of philosophy and understanding of religion has shaped for a longtime the culture and thought schools of Asia.  

In a civilizational state like Bharat, the motto of any university or educational institution must well encapsulate national consciousness while upholding academic freedom and ideological diversity both. It must also enforce a sense of social responsibility in pursuit of the well being of humanity based on knowledge derivatives. 

Mottos of educational institutions are not philosophically nobler in words but an inspiration to excel in knowledge, desire for truth and diverseness, devoid of any impulse and to strengthen a sense of empathy within different minds. It is this belief in the power of accepting diverse thoughts and ideas, being open to new perspectives and aspirations which leads to boundless intellectual curiosity in any academic ecosystem. Universities are supposed to be beacons of knowledge leading to the path of truth and light from ignorance and rigidness. But what if a university ecosystem is well soaked and absorbed in the absoluteness of one idea and perspective. 

The recent adoption of University motto by JNU in the form of ‘Tamsomay Jyotirgamay’, taken from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is well-timed decision by the administration. The University itself in last year’s has undergone meaningful efficacious changes. Gone are the days of old JNU, when it uses to monopolize and patronize the ideological commitments of few and simply dismiss other’s notion because of its seeming implausibility. 

To say, the old JNU used to foster forces of gender power and equality but it could never go beyond the ability of narrative building around limitless resistance and protests against our value system. It failed to accept or even acknowledge the gender perspectives in Indic philosophy. The institution got its first women Vice-Chancellor only in recent years, and now 28 administrative positions in University are with women faculties. The new JNU has shifted the debate on gender from mere resistance to representation and empowerment from admissions to recruitment. 

In addition, another shift which the University reflects is in terms of its ‘ideological activism’ primarily centered around secessionist views and divisiveness, to a more open and diverse academic ecosystem. The new JNU has witnessed more discussions and debates on key issues like cultural nationalism, Indic philosophy and knowledge traditions, soft power and diaspora, climate change and global governance reforms, inclusive growth and social entrepreneurship, aspiring India and universal brotherhood, urbanization and public infrastructure growth, social cohesion and equity, digitalization and financial inclusion, economic self-reliance to adoption of New Education policy. India’s ascendance in global politics has thrown new debates and interest on Indo Pacific, South-South cooperation, G20 and UN reforms. 

With the starting of new schools, centres and programs in engineering, management and entrepreneurship, national security studies, North East region, Indian Traditional music and dance, and Indian Languages the discourse and political character of JNU has completely shifted to newer areas. The technology-education interface has promoted e-learning models and academic interest for Artificial Intelligence, Cyber security, Genomics, Quantum computing, Robotics and new Energy solutions. While social science remains relevant, studying STEM has also become important. 

Moreover, the new JNU symbolises politics of dialogue and discussion, assimilation and accommodation over confrontational activism of the past. Gone are the days when University was in bad news for its ideological driven politics of protest. There is a larger adherence to University rules and guidelines, activism has its place but within the ambit of institutional order and with the spirit of epistemological pluralism. The adoption of the new motto aims to preserve institutional legacy of JNU and its distinctiveness underlining its commitment to vanish darkness of ignorance and disseminating light of true knowledge, well encompassing any ideological absolutism by opening our minds to newer possibilities and contributing to the global knowledge creation. 

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Abhishek Pratap Singh

Abhishek Pratap Singh holds PhD in China Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University and teaches at Deshbandhu College, University of Delhi

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