New Delhi: A new course introduced at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has triggered a controversy for allegedly “peddling RSS ideology”.
Titled the ‘Counter Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts and Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers’, the course is an optional paper for students pursuing a Masters of Science, with a specialisation in international relations after a Bachelors in Technology in engineering.
The course was added after JNU’s Academic Council cleared its inclusion in a meeting on 17 August, which was later approved by the Executive Council.
While the course got no less than Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s approval, its inclusion has drawn criticism from students and staff. Members of the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) told ThePrint that the course material lacked in terms of rigour, and was passed in the meeting without any discussion.
“Whatever the university wanted is done … The way these courses have been structured and passed is surprising,” Maushumi Basu, JNUTA secretary and professor at the School of International Studies, said.
What ‘counter-terrorism’ course includes
According to the course material accessed by ThePrint, its objectives are to “explore the taxonomical patterns of terrorism based on region, typologies, ideologies, patterns and sources of conflict. It will also make an assessment on counter terrorism cooperation among major powers. How the cooperation in countering terrorism is becoming a matter of priority for nation states”.
This means that the course will talk about terrorism, factors like religion, geography, politics, etc., that lead to its rise. The course will also include sessions that address counter terrorism, and the role intelligence agencies and security forces — national and international — will play.
Spread across 11 sessions, the course will also talk about asymmetrical conflicts, their nature and how they arise. This will also cover the role of religion and the state in the formation of terrorist organisations.
Explaining what ‘asymmetric conflict’ is, Professor Arvind Kumar of the School of International Studies, who designed the course, said, “Asymmetric conflict is where non-state actors use means of warfare which are above the technology and means of warfare that exist in the state. Take for example the 9/11 bombing in the USA: Despite all the technological development in the state, the al Qaeda terrorists were able to demystify the state and conduct their attack. This kind of conflict is where there are groups of have and have-nots, there is an asymmetric balance of power.”
Other examples of asymmetric conflict include guerrilla warfare, suicide bombings and hijackings.
The segments on ‘Fundamentalist-religious Terrorism and its impact’ and ‘State-sponsored Terrorism: It’s Influence and Impact’ are among the parts that have raised eyebrows.
The brief for the former segment reads: “The perverse interpretation of the Koran has resulted in the rapid proliferation of a jihadi cultist violence that glorifies death by terror in suicidal and homicidal variants.”
This indicates that the course will hold the misrepresentation of the religious Islamic text as the cause for “jihadi cultist violence”.
Blaming radical Islamist groups for exploiting the cyberspace and spreading violence and hatred through online means, it further notes: “The exploitation of the cyberspace by the radical Islamic religious clerics has resulted in the electronic propagation of jihadi terrorism world over.
“Online electronic dissemination of Jihadi terrorism has resulted in the spurt of violence in non-Islamic societies that are secular and are now increasingly vulnerable to the violence that has been on the increase.”
The segment on ‘State-sponsored Terrorism: It’s Influence and Impact’ mentions how the Chinese and the Russian “funded terrorism”. It claims that due to the rising tensions between the Capitalist and Communist blocs during the Cold War, Communist countries (China and the erstwhile Soviet Union) started funding terror groups in order to spread their belief worldwide. It further claims that after the end of the Cold War era, several Islamic jihadist groups have been using Russian and Chinese tactics of warfare to progress.
“The Soviet Union and China have been predominant state-sponsors of terrorism and they have been heavily involved in terms of their intelligence agencies training, aiding and providing logistical support to communist ultras and terrorists. In the post-Cold War period, the trend has been well adapted by several radical Islamic states that have mirrored the earlier tactical strategies of the Communist powers and have continued to aid and arm the various terrorist groups.”
Not always by the book
This isn’t the first time syllabus content has become a flashpoint in schools and universities.
Only last month, the Delhi University was in the spotlight after the university’s Oversight Committee removed three stories from their English Literature syllabus.
The stories were written by Mahasweta Devi and Dalit writers Bama Faustina Soosairaj and Sukirtharani, and touched upon the theme of Dalit women and their struggles. The committee claimed that the texts were removed due to their gruesome sexual content and portrayal of the Indian military in poor light.
A similar controversy erupted last week after the Jai Prakash University (sic) in Bihar decided to drop chapters on thoughts of socialist ideologues Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan. State Education Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary said CM Nitish Kumar was unhappy about the development, and had ordered the change revoked.
In February this year, the Karnataka State Education Board had asked for the removal of certain paragraphs from a chapter titled ‘Birth of New Religions’ from Class 6 Social Sciences textbooks.
This came after objections were raised by the Brahmin community over references to food scarcity in the post-Vedic period due to religious sacrifices of animals by Brahmins.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)