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Opposition leaders oppose ‘counter-terrorism’ course being offered in JNU: Here is all you need to know about it

The new elective course has been offered to engineering students who opt for a dual degree and go on to pursue an MS with specialisation in International Relations after completing their BTech in JNU.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has kicked up a storm after its academic council has approved a new ‘counter-terrorism’ course for engineering students pursuing a dual degree programme. Many opposition parties have opposed the inclusion of the particular course material.

CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam has written to the Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, raising objection to ‘prejudiced & inaccurate nature of the material being included in JNU course titled Counter-Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts & Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers’.

The CPI leader has, in his letter dated August 31, 2021, expressed remorse that “higher education is being used as a platform to communalise and politicise geopolitical issues through the presentation of half-truths and academically dishonest information”.

Criticising the course, CPI leader Binoy Viswam called it a ‘distortion of history’ to serve the vested political and communal interest of certain ideologies. Viswam wrote that the content of the course makes incredulous assertions pertaining to global terrorism and political regimes that have supported it.

He added in his letter that the statement in this counter-terrorism module includes assertions such as “Jihadi terrorism” the only form of fundamentalist-religious terrorism”. The course, under module, ‘State-sponsored Terrorism: Its Influence and Impact’ also refers to the Soviet Union and China alone for state-sponsored terrorism that influenced “radical-Islamist states”. Taking offence at what the module has to offer to the students, the CPI leader asserted that these statements are “deeply prejudiced and politically motivated”.

Screenshot of the letter written by the CPI leader to union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan

Slamming the JNU authorities who drafted the curriculum, Viswam said that it goes against the very ethos of education and critical thinking that has been the hallmark of eminent institutions like JNU.

He urged the Union Education Minister to intervene and ensure that the university deploys senior professors, who are experts in the subject matter, to undertake a comprehensive review of the course content. He asked Dharmendra Pradhan to ensure that such “biased” content is not allowed.

JNU offers a ‘counter-terrorism’ course, sparks controversy

The controversy erupted after Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Academic Council on August 17 cleared the new optional course, titled ‘Counter Terrorism, Asymmetric Conflicts and Strategies for Cooperation among Major Powers’. The new elective course has been offered to engineering students who opt for a dual degree and go on to pursue an MS with specialisation in International Relations after completing their BTech in JNU.

Despite the fact that this paper is optional, engineering students will learn how to deal with terrorism and the role of world powers in this regard.

The rapid spread of jihadi cultist violence is due to a perverted interpretation of the Quran, reads one module of JNU’s new course

One of the modules of the new course, titled ‘Fundamentalist-religious Terrorism and its Impact’, reads: “Fundamentalist – religious-inspired terrorism has played a very critical and dominant role in the spawning of terrorist violence at the beginning of the 21st century. The perverse interpretation of the Koran has resulted in the rapid proliferation of jihadi cultist violence that glorifies death by terror in suicidal and homicidal variants.”

“The exploitation of 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 (is) on the increase,” it adds.

Module claims the Soviet Union and China provides tactical support to Jihadists

Another module, titled ‘State-sponsored Terrorism: Its Influence and Impact’, states that the Soviet Union and China Soviet Union and China have been “heavily involved” in providing “logistical support to Communist ultras and terrorists”.

“Terrorism has always a geographical base and support havens for its operations. State-sponsored terrorism has been largely during the ideological war between the West and the Soviet Union and China. 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,” it states.

“In the post-Cold War period, the trend has been well adopted 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,” it reads.

Professor Arvind Kumar expresses his thought behind the introduction of the new course

Speaking about the new course, Professor Arvind Kumar, Professor and Chairperson of the School of International Studies, who designed the course, told Aaj Tak, “This is part of our course where students after doing BTech come to study about International Relations. That’s why we choose such a subject which has to do with international security as well as technology.”

Arvind Kumar is the chairperson of the Centre for Canadian, United States and Latin American Studies who co-designed the course with assistant professor Anshu Joshi of the same centre.

From India’s standpoint, the war against terrorism is a critical issue. This problem becomes even more significant at a time when many countries around the world are not paying as much attention to India’s security concerns as they should, added Kumar.

“Jihad is a global challenge. At a time when Afghanistan has been occupied by the Taliban, nothing could have been a more contemporary topic than this,” he said.

Different countries must work together to combat jihad, which has a significant impact on South Asia’s geopolitics. Those who are debating this should also be aware that cyber and economic terrorism has been included in this document, said Professor Arvind Kumar.

Dean of JNU’s School of International Studies disassociates himself from the controversy

Meanwhile, distancing himself from the controversy, Aswini Mohapatra, the Dean of JNU’s School of International Studies (SIS) and concurrent faculty in the School of Engineering, said he was not involved in the design of the course.

Ruchir Gupta, Dean of the School of Engineering, said Arvind Kumar, Chairperson of the Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies, wanted to introduce the course. “We have a joint programme with SIS, they asked us to pass this course so we passed it. I’m not an expert on international relations,” Gupta said.

Although the Academic Council, the university’s decision-making committee on academic concerns, has approved the new subject, approval from the Executive Council, the university’s highest authority for management matters, will be required in the near future. If the Executive Council also approves this request for a new JNU course, the optional paper will be offered to students in the new session beginning September 20.


Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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