Remembering A Gentle Soul

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Sh.K.R.Narayanan,who,passed away after a brief illness,has left indelible imprint on the minds of not only people in power structure, but on ordinary people as well. Here I wish to narrate few of my experiences with the departed soul, in person , as well as in correspondence ,when he was holding the position of Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and later as the President of the country.

It was probably in year 1979,when I was residing in Periyar hostel in JNU as a research scholar, I had a visitor Amarjit Chandan, a Punjabi poet from London, who had probably come to attend a seminar on Punjab peasantry, being held in JNU by Centre for the study Regional Development at that time. As Chandan was putting up with me, a burglary took place in my hostel room, in which a fine jacket of Chandan was stolen, apart from few other small items. I got upset, as I was not financially so strong as to compensate the loss of my guest. So I went to Sh. K.R. Narayanan, who was Vice-Chancellor of our University at that time .I took the General Secretary of JNU students union Sh. Anil Chaudhary along. After listening to me patiently, Sh. Narayanan started laughing gently and asked what could he do in such matters? Anil Chaudhary pleaded for financial help from student aid fund to compensate the guest. Dr. Narayanan readily agreed and sanctioned some amount, which I could pay to my guest. This was a small event, but it left an impression of his gentleness and concern for low income group students of the University.

Years later, in year 1998, I was selected as Professor in Hindi in an open competition by a highly competent selection committee having Prof. Naamvar Singh, Prof. Nityanand Tiwari and Prof.Bachchan Singh like eminent Hindi scholars as experts at Panjab University Chandigarh, after many years of teaching at Punjabi University Patiala and Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar. However at that time RSS&BJP lobby in Panjab University Syndicate threw mud at experts and myself and got the item rejected. Though my academic merit and credentials in terms of publication and other matters could not be questioned, the real reason to get the selection annulled was that this lobby considered the experts and myself as ‘leftist’ and they had declared that they would not allow any ‘leftist’ to enter the University, particularly in Hindi deptt. Upset at this development, I sent representations to President of the country Sh. K.R.Narayanan, Vice-President and Chancellor of Panjab University Chandigarh and Prime Minister of India. Incidentally the then Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University was appointed by Sh. Narayanan as Vice-President and Chancellor and RSS lobby was dead set against him. The only response, that too quite promptly, came from Sh. Narayanan’s office, informing me that my representation had been sent to Ministry of Human Resources for consideration. Neither the Vice-President or the Prime Minister’s office cared to respond. Although I knew the fate of my representation at the hands of the Human Resources Ministry of that time , in spite of it coming through the office of the President, which was likely to be thrown in dustbin and as I got no response from them in all these years, I suppose it was either consigned to dustbin or lies in dusty old files. Yet I was touched by the gesture of Sh. Narayanan.Later I sent some of my publications, particularly on Martyr Bhagat Singh and Dalit literature, it was again promptly responded with appreciation and books being placed on the shelf of the President. I knew that it was difficult to get time for the President to go through the books, particularly books in Hindi, yet his response was warm and encouraging.

Sh. Narayanan’s office always responded to my new year greetings , even after he demitted office in year 2002. After I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University Faculty early this year ,while paying courtesy call to the Vice-Chancellor, I expressed my wish that JNU could honor its former Vice-Chancellor and former President of the country with honorary degree of D.Litt. Perhaps it could not come through due to lack of time. But every member of JNU community-Faculty, students and staff-will always cherish his memory most fondly.

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