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JNU event bars books published before 2016 – except for those on Deendayal Upadhyay and BR Ambedkar

The event was held on November 14, though the university says Jawaharlal Nehru’s birthday had nothing to do with it.

Books about Hindutva icon Deendayal Upadhyay enjoyed an exemption at a book fair at Jawaharlal Nehru University on November 14 – an exemption that the university’s eponymous India’s first prime minister himself did not have.

While the university barred books older than a year or so, it relaxed the rule for books about Upadhyay and Dalit icon BR Ambedkar. Here is an excerpt from a November 10 email sent to publishers participating in the book exhibition, according to The Telegraph:

Please follow the guidelines as given below: 

  1. Only books published in the year 2016-’17 should be displayed.
  2. All books on and about [Dalit icon and the architect of India’s Constitution] BR Ambedkar and Pandit Deendayal may also be displayed (published any time).

The letter was signed by an official of the university’s Dr BR Ambedkar Central Library, PTI reported.

The day-long exhibition, though held on Nehru’s birthday, had nothing to do with the occasion, librarian RC Gaur told PTI. “The date is a coincidence,” he said, and denied the guidelines for publishers were issued. Publishers, however, shared the contents of the official email sent from JNU with PTI.

Many publishers ignored the instruction, and brought books by and about Nehru, a publisher told The Telegraph. “We know what sells in JNU and we brought a lot of literature that can be called progressive...There was no checking,” he said.

Some students and teachers took umbrage at the university’s decision.

“They have tried to appropriate this date [November 14] and malign the legacy of Nehru,” JNU Teachers’ Association Secretary Pradeep Shinde said. “The state may try to sell an idea or an individual, but ultimately the contributions of great freedom fighters who stood for democracy, secularism and liberal values have a greater appeal.”

Vikas Yadav, the president of the JNU unit of National Students’ Union of India, said that the university had “disregarded Nehru’s ideology” by making the exemption for books about Upadhyaya, whose ideology is “completely in contrast” with Nehru’s.

Upadhyay was a leader of the Jan Sangh, a precursor to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and an erstwhile political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Last month, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh renamed the Mughalsarai Railway Station to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Station.

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