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Remembering Dr. Kalam who faced resistance from students on his visit to JNU

The irony of the situation was that when Dr. Abdul Kalam from the same dais was praising JNU for their unique different thinking, he faced criticism and resistance from the students because of their difference of opinions.

During the winter of 2005, excitement and anticipation filled the air in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as a magnificent visitor entered our grounds.

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam walked into the JNU campus and I felt ecstatic as I watched this great icon, his excellent personality personified in goodness, a brilliant mind, Indian aerospace scientist who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007 yet the humblest leader India has ever seen.

The JNU crowds clapped wildly as he walked on stage. The Chancellor of JNU, Karan Singh, kept his welcome address short as he introduced Dr. Abdul Kalam as students waited almost impatiently for him to speak as his words were weighed in gold.

We can only make a difference when we think differently

After warming up to his session sharing how he felt a different atmosphere in JNU thicketed with greenery, he said that the minds of JNU are as fertile as the greenery, with students who think differently, expressing, “We can only make a difference when we think differently.” He had us spellbound as he moved in with his fiery passion into his speech, “Evolution of enlightened Citizen-Centric Society”.

He spoke on the law of development emphasizing in his simple yet powerful visionary manner how on the planet there are two kinds of nations, the developing and the developed nations. He stated, “For the developed to remain developed, they have to be competitive.”

He infused hope in the nation stating, “India can play a major role in developing a new model of an enlightened citizen-centric society which will provide prosperity, peace, and happiness to all the nations of the world.”

Difference of opinions

Amid his powerful resounding lecture, there were rumblings of dissatisfaction from the Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union (JNUSU) headed by the All India Students’ Association (AISA) due to their adversity to nuclear development for military advancement while having no issues with nuclear development for civil purposes.

AISA is a left-wing student organization in India, which describes itself as “the voice of the radical students’ movement” and is affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation.

In fact, during that time, Congress and the Left had severe battles in Parliament due to military nuclear development and the Left finally withdrew their support of the first UPA.

I noted the irony of the situation that when Dr. Abdul Kalam from the same dais was praising JNU for their unique different thinking, he faced criticism and resistance from the student union of that time because of their difference of opinions.

The leftist president of JNUSU at that time was Ms. Mona Das, a Ph.D. student, whose student union geared up in antagonism against  Dr. Abdul Kalam refusing to give him any dignitary honors and did not even present him the customary bouquet of flowers as a mark of their protest to his contribution to nuclear growth for military achievements.

I could not help thinking JNU was honored with a visit with one of our greatest geniuses of this age, but they chose to denigrate him. The greatness of the two sides was, on one hand, he chose to ignore the symbolic insult because he magnanimously rose above situations, while on the other hand, the section of students did not care at all who is in front when it comes to ideas and policies.

Kalam died while delivering a lecture

Six years back, he died on this day, July 27th in 2015, while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, where he collapsed and passed from an apparent cardiac arrest. He died in his favorite place, among students, addressing them from the dais. This was probably the way he would have wanted to go and he died peacefully.

On his death, thousands, including national-level dignitaries, attended the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameswaram, where he was buried with full state honors.

His full name was Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam born on 15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015), a distinguished Indian aerospace scientist who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering.

He spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), and was deeply involved in India’s civilian space program and military missile development efforts.

He was nicknamed the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missiles and launch vehicle technology.  He also played a major organizational, technical, and political role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.

11th President of India

Interestingly, Abdul Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the “People’s President”  he returned to his civilian life of education, writing, and public service after a single term. He received several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor.

One of his famous quotes was, “The objective of govt in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or races but the happiness of the common man.”

These words personify all that he stood for, he was the people’s president and his goal was to make people happy. His stupendous outreach to children was overwhelmingly impressive.  He was a simple genius as most geniuses are not even aware of their greatness and his powerful vision for India with his inventory skills transformed the nation.

 

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