New Delhi: Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam never shared with media why exactly he left the Nalanda University project. The project was his brainchild whose origin could be traced back to his address to the Bihar Legislative Assembly on March 28, 2006. The Nalanda University proudly displays his speech on its official website. The University would, however, loath to admit why Kalam left the project despite being nominated as its first Visitor under Clause 5 (e) of the Nalanda University Act, 2010.
It was obvious that he was upset the way project had been handled. But it is for the first time that Bihar Times has accessed the complete truth in Kalam’s own words- his letter to the External Affairs Minister on July 4, 2011. Kalam’s letter to Mr. S.M. Krishna reveals why he was not in a position to become the first Visitor of the Nalanda University.
Para 3 of the letter reads-
“Having involved in various academic and administrative proceedings of Nalanda University since August 2007, I believe that the candidates to be selected/appointed to the post of Chancellor and Vice Chancellor should be of extraordinary intellect with academic and management expertise. Both the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor have to personally involve themselves full-time in Bihar, so that a robust and strong international institution is built”.
This letter dated July 4, 2011 was in possession of Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), MEA when he came to attend the Governing Board meeting at Patna on July 6 & 7, 2011. He read it to the Board in the first hour of the meeting, as the minutes of the proceedings indicate. But its mention was completely suppressed while interacting with the press. The matter was concealed for more than two months when an e-mail from Patna-based journalist K.K. Singh to Dr. Kalam brought the issue to light in mid-September.
Kalam felt frustrated with the people at helm of affairs. His resignation is evidentally a rebuff to Prof. Amartya Sen and his protégé Dr. Gopa Sabharwal, smuggled in as the Vice Chancellor-Designate without his knowledge. Being chairman, Governing Board, Prof. Sen’s position is equivalent to Chancellor (the University officially has none as yet). Neither Prof. Sen nor Dr. Sabharwal could inspire the confidence of Dr. Kalam.
Kalam and Prof. Sen represent the opposite ends of the spectrum. Dr. Kalam, though an expert in ‘rocket science’- a proverbially modern and complex discipline- is rooted in Indian tradition. He has worked for India’s self-reliance in defence sector. Prof. Amartya Sen on the other hand is one of those ‘run away’ success stories in academics. He ran away from India for dreamland in the West. Even the social welfare Trust that Prof. Sen founded in 1999 named Pratichi (West). In Chairman’s message on the website of Pratichi Trust Prof. Sen does not fail to remind us that he studied in Cambridge.
With a mind besotted with Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard he views Nalanda University through that prism. The glory of ancient Nalanda University was not really that students from all over East Asia came to study there. Its glory was that committed Pandits like Arya Dev, Silabhadra, Dharmapala, Santarakshita and Chandragomin spent their lives for the sake of that institution. But to Prof. Sen ‘Nalanda University’ is pure exotica. Had Amartya declared, having achieved and obtained everything an academician can dream of, building Nalanda University was his life’s mission and he would settle down in Bihar for that, one could have appreciated it. But Amartya views ‘Nalanda University’ as an opportunity for flying trips (at the cost of Indian taxpayers) and flowery speeches. The fault lies actually with Indian establishment. Entrusting the task reviving Nalanda University to Amartya Sen & Co is testimony of India’s obsequiousness. This obsequiousness is what Dr. Kalam has repeatedly warned Indians against.
Kalam’s letter is also an indictment of Dr. Gopa Sabharwal. The Reader from Lady Sri Ram College of Delhi University was smuggled in as Rector/Vice Chancellor-Designate by Dr. Amartya Sen. Bihar Times broke the story how Amartya Sen acted in an unauthorized fashion to recommend the name of Dr. Gopa Sabharwal for Rector’s post. The governing board now complains about lack of toilet facilities in Rajgir. It is pity they never thought about it while conferring in Singapore, New York and Tokyo.