When Abhijit Banerjee was thrown into Tihar jail

Abhijit Banerjee. Photo credit: YouTube

Twenty-six years ago, a young JNU-ite was thrown into Tihar jail for protesting against the then Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice-Chancellor and no one knew that this student would one day be a Nobel Laureate.

Yes, the new Nobel winner in economics Abhijit Banerjee was arrested and later sent to Tihar jail for "ten days or so" in 1984 along with some other students for gheraoing the Vice-Chancellor for expelling the then JNU Students Union president.

This was recalled by Banerjee, an alumni of JNU's Centre For Economic Studies and Planning, three years ago in an article published in a newspaper while commenting on the arrests and protests after then JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition.

He recalled that police arrived late afternoon, broke down the vice-chancellor’s house to rescue him while arresting a group of them. "We were beaten (I was) and thrown into Tihar jail, charged not quite with sedition, but attempt to murder and the rest. The charges were eventually dropped — thank god — but not before we spent ten days or so in Tihar," he recalled in the article.

The police action, he wrote, was "sponsored" by the then Congress government and the protesting students did not had the support of the faculty, many of whom were prominent members of the Left.

"It seems that the current mess, though much more shrill and unpleasant (I don’t recall the home minister having anything to say about the matter back in 1983, nor lawyers beating up journalists, nor the entire opposition trying to score points), is in many ways quite similar," he said referring the BJP government's attack on students.

Professor Anjan Mukherjee, who taught Banerjee at the JNU, recalled Banerjee as a "very good student, among the best that we have taught. We always expected that he would go far and he did."

"He has been at the forefront for many years. When his book came out in 2008, that is the time when we thought that he would get the Nobel. We were all hoping that he would get it. There are not too many teachers in India who can say that they have produced a Nobel laureate. All of us at the Centre for Economics Studies and Planning can proudly say so," Mukherjee was quoted by PTI as saying.

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