On Government's Scholarship to young Irfan Habib

Home Ministry had raised objections to Irfan Habib's getting a Government scholarship for studies abroad because of his connection with the Communist Party of India. On Zakir Husain’s intervention, Nehru met Irfan Habib. Below is the letter Nehru wrote to Zakir Husain, the Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.

New Delhi 
12 August 1955

My dear Zakir Husain,

Irfan Habib came to see me this morning and I had a talk with him. When you mentioned his case to me, you gave me the impression that while he was a young man of leftist sympathies and ideas, he was not a regular member of the Communist Party. My own information was that he had been for some time past and was still a member of the Communist Party and had participated in a number of activities as such and through associated organisations. Also that some action had been taken against him by the University some time back. Irfan admitted all this.

I told him that there had never been any question of our coming in the way of his going abroad for study. The only question was whether he should be given a Government scholarship for this purpose. The purpose of giving Government scholarships is to train a person who might be of service to the State in some capacity or other in the future. If a person could not be relied upon to serve the State with discretion and integrity, then obviously this main purpose would not be served. No State could be expected to go out of its way to give a scholarship to a person on whom it could not rely or who was likely to indulge in activities which were harmful to the State. I use the word “State’'in a broader sense and not as applicable to a particular government. Also, I realise that it is rather difficult to draw a hard and fast line. Anyhow, it is not a question of differing views, political or other, but rather of a basic faith in a person’s integrity. My own experience of communists has been that it is exceedingly difficult to rely upon their word or on their basic integrity in this sense. Their loyalty to their party overrides all other loyalties and, therefore, they are prepared often to function in a way which cannot be reconciled with my standards of personal behaviour. Again, I repeat this is not a question of difference in idea.

Personally, I have had no animosity against the communists at all but I have come to feel increasingly how quite out of date communist parties in non-communist countries are. As I told Irfan, they are like the Jesuits belonging to the strict order and not over-scrupulous in their dealings with others, provided they carry out the dictates of that order to whom they owe their basic loyalty. I see no reason why Government should go out of its way to offer a scholarship to a person who is so tied up with an order of this kind, whether it is the communist party or some other.

I recognise, of course, that one must not judge young people too strictly and youthful enthusiasm must not be ignored. Probably, with some greater experience, one grows out of these immature grooves of thought and action.

Anyhow, in the balance, I feel that we should decide in favour of Irfan Habib as a special case. My main reason for so thinking is that he is a young man of intelligence and, I believe, integrity and both these qualities will no doubt influence his future growth.

I am, therefore, advising the Education Ministry to give him the scholarship. Naturally, his future behaviour will be a consideration to be kept in mind.

Yours sincerely,
Jawaharlal Nehru


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