The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of six millions Tibetans and a global icon of peace and inter-faith harmony, was Tuesday conferred an honorary doctorate by Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, a government-funded central university with a 90-year-old rich history. The Jamia is the first Indian university to confer an honorary degree on the spiritual leader.
The honour that had the nod of the Indian government was conferred on the Nobel Peace laureate after the Human Resource Development Ministry’s proposal on the matter was cleared by the Ministry of External Affairs.
The proposal was earlier held up by the government as it feared it might upset China which calls the Dalai Lama a separatist.
Religious tolerance and peace were the messages which echoed as university Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung awarded the ‘Doctor of Letters’ (D.Litt) degree to the Dalai Lama in the presence of Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal and thousands of students and members of the faculty, besides diplomats and leading lights, at the university campus.
“I feel highly honoured to get this degree from an Islamic university. One of my main concerns is religious harmony,” the Dalai Lama said after receiving the degree.
The citation presented on the occasion to the Dalai Lama said “Jamia Millia Islamia honours His Holiness, the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, one of the most respected figures and teachers of our times, who stands for rationality, humanism, non-violence, peace and universal benevolence.”
Addressing the students, the Dalai Lama gave the message of making the 21st century a century of peace.
“The 20th century was a century of bloodshed, but nothing was achieved out of that bloodshed. The 21st century must be a century of peace and you will shape it,” he said adding that education should go along with morals and ethics to achieve this aim.
Sibal congratulated the university for honouring the Dalai Lama in “keeping with its secular traditions”.
Emphasising on the value of higher education, Sibal said that the future of India depended on its education sector.
“India will emerge as the international hub for education and what the BPO and IT sectors are today for India, education will be in 2010,” he said to loud cheers from the students.
Speaking on the occasion, Najeeb Jung said that the Dalai Lama was one of the biggest propagators of inter-faith dialogue and a true inheritor of Mahatma Gandhi’s message of peace and non-violence.
“If there is any one who has stood for the power of non-violent persuasion in the contemporary world, who has restored our faith in relevance of moral critique, it is His Holiness,” Jung said.
Talking about the university, Jung highlighted that the founders envisioned Jamia as an institution to bring Muslims as partners in India’s pluralism.
“The Jamia envisioned by Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Dr. M.A. Ansari, and Dr. Zakir Hussain, was a pioneering teaching institution that would make Muslims full partners in the great project that is Indian pluralism,” he said.
The Dalai lama also hailed Islam saying that few mischievous elements were bringing a bad name to it.
“I defend Islam, due to few mischievous people, Islam is getting a bad name,” the Dalai Lama said.
Thousands of students attended the annual convocation of the university – described as the “creme de la creme of our central universities” by Sibal – where 3,529 degrees and diplomas, 127 Ph.D. degrees and 147 gold medals were awarded.