Omprakash Mishra was born to Late Ghanashyam Mishra and Late Manorama Mishra on 7th March 1961 at Mal Bazar in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. Father Ghanashyam Mishra, an alumnus of AC College, Jalpaiguri was a leading light of trade union movement in the Dooars region in North Bengal. First wave of trade unions for the tribal and downtrodden people in the tea belt of Dooars were established under his stewardship.
Omprakash Mishra joined Balurghat College for his Higher Secondary (Class XI and XII) in 1976 and continued with his graduation course in Political Science (Honours) from the college. He obtained a First Class First position in his graduation in North Bengal University and then briefly studied at the Delhi School of Economics and North Bengal University before joining the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, New Delhi) in July 1982 for his Masters’ degree. He continued at the School of International Studies for M. Phil and had been awarded the degree in 1986. He secured First Class for both his degrees from JNU.
On completion of studies at JNU, Omprakash joined Government College at Jhargram in West Bengal as a Lecturer of Political Science (August 1986) but very soon switched to the Department of International Relations at Jadavpur University (November 1987). He got married to Bandana Mishra, D/o Shri Sudhish Mukherjee and Late Dipali Mukherjee, a long time residents of Balurghat, in August 1987. The couple have a daughter, Sylvia, and a son, Abhishek. Both of them are pursuing research in the field of foreign policy and International Relations.
02Academia and Scholarship
Professor Mishra has been engaged in teaching, research and research supervision at Jadavpur University, Kolkata since 1987. At the age of 33 he was the Head of the Department of International Relations in the University (1994-1996) and the Founder-Coordinator of the Centre for Refugee Studies. He was a Gold Medalist in B. A. (Honours) in Political Science from Balurghat College under North Bengal University in 1981 and First Class in M. A. and M. Phil in International Studies and International Politics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, New Delhi) in 1984 and 1986 respectively. He joined the Department of International Relations, Jadavpur University as a Lecturer in 1987, was appointed as Reader in 1993 and is a Professor since 2001. He has supervised the research work of a number of PhD and MPhil scholars and published and lectured extensively on issues and themes related to Indian Foreign Policy & National Security, Political Economy, United Nations, Human Rights and Forced Migration. Some of the publications of Prof. Mishra include the edited volumes ‘The Elsewhere People: Cross-Border Migration, Refugee Protection and State Response’, 2003; ‘Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict in South Asian Region’, 2003; ‘Forced Migration in South Asian Region: Displacement, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution’ in collaboration with Brookings Institution, Washington D. C., 2004).
In August 2004, Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh invited him to serve the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), a responsibility he served with distinction. It was quite an honour to be part of the NSAB at an age of 43 and closely work with some of the most important professionals and officials in the domain of foreign policy, international relations, national security and the challenges facing the country. Some of the members of the NSAB at that point included Amb. Hamid Ansari (now the Vice President of India), Shri Dinesh Pathak (former Director of Intelligence Bureau), Admiral P J Jacob (former Vice Chief of Indian Navy) Shri M K Rasgotra (former Foreign Secretary). Shri M K Narayanan (now the Governor of West Bengal) was the National Security Advisor. He resigned from NSAB in March 2006 in order to contest the West Bengal Assembly Election in May 2006 against Chief Minister Shri Buddhadev Bhattacharya.
In November 2005, the University Grants Commission invited him to Chair an Expert Committee on Universities and Public Policy. This constituted a first systematic approach to bridge the gap between the university system in the country and the realm of public policy in the country.
In 2005 Jadavpur University organised a nationally coordinated programme of the Centre for Refugee Studies under the leadership of Prof. Mishra on The Partition of India Revisited: Thinking Through and Beyond Violence, Trauma and Memory.
Prof. Mishra has been a consultant to many reputed international research institutes and organisations, like the Global IDP Project of the Norwegian Refugee Council, the UNHCR, and the Brookings Institution etc. He has been invited by many of the top teaching and research institutes and national and international NGOs and has been invited to countries including USA, Canada, UK, China, Switzerland, South Korea, Austria, Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Australia, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Japan, Vietnam etc. for various academic assignments.
Prof. Mishra’s first US visit in 1997 at the age of 36 was under the prestigious International Visitors Leadership Program of the Government of the United States of America. It may be noted that this programme involves invitation of the Government of the USA to emerging leaders in the age group of 30 to 40 in diverse fields from different countries. 337 Heads of States/Governments in different parts of the world are alumnus of this programme. From India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. APJ Kalam, Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, Dr. Manmohan Singh were part of this programme much earlier than they became Prime Minister/President.
In 1997-1998 Prof. Mishra initiated the establishment of a first ever academic and research centre for refugee study in the country. He became the founder-coordinator of the Centre for Refugee Studies at Jadavpur University. University of Oxford invited him to give lectures on different aspects of the refugee problem. He was the first one to argue that Kashmiri Pundits forced out of Kashmir valley cannot be referred to as ‘migrants’ but must be given the category of ‘Internally Displaced People’ (IDPs)--- a position which has been accepted by Government of India since 2005. Prof. Mishra wrote the India section in the first ever Global Survey of IDPs produced by Norwegian Refugee Council and published by Oxford University Press. Francis Deng, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on IDPs wrote a Foreword for Prof. Mishra’s edited volume ‘Forced Migration in South Asian Region: Displacement, Human Rights and Conflict Resolution’ brought out by Brookings Institute and Jadavpur University.
In November 2006 Prof. Mishra founded Global India Foundation--- a think tank established with the objective of promoting national resilience and international interdependence together with professionals and citizens from various parts of India. The Foundation is an initiative to contribute in India’s efforts to realise its aspirations of playing a meaningful and constructive role in regional and global affairs. The Foundation was launched in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in January 2007.
He was the Pro-Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, the largest University of the world from 23 July 2007 to 22 July 2010. He has served as Chairperson of Expert Committees to consider recognition of more than 20 Universities and national level educational institutes offering programmes in management, finance and accounting, engineering and vocational courses involving educational technology. He is extensively consulted by the University Grants Commission (the UGC) and Distance Education Council on educational institutions, instructions and their regulations. He has been invited to more than 80 universities in the country and abroad and has lectured on aspects and issues related to foreign policy, international affairs, global economy etc.
At present, Prof. Mishra teaches three courses in his department in Jadavpur University: International Law of War and Neutrality, Major Powers in International Relations and International Organisations.
Omprakash Mishra joined Chattra Parishad in January 1979, contested the election of the Students Union as Assistant General Secretary candidate in March 1979 and then was made President of College Unit of Chattra Parishad at Balurghat College in July 1979. Subsequently he led Chattra Parishad to victory as General Secretary of the Students Union both in 1980 and 1981. In April 1982, he contested the election to North Bengal University Students Union and lost the election by a mere 12 votes. At JNU, he reunited the NSUI supporters/ activists as General Secretary (1983-1986) and contested the elections to JNU Students Union in 1983, 1984 and 1985. He also worked in the first Control Room of the AICC in 1985 along with Late G. K. Moonapar and Shri A K Antony (the present Minister of Defence, Government of India). He proposed the establishment of a Research and Reference Cell of the AICC to the then Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi. The proposal was accepted, a Cell was set up but Omprakash returned to West Bengal to take up a job at Government College, Jhargram together with the responsibility as Organising Secretary of West Bengal Youth Congress. In 1994 he was made Chairman, Research and Coordination Cell of West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC) while Shri Somen Mitra was the President of WBPCC. In 1995 AICC Session at Surajkund, Haryana, he was adjudged the best debater and felicitated. Publications brought out by the Research Cell led by him as Chairman was instrumental in strengthening the campaign and policy stance of the Congress against the Left Front and help pay rich dividend in the elections to Lok Sabha and State Assembly in 1996. He was greatly disturbed and disappointed when he was not nominated to contest the Jadavpur Lok Sabha seat in 1996 and an academic from outside the Congress and political arena was chosen.
In 2000, Sri Pranab Mukherjee the then President of WBPCC appointed Prof. Mishra as Secretary of WBPCC. Amongst many responsibilities, he was entrusted with the work on Congress manifesto. For the first time Congress manifesto was published in 4 languages—Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and English. When TMC broke away from the NDA and joined hands with Congress for the Assembly Election in West Bengal, Prof. Mishra was asked to draw the 37 point action plan of the Bangla Bachao Front between the Congress and TMC.
In 2004, Prof. Mishra was nominated to contest the Lok Sabha election from Jadavpur Constituency and in 2006 he contested the Jadavpur Assembly election as Congress candidate against the then Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya. He contested both these elections on the request of the Party leadership in a political situation in West Bengal when Congress was almost decimated in South Bengal. In 2005, on the eve of the Hyderabad Session of AICC, Prof. Mishra was made a member of AICC. In June- July 2007 he was appointed as AICC Observer for Mizoram for the election of the Congress nominee Smt. Pratibha Devi Singh Patil for the Office of the President of India.
During the period, July 2007 to July 2010, Prof. Mishra was in New Delhi (Pro-Vice Chancellor of IGNOU) but he continued his active association with the Party. In 2008 and 2009 he was asked to help organise training programmes of the AICC for the Congress activists and took a number of classes on different subjects.
In 2008 Party workers and district Congress leadership of Dakshin Dinajpur approached him to contest the Lok Sabha election from Balurghat Constituency as due to the delimitation of the seats, the Lok Sabha constituency was categorised as ‘General’. He agreed and also started political campaign from end 2008 through March 2009. However, due to the seat adjustment/jot between Congress and TMC, Balurghat Lok Sabha constituency was left to the TMC candidate. This was a second major setback and a big disappointment. Despite this he continued to take interest in Dakshin Dinajpur and helped the Party with his advice, resources and occasional participation in programmes. This was accelerated when he came back to West Bengal in July 2010 and assumed the responsibility of General Secretary and Spokesperson of WBPCC under Dr. Manas Bhunia as the President. This role he continued to play with Prof. Pradip Bhattacharya as the WBPCC President and now under Shri Adhir Ranjan Chaudhury as President with lot of distinction and credit. He is one of the most visible faces of Bengal Congress in electronic media both in West Bengal. Given a strong command over Hindi and English languages he is equally visible representing the Party in national level Hindi and English news channels.
In September 2010 when Shri Rahul Gandhi visited West Bengal, Omprakash was entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating his media interaction as well as his meeting with the family members of Congress workers killed during the Left Front regime. Later in 2010, Omprakash once again became a Member of AICC at Burari Session of AICC where he was one of the speakers on the Resolution on Foreign Policy and International Relations.
In 2011 Assembly election when Congress and TMC entered into seat adjustment/jot, he was asked to draft the election manifesto of the Party. In between, the website of the WBPCC designed by him with lot of rich historical data and information about Congress way back in 2006 was inaugurated by Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the then Minister of External Affairs. Despite his opposition to an unequal alliance with TMC in the 2011 Assembly election, Omprakash did not hesitate to defend the decision of the AICC and actively campaigned for the success of the Congress nominees and strongly articulated the sentiments of common people eager for a transformation in Bengal. However, Omprakash publicly stated that though he supported the new government he would not accept any office or membership of any committees etc in the state.
In 2012 when Shri Pranab Mukherjee was nominated to contest the election to the Office of the President of India, Prof. Mishra was a leading participant in the TV debates in Bengali and national channels on the contest and well articulated and defended Shri Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature to the High Office.
Since his appointment as General Secretary of the WBPCC in August 2010 till date, Omprakash has continued to be associated with all the political programmes of the Party; extensively visited various districts and prominently articulated the sentiment of the common masses of Bengal, Congress workers’ and folly and fallacies of the TMC government.
He unsuccessfully contested election to Lok Sabha from Balurghat Parliamentary constituency in 2014. He remains a prominent critic of the TMC government in West Bengal and a staunch defender of liberal values in the country facing onslaught and severe challenge after formation of a BJP led government at the centre in May 2014. Prof. Mishra has advocated electoral tie up between Congress and the Left Front to take on the twin challenge of defeating the spread of BJP ideology as well as to usher in a non-TMC government in the state. His bold stance and effective advocacy of such a course of action has gained traction and a serious consideration of his proposal by the central leadership of Congress is expected.