AISA Statement: Students march to #OccupyUGC while MHRD tries to Spread Confusion

Today students from different universities of the country will march to #OccupyUGC against the attempt to scrap the Non NET Fellowship. Alarmed by the spontaneous protests erupting in different campuses of the country the MHRD ministry has made a face saving statement which is not only contradictory but also confusing. 

AISA strongly opposes the MHRD Statement as it is Nothing But A Reiteration of the UGC Decision of 7th Oct. It is clearly an attempt by MHRD to diffuse the anger of the protesting students by spreading misinformation.

Context of the MHRD Statement: Since the decision of a UGC meeting dated 7th October regarding discontinuation of non-NET fellowship became public, we have seen a huge mass upsurge against the decision. Under pressure of this mass dissent which has now gone viral in the name of ‪#‎OccupyUGC‬ from 21st October, the BJP government and its student wing ABVP have been busy spreading lies and confusion through media statements and social media to diffuse the movement. Students across the country have given a call of #occupyugc protest on 26th October, the centre being the UGC office in Delhi. To diffuse the momentum of the protest, the MHRD has come out with a press statement and a notice. The ABVP is spreading through this notice that the MHRD has decided to revoke the UGC’s decision of discontinuing the fellowship. One simple reading of the MHRD statement makes it more than clear that in no way the MHRD is revoking UGC’s decision, rather it is only reiterating its decision to discontinue the fellowship.

This is what was said in the minutes of UGC meeting of 7th October which sparked of the #OccupyUGC movement-

ugc meeting

So, the UGC decided to discontinue the fellowship for new students. We all have known about it, yet this decision has generated mass protest.

Now let us see what the MHRD statement says:
”The Government has decided to establish a Review Committee to go into the issues related to the research fellowships provided by the UGC, covering both NET and Non-NET fellowships. The Review Committee will submit its report to the Ministry within December 2015. Amongst the issues entrusted to the Committee are….. d) Considering economic and other criteria for eligibility for non-NET fellowships………………………….. Irrespective of the recommendations of the Review Committee, all existing and continuing fellowships, NET as well as Non-NET would be continued; there will be no change retrospectively.”

It has to be noted that the MHRD is saying:
1.Economic or other criteria will be introduced through this review committee for giving non-NET fellowship. AISA opposes any such attempt to restrict the ambit of the Non-NET scholarship.

a. We believe that specifying economic or other criteria is an attempt to restrict the scope of the research scholarship. Also, what is the ‘other’ criterion, why is it not clearly specified? It is very much possible that by choosing to remain vague about the ‘other’ criterion the committee will introduce merit as eligibility criterion for the scholarship, this is even more so because there have been continuous media reports about introducing a merit criterion more availing the scholarship. Let us remind the MHRD that every research scholar is enrolled in any university only after passing through a screening test conducted by the university and hence enrollment in a research should be THE only criterion for availing the scholarship.
b.  Even inclusion of economic criteria will hugely discourage researchers as almost all researchers will be forced to seek employment immediately after graduation if fellowships are not provided.

2.The MHRD statement says “there will be no change retrospectively” in NET or non-NET scholarship through the decision of the Review Committee. This clearly means the mandate of the Review Committee is to introduce restriction is giving the scholarship for students who are going to be enrolled in research program from the next academic session. This was exactly what the UGC decided.

The student community is not going to get fooled by the fraud press statements of the MHRD or the ABVP. The #OccupyUGC shall continue. Our call for #OccupyUGC is going to see larger participation defying MHRD’s diversionary tactics. Our protest shall continue until and unless-

i.The UGC and the MHRD unequivocally comes out with notification making UGC 7th Oct decision null and void. We will not retreat until they agree to continue the fellowship for newly enrolled students from next academic year without any criteria.
ii.The introduction of any exclusionary criteria such as merit or economic criteria has to be withdrawn.
iii.The fellowship must increase from the present scale of Rs 5000/8000 commensurate with increase in JRF. The fellowship must also be linked to inflation index for all future purposes.’
iv.The fellowship must be expanded to all state universities without any exclusionary criteria and with an increased rate.

Let us meet at UGC at 2 PM on 26th October. Student representatives from different universities in the country are joining our protest in Delhi today. Simultaneous protests are being held in different universities all over India. The #OccupyUGC movement is on.

Ensure Fellowship For ALL Research Students!

Reject UGC’s Dubious Logic of ‘Merit’ !

Rights Cannot Be Withdrawn! Struggles Cannot Be Detained!

Voices Cannot Be Silenced!

 #Sugc4aveNonNETfellowship movement continues braving ABVP’s lumpenism,  day long detention at Bhalsava Police Station and police lathi-charge on protesting students!

The movement, that has already assumed an all India form with students across states and universities now coming out on streets, will continue till the government is forced to revoke its anti-student move!

It is extremely shameful that the government is using the goon strength of ABVP to mislead the student community by creating consistent confusion over the state of fellowship and encouraging them to unleash their lumpensim by pelting stones and hurling abuses on protesting students.  Additionally, the UGC itself is trying to now cover up their blatant violation of students’ rights by issuing conflicting and confusing statements to the media while continuing to refuse meet student groups and now introducing absurd logic of merit determined through ‘NET Exam’.

It is important to respond to these statements, especially the suggestion to grant non-NET fellowships on the basis of “merit” and not on a universal basis, since we firmly believe that funding for research is a hard won right of ALL research students contributing to a collective process of knowledge generation in this country. The non-NET fellowship must be extended to all central and state universities, however, the logic of merit determined through ‘NET’ exam needs to be challenged and defeated!

This logic of ‘merit’ is faulty owing to several reasons:

  1. First and foremost, the entry to research degrees like M.Phil. and Ph.D is through a process of entrance and hence the research eligibility of a student is evaluated at this stage itself. If a student is selected for the course of M.Phil or Ph.D, it means that he/she has been deemed eligible for research and hence the state must facilitate this process of research by way of suitable fellowship that will adequately cover the cost incurred while pursuing research.
  2. The NET-JRF exam which is being cited in this debate as measure for determining “merit” has itself come under scanner in past several years with questions being raised at its question pattern and evaluation system!! Scholars have criticised NET exam pattern for being an uncritical adaptation of administrative-services exam and ill suited to measure research or even teaching aptitude. Every year there are questions asked in NET exam that have been found to be lacking both in logic as well as conceptual grounding. The faulty evaluation system too has been a consistent problem with NET exams. Recently, the official answer key of UGC-NET Persian exam contained 94 wrong answers due to which no one in India cleared JRF in Persian. (It was only after the interventions of vigilant students in JNU and elsewhere and the JNUSU-SLL&CS that this anomaly was corrected). Instead of revisiting such a flawed exam system, it is downright outrageous that the same is now being also used to determine non-NET fellowship!!

Let us not forget that the sword of ‘merit’ logic has been used for centuries by the ruling classes to deny entry to those who have been deliberately excluded from the educational and cultural sphere. The oppressed castes, poor people, oppressed minorities, especially Muslims (as pointed out by the Sachar Committee report), Dalits and women have got the most to lose from this dangerous proposition.

The government must realise that the number of years a student spends to pursue M.Phil. or Ph.D. are not just years spent in persuasion of a degree but years spent in generation of knowledge that is crucial for the development of the nation! If the non NET fellowships are withdrawn, only those students will be able to pursue research who either come from affluent backgrounds or those who are willing to comply with vested interests and agendas of the private players for the purpose of funding.

Pursuing research is an expensive undertaking and withdrawal of fellowship will only result in : (i) Excluding the deprived and marginalised sections from contributing to knowledge generation– making knowledge produced in the country monolithic, majoriatrian, insensitive to the existing pluralities and solely guided by the agenda of the privileged socio-cultural and economic sections and (ii) compromising the quality of research in the country. To ensure quality research which is contextual, sensitive to the specific problems confronting our people and reflective of our plurality, the arena of research must be accessible to all sections of the society-particularly those from deprived backgrounds. For quality, the process of knowledge production itself must necessarily be inclusive. And for that state funding of ALL research is a MUST!!

It is further surprising that the argument of “merit” to fund research is being cited during the reign of a government which so far has shown a very disturbing understanding of ‘merit’ going by the appointments it has been making in institutes like the ICHR and FTII, to name a few.

We reiterate that any proposal  by the UGC to cite the dubious logic of merit to curtail research funding must be rejected.

We stick to our demands of:     ·  Revocation of UGC decision to withdraw non-NET Fellowship   ·  To increase fellowships from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 8,000 for MPhil and from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 12,000 for PhD scholars.  ·   To extend non NET fellowships to all central and state universities.

We will reject any deviation from the original agenda. We further demand that the Government of India refrain from signing the impending WTO agreement to bring education under tradable services or face massive protests.

And till then the movement will continue and no detentions or crackdowns can stop us!!

Students Occupy UGC in Protest Against Modi Governments decision to Scrap Non-NET Fellowship

Hundreds of Students from JNU, DU and Jamia occupy the premises of UGC demanding immediate revocation of the decision to discontinue the UGC Non NET Fellowship. The UGC Non-NET fellowship which was started in 2008 to encourage research in the universities has proved to be a life line for researchers who do not have access to other scholarships. It has encouraged students from different backgrounds to continue their research and what is required is to increase the amount from the paltry sum of 5000 for M.Phil students and 8000 for Ph.D students. The Decision of the Modi Government to withdraw this fellowship is a direct assault on students who want to pursue a career in academic research in the universities of India. The implications of this decision to withdraw the Non-NET Fellowship are far reaching:

1. The Non-NET Fellowship was envisioned as a tool to encourage students to do research as it provided sustenance to all M.Phil, Ph.D students. Its withdrawal will force many students to opt for other employments as the minimum sustenance cover for research engagement will disappear.

2. It will have an adverse impact on the Universities itself as the aggregate of research which is any way low in India will dip further.

3. The Modi Government’s pro-corporate, anti-people agenda on education is unfolding rapidly as it disincentivizes research in Indian Universities clearing ground for Corporate education providers to make wind fall profits by monopolizing research oriented higher education in India.

4. The freedom and independence of research will also be compromised as the funding for research will be tailored according to the economic and ideological needs of Capitalists and their political cronies. There is a rising concern in countries where there is corporate funding of research that corporate interests are influencing the research outcomes. (Read: Science’s Worst Enemy: Corporate Funding )

5. It will become absolutely impossible for thousands of students who come from economically and socially backward sections to pursue a career in research as they will face the forbidding parameters set at the entry level by the new corporate oriented research regime.

Modi Government WITHDRAWS UGC Non-NET Fellowships!

indexIn a meeting held this month, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to completely withdraw the UGC non-NET Rs 5000/8000 fellowships. The minutes of a UGC meeting held on 7 October clearly says: Considered and resolved to discontinue the scheme [non-NET fellowship scheme]. However, the students who are already getting the non-NET fellowship will continue to do so as per existing guidelines” (section 4.01 of the minutes).

This blatant withdrawal of an essential sustenance-level financial assistance, which enables research scholars across the country to pursue higher education, must be stiffly resisted and the govt must be forced to retract its decision.

At the same time we must recognize that this retrograde step is NO aberration. Let there be no mistake:

  • The 8% fund cut for higher education in the Union Budget 2015-16 is NOW translating into withdrawal of the Non-NET Fellowship!
  • Also it is equally clear, these steps are a part of the Modi Govt.’s concerted agenda to cut subsidies and make India’s Higher Education sector compliant to WTO ‘conditionalities’ before the upcoming WTO Meeting in Dec 2015!

We have seen how ABVP, kept telling students that we were ‘fear-mongering’ and ‘rumour mongering’ about fund-cuts and the WTO offensive. The ABVP in fact promised enhancement of the non-NET fellowships. The student community now needs to ask ABVP: was this yet another ‘Election JUMLA’? ABVP, as well as the Modi government, have to be held accountable for this calibrated dismantling of equitable, affordable, quality education.

The Modi government’s policies concerning the country’s education system is nothing other than a wholesale, bloodsucking, across-the-board gutting of the Indian education system. Again and again, we witness how public funds and taxpayers’ money is shifted out of public institutions in the education sector, and siphoned off to feed corporate profits.  The Modi government’s impending move in the upcoming Dec 2015 Xth Ministerial Meeting of WTO at Nairobi to ‘commit’ higher education as a ‘tradable’ commodity spells doom for students from financially and socially marginalized sections. Thousands of students in India are able to pursue higher education only through subsidized education provided by public universities, and through schemes such as the UGC’s Non-Net Scholarship. And now, according to the UGC and the Modi government, and of course, the WTO, such schemes are deemed as “unnecessary measures”!

This withdrawal of non-NET fellowships has only exposed what will be unleashed with greater force in the days to come: Under WTO regime, the government would be expected to be a facilitator for ‘free trade’ and ‘level playing field’ and not for ensuring inclusive education. And to create this ‘level playing ground’ for the private and foreign ‘traders in education’, fellowships, scholarships and subsidies for the public-funded institutions, will be steadily withdrawn! The Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM) of WTO will have every right to dictate how public policies in India should be ‘reformed’ according to ‘trade interests’.  Thus the WTO ‘commitments’ will be used as an excuse by the UGC/MHRD etc to reduce subsidies and withdraw all schemes of financial assistance. All subsidized and enabling provisions of state-funded institutions such as JNU, DU etc will be steadily dismantled to bring them at par with private institutions such as Sharda, Lovely and other such education shops!

This is what WTO ‘commitments’ mean in practice, where, the Govt/ MHRD would be expected to be accountable to WTO than to the people of India, compromising people’s rights and country’s sovereignty!

The withdrawal of the non-NET fellowship is only an instance of the Modi government preparing the ground. This is also a signal by the Modi govt to its WTO masters and corporate traders  that it is indeed working hard to change India’s domestic policies and subsidy schemes and is ready to barter away all students’ rights to make India’s higher ‘compliant’ to WTO diktats!

From CBCS (whose precursor was the infamous FYUP) now in full force at the Delhi University to RUSA, each altering of education policies reeks of the brazen assault to dismantle and downgrade country’s public education system, making education unattainable and unaffordable for millions of students.

 

Factory Worker Brutally Beaten to Death in Punjab!

 

Rise up against the Ruthless Killings, Torture and Harassment of Workers and Systemic Attack on Trade Unions throughout the Country!!

lynchStrung up by his legs and hands from the ceiling, upside down, and brutally beaten with an iron rod, a migrant factory worker was killed in the Focal Point Area of Amritsar by the henchmen of the factory owner last Thursday evening. The worker, hailing from Nepal and a previous resident of Bihar, was falsely accused of theft by the factory owner and taken away by his henchmen on the pretext of a dire punishment. His body was found the next day having succumbed to the injuries all over. Even four days after the gruesome incident, the police are yet to arrest the factory owner.

Ever since the BJP Government came into power, we have witnessed on one hand the systematic dilution of all labour laws and on the other, the ruthless torture and harassment of workers and an organized attack on trade unions throughout the country. Last month the police and bouncers of the management brutally attacked the striking contractual workers of the Maruti Manesar Plant, injuring several workers. The police also filed fabricated FIRs against the leading activists of the workers movement demanding equal pay for equal work. Few days back, in a shocking incident, the Hindutva forces vandalized the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU) office in Greater Noida. Books, manuscripts and papers related to important trade union work were set on fire by the Sanghi perpetrators, the “crime” being that a team of trade union activists had visited the home of their colleague whose brother, Akhlaq Ahmad was brutally lynched in Bisada village, Dadri recently.

Our times are seeing a rise in organised systemic harassment and torture of workers surviving in the margins of society which is coupled with a consistent ruthless attack on the working class movements and any attempt to unionize in resistance to the corporate-communal onslaught. AISA condemns, on the strongest possible terms, the ruthless killing of the migrant labourer in Punjab and demands immediate punitive action against all the accused. We appeal to the students, workers and the progressive sections of the society to raise their voice and unite against these barbaric and inhuman acts by industrial corporates, Hindutva forces and all their allies!

Shiv Sena Cancels Ghulam Ali Concert in Mumbai

 

Saffron Brigade  Bares Its Fangs Again!

ghulam aliIn yet another instance of jingoism and fascist vandalism, the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has forced the organisers to cancel the Mumbai concert of well-known Pakistani gazal singer Ghulam Ali.  A few months ago, the Shiv Sena had opposed Pakistani singer Atif Aslam’s concert in Pune, which then had to be cancelled after their opposition. We condemn this blatant display of fascist muscle flexing.

According to the Shiv Sena, inviting any Pakistani singer is an “insult” to all citizens of India. However, as we well know, this is a mere “excuse”, and a convenient smokescreen to allow the Shiv Sena (as well as the MNS and other such outfits) to indulge in their favourite game of vitriolic minority bashing. The common people of both India and Pakistan have for years enjoyed and benefited from protracted cultural exchanges, be it in the form of music, theatre or films.

It is highly unfortunate that fascist forces such as the Shiv Sena are able to attack such cultural exchanges with such impunity. The mere threat of disruption and violence by such fascist forces is today enough to cancel a program planned and organised.

Saluting the Thinkers of Our Times: Rebuff the Fascist Onslaught !

NayantaraOn 4th October, 2015 acclaimed writer Nayantara Sahgal announced that she would be returning the Sahitya Akademi Award she won in 1986 for her novel Rich Like Us.  Her bold step is a protest against the increasing attacks on the right to dissent in India.

Here is the text of her statement.

“In a recent lecture, India’s Vice-President, Dr. Hamid Ansari, found it necessary to remind us that India’s Constitution promises all Indians ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’. The right to dissent is an integral part of this Constitutional guarantee. He found it necessary to do so because India’s culture of diversity and debate is now under vicious assault. Rationalists who question superstition, anyone who questions any aspect of the ugly and dangerous distortion of Hinduism known as Hindutva – whether in the intellectual or artistic sphere, or whether in terms of food habits and lifestyle – are being marginalized, persecuted, or murdered. A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both antisuperstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home.

nayan tara

Cartoon Courtesy: R Prsad

In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology. It is a matter of sorrow that the Sahitya Akademi remains silent. The Akademis were set up as guardians of the creative imagination, and promoters of its finest products in art and literature, music and theatre. In protest against Kalburgi’s murder, a Hindi writer, Uday Prakash, has returned his Sahitya Akademi Award. Six Kannada writers have returned their Awards to the Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

In memory of the Indians who have been murdered, in support of all Indians who uphold the right to dissent, and of all dissenters who now live in fear and uncertainty, I am returning my Sahitya Akademi Award.”

‘Digital India’: Reading Between the Lines

net-neutrality-comicA few months back, the country witnessed a popular outpouring in favour of Net Neutrality, with thousands of citizens signing petitions and sharing campaign videos online. Net Neutralitythe principle that all Internet services, websites, applications, etc. be made available to Internet users by Internet service providers, without favouring or blocking any particular service– really caught the imagination of Internet users in India who collectively rose up to oppose a ‘document’ released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which suggested different pricing for voice calls over the Internet. The suggestion would be akin to charging users more for, say, Whatsapp, than TrueCaller, for the same amount of data consumed. The longish document was clearly brought out at the behest of mobile service providers such as Airtel which, to protect their own monopoly over voice calling, wanted to charge Internet users differently for voice calls and charge them not only by the amount of data consumed, but also by the type of service provided.

If Internet users have to pay additional amounts of tariff for accessing certain websites than others, or, if certain services are more favourably priced than others, it is a violation of the principle of Net Neutrality. If an Internet service provider assigns different speeds to different services; or, if certain services are available only over a certain connection, that too violates the principle of Net Neutrality.

Modi’s ““Digital India”” campaign is, as usual, high on rhetoric, low on substance and full of opacity. Saint Zuckerberg uses the language of “access” to deprive people from exactly that– access. In the name of bringing “civilisation” to us, third-world mortals, Saint Zuckerberg is out to colonise our cyber-space. It is important to remind both Modi and Zuckerberg that they do not own the Internet. The Internet is often termed as a ‘potential equaliser’, ‘leveller of inequalities’, etc. as it provides opportunities of being heard to the hitherto unheard. But, in reality, corporate monopolies on the Internet work against this very vision. Most of the world’s Internet usage is dominated by a few big businesses, and programmes such as “Free Basics” are an attempt to only further concentrate power in their hands. Paid content on websites such as Facebook and Twitter ensures higher visibility for some content while disadvantaging other content- sponsored Twitter trends, suggested tweets appearing on timelines of individuals, sponsored Facebook posts, etc. are a few examples. In order to post comments, various websites require users to authenticate themselves using Facebook or Twitter (rather than, say, using any email service). This furthers the monopoly of these corporate giants.

Facebook‘s doublespeak on universal Internet coverage exposed: Facebook CEO touted the “Internet.org” which was later renamed as “Free Basics” as being synonymous with Internet access. However, the hollowness of these claims is exposed when one finds that even this so-called “Free” and “Basic” Internet can be accessed only through one particular Internet service provider- the Ambani group owned Reliance! When accessed over Internet connections other than Reliance, it shows the message: “As of now, Free basics can only be accessed over a Reliance Sim card. If you want to use Free Basics on your existing mobile operator, kindly let us know.” Following is a screenshot of the same:

So in reality, what Facebook seeks to provide through this application is a highly watered down version of the Internet, confined to Facebook and a few other services. This initiative was highly criticised by activists all over the world who are working to provide a free and open Internet access to people on the other side of the digital divide.

Free and Open: What should a truly “Digital India” look like? Can India’s poor be a testing ground for corporate giants who want to impose their own version of a narrow, severely restricted Internet? If there is an Internet or a “Digital India” that is worth fighting for, it can only be an Internet that is FREE AND OPEN. The Internet is a large universe beyond Facebook and Twitter, etc. However, Modi’s flawed vision of “Digital India” is extremely alarming. As the head of a developing nation, our government ought to ensure access to high-speed broadband, unrestricted Internet service and updated hardware for all Indian citizens. There is no shortcut to dignified access. What Modi has chosen to do, instead is, partner with a few self-interested companies, bypass the interests of citizens while favouring corporate interests and violating key principles guiding the Internet: “Access, Net Neutrality, Innovation, Opportunity and Privacy”.

Internet access can never be synonymous with Facebook access. Taking undue advantage of the lack of access of Indians to the Internet, Facebook access is being showered upon us, as if it were a blessing from heaven; whereas in reality, what is being shoved down our throats is access to Facebook and a few other services over a Reliance Internet connection. In this way, Modi government is showering undue benefits over those who cry “free market” before they have gained entry into a certain country, and who, after gaining entry, want to monopolise the so-called “free” market. Why this doublespeak on “free market” and “monopoly” at the same time? In the name of access, users are being guided to think in a certain way. Users are being trained to think of the Internet as only a few social media sites, because an unrestricted Internet provides radical possibilities for social change- which tyrannical governments do not desire.

netneutrality1Iran has already started its project of a “sharia-compliant” Internet. Modi’s “Digital India” will be, in many ways, more restricted than the sharia-compliant Internet. It will infantilize the entire Indian population by imposing some sort of “parental control” over the choices that we make. It will be like a television set where we cannot change channels. Other, smaller Internet start-ups, will be coerced into partnering with “Free Basics” and only those capable of paying the entry fee can be accessed by ordinary users. In this way, Facebook gets to be the guardian, regulator and gatekeeper of the Internet, deciding who can access what and for how much price. It will even violate the sovereignty of the country, as Facebook will now regulate what Indian users can view and what they can’t view. Facebook will become a Zamindar (landlord) who has the power to levy taxes from smaller startups who wish to have their services accessed by people.

We must not forget that the same corporate giants who are part of the ““Digital India”” and “Free Basics” projects are also the same companies that have been exposed by Edward Snowden (NSA leaks) for dutifully obeying the US government’s requests for user information, that have helped the US spy on heads of sovereign governments abroad, that have time and again sold our information to third-parties who then spam us with unwanted advertisements. A project like “Digital India” will empower these companies even more to jointly conduct thought-experiments on the Indian population, feed particular ideologies to them and guide their thought process. It is a typically fascist arrangement wherein millions of poor Indians will serve as guinea pigs, thinking that they have been empowered, whereas in reality, they have been put under a new surveillance regime. ““Digital India”” will be like a massive laboratory where behavior will be studied, monitored and the resulting conclusions used for even more sinister projects.

RISE UP AGAINST THE DADRI AND KANPUR COMMUNAL LYNCHMOB KILLING!

alkalkh22-year old young Muslim man is lying in hospital, brutally beaten up by a bloodthirsty mob. His 52-year old father is dead. Killed, bashed to death with bricks, by the same mob. Their ‘crime’? The ‘mob’ claimed they had killed a cow and eaten beef. Rumors flew, an announcement was made a local temple, and the mob indulged in a bloodthirsty mayhem! At whose instructions did the ‘mob’ get organised?

A few days back, Prime Minister Modi informed us that the “most fundamental debate” for youth in India was the choice between Windows, Android and iOS. Earlier, Modi went to Ireland and chose to scorn the concern for secularism in India (as he habitually does in the never-ending foreign trips). Today, 22-year Danish, battling for his life in a hospital, brings out the complete farce of Modi’s statements. The “most fundamental debate” for youths like Danish is to how to keep alive in a country where emboldened communal fascist goons can literally kill people in the name of what they eat or any other pretext to whip up communal frenzy!

12036629_893949347319034_348336753815557111_n

Courtesy: R Prasad

This murder is NO aberration. It is the tragic culmination of a systematic campaign of hate mongering and witch-hunt. It is the chilling enacting of VHP leader Praveen Togadia’s threats that beef eaters will face the reaction of “Indian culture”. Over the past weeks and months, “Indian” has been equated with “upper caste, Brahminical Hindu”, beef eating has been stigmatised and criminalised, and the cow has been wilfully and opportunistically used to polarise communities and spread hatred. The logical culmination of this abhorrent campaign is what we witnessed in Dadri. Modi himself during the Lok Sabha election campaign gave speeches whipping up hate against ‘Pink Revolution’ – that is, the meat industry, which he called ‘murder’ of ‘animals’ and ‘cows’ for ‘mutton’ and ‘beef’.  No wonder then, that the sitting BJP MP from Noida has said it is simply “action and reaction” (echoing Modi’s words after the organised Gujarat genocide). No wonder then, that a former BJP MLA claims that the lynch mob were “innocent children”, ‘excited’ by the grave “crime” of someone eating beef. The victim has become the accused!

Ironically the UP police have taken meat from the victim’s fridge for forensic tests to check whether or not it is beef! We need to say loud and clear – it is not a crime to eat beef. EVEN if it is found to be beef, the mob had no right to break into a house and attack and kill anyone.

Some members of the mob have been arrested. But the real leaders of the lynch mob are those who have organised systematic hate campaigns, normalised the criminalisation of beef, and normalised the politics of policing of every aspect of our daily lives-what we wear or what we eat, whom we love and even what we think! 

Demand immediate action against the perpetrators and masterminds of such modlynching. Demad withdrawal of all laws that criminalises people’s food habit.

NO to Modi Govt’s Impending Sell-out of Education at WTO!

Save Education, Save the Country!

Defeat Imperialist Diktats of Global Capital and WTO!

Education Is Not For Sale – A Campus Is Not A Jail!

Schools and Universities For People – Not For Profits!

Don’t Let Modi Govt Trade Away Our Education, Our Country!

indexIn December 2015, at the Xth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference, the Indian Government is all set to accept “binding commitments” to make India’s higher education a tradable commodity. Such “commitments” at WTO will erode our sovereign decision making powers in education. The Govt will be forced to act as ‘facilitator’ for ensuring ‘free trade’ and ‘level playing fields’ for local and global corporate ‘traders’ of education, rather than providing inclusive quality education to all.

Interestingly, the country’s sovereignty and its education are being sold away by a Government that keeps making tall claims of being “nationalist.” Today, we are reminded that Bhagat Singh and his comrades gave up their lives resisting colonialism and imperialism. By selling away the country and its education to imperialists and their profit-mongers, the Government is betraying the legacy of the anti-colonial martyrs.

Myth of ‘Quality’ and ‘Choice’: Various myths are being peddled to claim that the ‘commitment’ to WTO will improve quality and allow international universities to open branches in India, offering Indian students greater ‘choice.’ This is utterly false. In fact, a survey report by the World Bank in 2000 on foreign educational providers has gone on record to state that “well-known universities of Developed Countries established low standard branches in backward countries.” Well, India already has foreign and private education providers – what will the WTO ‘commitments’ change?

The change that WTO-regime will bring: What will change under WTO regime is that the sovereign powers of the Indian Parliament and Government will be restricted and eroded with regard to giving subsidies and other facilities to public sector higher education institutions, which is necessary to ensure inclusive quality education for all. According to WTO diktats, India’s Government will have to ensure a “non-discriminatory… level playing field” for these foreign education shops – i.e. in order to honour its “binding commitments” to WTO, the Indian Government will be forced to stop subsidizing public sector universities. Subsidies to Indian universities will be seen as a violation of the WTO “commitments” and “discriminatory” to foreign universities, and will result in “WTO disputes” being initiated against India.

Also, inclusive policies of social justice such as ‘reservation’, ‘regional and gender deprivation points’, etc., would only be viewed by the business houses as ‘avoidable provisions that only add to the costs’ – and under the WTO regime the Indian Government would also be pressurised to give up these provisions.

So, there will be steady curtailment of subsidies and provisions of social justice in public education so as to guarantee a ‘level playing field’ for private/corporate ‘traders’ in education. This will further restrict education only to those who can pay high fees, and will divorce education from the social needs of our country.

Govt is already preparing to make our universities ‘WTO-compliant’: Already, many of the policy moves of the Government are headed in the direction of making India’s higher education WTO-compliant. With the massive 8% fund cut in Higher Education in 2014-15 Union Budget, forced imposition of CBCS, pushing for a common Central University Act, unwillingness to withdraw the LCR, the implementation of Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan -RUSA (which is nothing but a tool for channelling public funds to private institutions based on ‘performance’ and force public institutes into ‘compliance’), the Modi govt is already preparing the ground for accepting WTO “commitments” and “conditions”.

Blueprint to silence dissent and freedom of expression in campuses: The UGC “Guidelines” in the name of “Campus Safety” are also geared in the direction of making “WTO-compliant” campuses. For the managers of the commercialised campuses of WTO dreams, student activism and free social and political life of students must be curtailed. The UGC “Guidelines” already seek to stifle and suppress that social and political freedom and activism of students. The UGC Guidelines seek to create campuses surrounded by barbed wire, with close 24/7 surveillance on students using identity cards, CCTV cameras, police stations on campuses, police escorts, teachers/”counsellors” who will spy on personal and academic life of students and report to parents in “parent-teacher-meets” and so on. The net result of this will mean that the social and political freedom of students will be under attack. The ensemble of administration, police, counsellors and family will spy on students and at the slightest hint of political activism or personal relationships that challenge casteist or patriarchal social norms, they will discipline and punish the students. Unions or student activism will be strictly disallowed. Also, our home-grown model of patriarchy and all forms of social conservatism will be mobilised to enforce corporate “discipline” in WTO-model campuses.