For almost a century, most commentators have agreed that the October Revolution represented an undemocratic seizure of state power. Instead of allowing liberal democracy to grow after February, the Bolsheviks moved rapidly to take control. Continue reading
BHU Question Papers to Sanghi Appointments, Seat Cuts and Censorship Across Campuses:
Sanghi VCs and ‘Bhakt’ Teachers Are Out to Destroy Serious Scholarship and Turn Central Universities a Matter of Ridicule!
- Write an essay on the nature of GST in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
- Manu is the first Indian thinker of globalization. Discuss.
Saffron Sanskari Shiksha: Question Paper – and Answers – Dictated In Advance!
According to students, their teacher “dictated the answers” to the questions beforehand, telling them in advance that these questions would be asked in the exam! Quite apart from the ridiculousness of the questions, can any serious exam paper have questions and answers dictated by the teacher in advance! Note: While students at BHU taught by the paper-setter had the privilege to these questions in advance, students of the affiliated colleges affiliated to BHU simply received a nasty surprise on the day of the exam! So much for saffron “sanskars”! Continue reading
The CPI(ML) and AISA condemns the arbitrary and illegal arrest of documentary filmmaker and CPI(ML) Liberation member Divya Bharathi by the Tamil Nadu police yesterday. Comrade Divya, whose most noted recent film was Kakkoos, a searing documentary about manual scavenging, was arrested for her participation in a student protest in 2009.
In 2009, as an AISA activist in Madurai, Divya had organized an agitation of Dalit hostel residents against the abysmal conditions of the hostels. The immediate context of the agitation was the death by snakebite of a student in one of the Dalit hostels. The police at the time filed a case against Divya and other agitating students. Continue reading
In India, where access to higher education is pitifully low, JNU remains one of the last few universities where students from remote areas and marginalised backgrounds can hope to be welcomed. The diverse demography of JNU’s student community is a testimony to our collective effort of making the university a truly accessible and democratic space. JNU is a lighthouse, not only for its efforts towards inclusion and affordable education. It is unique for its commitment to speak truth to power, for critical thinking, egalitarian ethos and democratic culture. The current JNU VC in one stroke seeks to destroy all that. His move to impose massive seat cuts in M. Phil/ PhD admissions in the name of UGC Notification, bypassing all statutory bodies, threatens to wipe out the academic prospects of hundreds of current and all future generations of students and virtually shutdown of JNU’s vibrant and inclusive research programs.
1. Do Doublespeak and Jumla, Threats and FIRs Befit a Vice Chancellor?
Last Sunday (12/2/17), VC was busy tweeting that the “seat cut” issue is just a ‘rumour’ spread by protesting students, while a series of Circulars from the Director of Admissions and JNU Website posts in contrast were announcing seat-cuts. Are students spreading rumors or the VC himself is fudging facts?Two days later, the VC made a fresh bid to disguise the bare fact of seat cuts: this time by coining a new jumla of ‘dynamic seats’ – i.e., implying that there will no longer be any concept of annual “fixed number” of seats or “fixed intake” for M. Phil/Ph.D. and that seats will open up for admissions only if the number of researchers under a faculty happens to be less than the UGC dictated cap of supervisor-researcher ratio!
Students are protesting peacefully, by going on indefinite fast – because the future of generations of students is at stake. 98.35% of students have rejected the seat cut move through a Referendum. Faculty members have marched in protest because the very credibility and quality of JNU’s research excellence is at stake. Refusing to meet or speak with protesting students or faculty members – who are after all the ones who must be credited with the “Best Central University” Visitor’s Award that JNU recently got – the VC has instead chosen to criminalise the protests by filing an FIR against the JNUSU leadership and student activists.
The VC’s claim in the FIR that students have “stopped administrative functioning” is a bare-faced lie: the truth is that when batches of students from centre after centre reached Ad Block in mass delegations, the JNU VC deserted the Admin Block and refused to address the concerns of students, as any VC worth his salt ought to do.
Mr Jagadesh Kumar, does it really befit a VC to resort to such word-tricks to hide your policy steps threatening the future of students’ and the university – and then to use FIRs and police to punish and silence students who will bear the brunt of those policy steps?
2. Mr. VC, if you are genuinely interested in meaningful dialogue then why are you refusing to re-convene the Academic Council Meeting as urged by the students and teachers?
Don’t you agree that the university will be better served if a crucial policy matter is resolved through an accountable discussion at a statutory platform rather than through press conferences and misleading media feeds by administrative offices?
3. Why Was A Policy Affecting Students Worst, Never Discussed In Decision-Making Bodies That Have Student Representation? How Lawful And Ethical Is It Exactly, Mr. VC?
Student representatives only get to participate in Part A of Academic Council Meetings. The issues regarding the UGC Notification were never kept in any Academic Council as an agenda item in Part A. So, student representatives were deliberately deprived of any opportunity even to express an opinion or present their case in the Academic Council on a decision having such far-reaching consequences on students’ lives and careers!
4. Why Has The JNU VC Brazenly Violated JNU’s Own Decision-Making Processes, Instead Dictatorially Announcing Sweeping Policy Changes Through Tweets, Circulars and Press Conferences? Isn’t Such Violation Unlawful and Against All Rules of Institutional Propriety?
As per JNU’s Act and Statutes, admission policies and ‘intake/offer’ of seats for admissions are to be discussed and decided through Centre-level, School Level Board of Studies and finally the Academic Council Meetings. The massive seat cuts and changes in admission policy in the name of UGC Notification’s “supervisor-researcher ratio” are being unilaterally shoved upon JNU by the VC without the deliberation of the University’s statuary bodies like the Academic Council.
The issue of the UGC Notification was placed only in the Part B of 142nd AC meeting. Teachers have testified in unison, from the very day of the AC meeting, that the UGC notification was neither “discussed” nor “approved” but bulldozed through without AC members being given any chance to express an opinion, in Part B of 142nd AC meeting!
Can you deny, Mr VC, that “Minutes of 142nd AC- Part B”, circulated by your own administration, do not record any “discussion” or “adoption” of the specific clause 6.5 of the UGC Notification? So even as per the Administration’s own version, the “supervisor-researcher ratio” clause of UGC circular has not been “adopted” by JNU’s AC. Then, why is the JNU VC imposing this arbitrary clause through his own whimsical circulars and press conferences?
5. Does the JNU VC Have Any Right to Violate the Seats/Intake in JNU’s Admission Fixed As Part of the Implementation of 93rd Constitution Amendment?
The present number of seats in JNU has been fixed as part of the implementation of OBC reservation and the concomitant expansion of seats mandated by the 93rd amendment of the Constitution. Even the agenda of 142nd AC Meeting includes the “intake/offer” list of admissions for 2017 based on this 93rd Constitution amendment (i.e., 54% increase in intake of 2006- the base year for calculating expansion for OBC reservation), which the VC is now trying to negate. How can the VC suddenly alter the intake and that too bypassing the AC?
6. Why does Mr. VC think that the UGC suggested “supervisor-researcher ratio” can ONLY be achieved by cutting down students’ seats and admissions and not by expanding faculty strength through new recruitments?
7. Wouldn’t VC’s move to determine the number of “admission seats”/”intake” only on the basis of UGC suggested “supervisor-researcher ratio” effectively close down the existing system of annual admissions for M.Phil./Ph.D. for all batches to come? Why should the students aspiring to do research be made to suffer and why should future research avenues be curtailed?
8. Mr. VC, how valid is your arbitrary interpretation of UGC Notification and how is it more ‘binding’ than the Constitution and JNU’s own Act and statutory bodies?
Firstly, when the VC claims that the UGC gazette is “automatically binding” on JNU, he must remember that the Constitution and deliberations in the statutory bodies are also binding on JNU. Why is the UGC notification not democratically discussed in AC meetings taking into accounts the mandate of the 93rd constitutional amendment as well? At any rate, can any Notification from UGC override Laws and Acts passed through Parliament? And, why is JNU VC so keen to trample upon institutional autonomy granted by JNU’s own Act and statutes?
Secondly, even if we were to agree for a moment with VC’s logic of the “overriding” obligatory nature of the UGC notification, where does the UGC notification actually mandate that “supervisor-researcher ratio” can ONLY be achieved by seat cut in admissions and not by expanding faculty strength?
Thirdly, the “student – supervisor ratio” in UGC Notification is a broad guideline, surely “one size fits all” model may not be implemented in blanket manner ignoring the specific contexts. UGC Notification of 2009 too had a similar clause on “student – supervisor ratio”. At that time, it was seamlessly resolved through due deliberations in JNU’s statutory bodies such as the Academic Council, that too in the midst of implementing the seat expansions mandated by the 93rd Constitution amendment for OBC reservations. Surely, the current VC, whose whole and sole agenda is to cut seats, doesn’t want to follow that route which retains university’s autonomy.
9. Isn’t VC’s move likely to strike a body blow to the scope of reservations?
After all, once the system of annual admissions, based on fixed number of seats/intake, is dismantled, the so-called ‘vacant’ seats for admissions will open up only in small numbers and not in annual bulk leading to the number of reserved seats going for a toss.
10. Why is the JNU VC determined to undermine reservations and deprivation points and prevent entry of students from marginalised backgrounds?
VC’s claim that all provisions of “social justice” are being retained in JNU is yet another jumla to cover-up the actual implications of his moves. Firstly, with the JNU VC swearing by the UGC notification which fixes a uniform 50% marks to qualify for the written exam without any relaxation for the reserved categories, the principle of mandatory “relaxations” for students from deprived backgrounds at each and every stage of elimination in the admission process (confirmed by the categorical verdict from the Delhi High Court- the Gautam Sharma Vs. JNU 19 Jan 2016) stands violated leading to the strong eventuality of reserved category seats not getting filled. Secondly, by adding the deprivation points after the viva stage, the VC is also making JNU’s unique system of deprivation points meaningless as the students from deprived backgrounds and areas may already lose out in the initial stages itself.
11. Why is the JNU VC Interpreting the UGC Notification so as to ‘de-link’ the integrated character of JNU’s M.Phil./Ph.D. program and pushing the future of even the currently admitted students in insecurity and uncertainty?
According to the VC’s new ‘formula’, continuation in Ph.D. can no longer be guaranteed by CGPA scored in M.Phil., but will be based on whether the number of students under a supervisor is below the “specified limit”! Isn’t this a recipe for effectively de-linking the integrated nature of our M. Phil/Ph.D. programme?
12. When JNU with its present “faculty-student” strength has been rated as the best Central University and when no teacher is complaining of any “overburden” and are in fact are opposing seat cut, why is the VC so keen to shut down admissions in JNU’s research programmes for several years to come?
13. Mr. VC, what after all is your vision for ensuring quality research?
Can a mechanical ‘rule of number’ ensure quality, where supervisors are allotted NOT on the basis of students’ area of choice or faculty’s area of expertise, but only on whether a faculty has fewer students than the UGC specified cap? Is that not an absurd criteria that will surely discourage students and gut out research? Is research all about some number game or specific areas pursued by scholars and faculty members?
In sum, Mr. VC, isn’t it then obvious that your unilateral imposition of seat cut in the name of UGC Notification is driven NOT by any concern for quality, legality or institutional propriety, BUT certainly by the perverse political agenda of the govt of the day which seeks to curtail higher education and research in general – as was seen in BJP govt.’s earlier move to withdraw Non-NET fellowship, and destabilise JNU and erode it’s autonomy in particular- as codified in saffron brigade’s stated agenda of Shut Down JNU?
Photographs: Samim Asgor Ali
एक माँ, जिसकी दसवीं में पढने वाली बेटी डीका के साथ सामूहिक बलात्कार कर हत्या कर दी गयी, की अपील !
मैं कुसुम देवी खुरपी-हसुआ चलाकर मजदूरी करती हूँ, लेकिन अपनी बेटी को पढ़ा-लिखा कर होशियार बनाने का सपना देखती थी. आंबेडकर विद्यालय, हाजीपुर में दसवीं की छात्र थी मेरी बेटी डीका कुमारी.
6 जनबरी 2017 को मेरी बेटी ने मुझे फ़ोन कर होस्टल बुलाया. 7 जनबरी को मैं अपनी बेटी के लिए सेवई-पूरी लेकर हॉस्टल पहुंची. मिलते ही डीका बोली माँ मुझे यहाँ से ले चलो. बहुत पूछने पर बताया की एक सर जी कहते हैं की मेरे साथ गलत काम करो, हम तुम्हारा नंबर बढ़बा देंगे. मैंने शिक्षक से बात करना चाहा तो डीका ने मुझे मना किया की नहीं तुम्हारे जाने के बाद ये लोग मुझे मरेंगे. मैंने कोचिंग के बहाने बेटी को घर ले जाने की कोशिश की, तो एक सर जी ने डांट फटकार करते हुए कहा की अकेली तुम्हारी बेटी ही यहाँ पढ़ती है ? मुझे धकेल कर गेट बंद कर दिया गया. मैं बहार रोती रही, फिर बेबस होकर वापस घर लौट आई. दुसरे दिन गाँव के विकास मित्र के जरिए मुझे खबर मिला की डीका ख़त्म हो गयी है. पूरा परिवार रोते बिलखते छात्रावास पहुंचा, तो देखा की नाली में बेटी की लाश परी है. उसके सारे कपड़े फार डाले गए थे उसके शरीर का कोई हिस्सा नहीं था, जहाँ जख्म या चोट ना हो. नाक-मुंह धुल से सना हुआ था. चेहरा व हाँथ चाकू से कटा हुआ था. शरीर का हर अंदरूनी हिस्सा चाकू से चीरा हुआ था. उसके शरीर के भीतर उसका ही जांघिया ठूंसा हुआ था, जिसे मैंने बहार खींचा तो जमा हुआ खून बहार फूंट परा. छात्रावास की लड़कियों ने उसके कपड़े बदले. मैं रोती-चिल्लाती रही, लेकिन वहां उपस्थित पुलिस और टीचर जल्दी से जल्दी मेरी बेटी की लाश ले जाने की कोशिश में लगे थे. मैं शुक्रगुजार हूँ वहां पढने वाली अन्य बेटियों की, जिन्होंने मेरी बेटी की लाश को तब तक रोक रखा था, जब तक हमलोग वहां पहुँच नहीं गए. लेकिन मैं पहुँच कर भी कुछ नहीं कर ना सकी. आनन- फानन में पोस्टमार्टम हुआ और तुरंत ही दबाब डालकर दाह-संस्कार करवा दिया गया. आज दस दिन बाद भी मेरी बेटी का चेहरा मेरी नजरों के सामने घूम रहा है और मेरे मन में बस एक ही हुक उठ रही है की क्या दलित-गरीब की बेटी ऐसे ही नृशंस बलात्कार हत्या की शिकार बनाई जाती रहेगी ! चूँकि उसने यौन अत्याचार को चुपचाप बर्दास्त करने के बदले मूंह खोला, विरोध किया इसलिए उसे क्रूर सजा दी गई. मेरी बेटी बहादुर व मजबूत थी एक दो लोगों का मुकाबला तो वह अकेले कर सकती थी. इसलिए भेदियों के झूंड ने उसे अपना शिकार बनाया.उसके शरीर का एक-एक जखम यह साबित कर रहा था की वह बचाव में किस कदर लड़ी थी. लेकिन एस.पी. साहब जज बनकर फैसला सुना रहे हैं की ‘बलात्कार की पुष्टि नहीं होती’. डी.एम्. जिनके घर पर स्कूल की गार्ड तैनात रहती है, उन्होंने भी चुप्पी साध राखी है. जो प्राचार्य खुद लड़कियों को धमकती हैं, उस प्राचार्य समेत कोई शिक्षिका इस आवासीय विद्यालय में नहीं रहती. इस छात्रावास में कोपी किताब, डॉक्टर दबाई तो दूर की बात पीने के पानी का इंतजाम नहीं था. लगता है गरीब के घर पैदा होने वाले बच्चों को कुछ टुकड़े फेंक कर सरकार का काम ख़त्म हो जाता है. जिस छात्रवास में बाप-माई या सगे-सम्बन्धी पुरूषों को घुसने नहीं दिया जाता, लड़कियों को गेट से बहार निकलने नही दिया जाता, उसी छात्रावास के भीतर ही मेरी बेटी मार डाली गई. जिनके हाँथ में बेटी को सौपा था भविष्य बनाने के लिए, उन्हीं लोगों ने उसके साथ यह सलूक किया क्यों की वह उनकी काली करतूतों के लिए खतरा बन गई थी. लेकिन सर्कार चुप है क्यों की बात खुलेगी तो कई बड़े-बड़े लोगों के चेहरे पर से पर्दा हटेगा और सिर्फ अम्बद्कर विद्यालय हाजीपुर ही नहीं, बिहार के ऐसे सभी आवासीय विद्यालयों की सच्चाई सतह पर आ जाएगी. मैं अनपढ़ गरीब माँ और मेरी बहादुर बरती डीका बस एक सम्मानजनक भविष्य का छोटा सा सपना देखते थे. आज वह सपना भी मुझसे छीन लिया गया ! मैं बस न्याय चाहती हूँ. न्याय मांगती हूँ ताकि मेरी तरह कोई और डीका की माँ में ना बदल दी जाए.
डीका जैसी बेटियों की माँ
ऐपवा-आइसा-इनौस द्वारा प्रसारित ।
BR Ambedkar And The Challenges for India’s Democracy Today
“What you have lost others have gained. Your humiliations are a matter of pride with others. You are made to suffer wants, privations and humiliations not because it was pre-ordained by the sins committed in your previous birth, but because of the overpowering tyranny and treachery of those who are above you. You have no lands because others have usurped them; you have no posts because others have monopolised them. Do not believe in fate; believe in your strength.”
As we enter upon the year of the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, his worst apprehensions regarding Indian society and polity loom large as never before.
“If Hindu Raj does become a fact”, he wrote in Pakistan or Partition of India (1945), “it will no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. It is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”
Ambedkar had the foresight to spot the danger of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ on the distant skyline some 70 years ago; today that danger is at our gates, in the shape of the Modi Raj, essentially a corporate-communal fascist rule.
RSS, BJP Cannot Appropriate Ambedkar
Modi is fond of using Ambedkar as an alibi for every assault by his Government and his party on the Constitution drafted by Ambedkar. With his Government in the dock for the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, the Ambedkarite Marxist student activist branded anti-national by Modi’s Ministers, the Prime Minister is trying hard to redefine Ambedkar’s legacy to suit the BJP’s agenda.
Laying the foundation stone for an Ambedkar Memorial at Delhi, Modi said that Ambedkar called for labour reform as well as industrialization. In fact, Ambedkar staunchly opposed every reform that the colonial regime introduced to discipline and enslave labour, and today Modi’s Government is introducing labour reforms’ that take a leaf from the colonial book!
Modi said that Ambedkar resigned from the Congress Government’s cabinet over the issue of women’s rights. This is a reference to the Hindu Code Bill that Ambedkar drafted; he felt betrayed at its truncation and dilution by the Nehru Government. But Modi omits to mention that the staunchest opponent of the Hindu Code Bill was the RSS, which backed the Anti Hindu Code Bill Committee. The RSS organized a public meeting at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on the 11th of December, 1949, “where speaker after speaker condemned the bill. One called it ‘an atom bomb on Hindu society.’” (Ramchandra Guha, ‘Bhagwat’s Ambedkar’, Indian Express, 10 December 2015)
Moreover, Ambedkar had burnt the Manusmriti as a symbol of casteism and patriarchy, while the BJP, RSS and ABVP defend the Manusmriti. Even Modi himself, in an article he wrote on Golwalkar in 2006, had the audacity to refer to Ambedkar as a “modern Manu” in a deliberate attempt to reconcile Ambedkar with Manuvad – the same Manuvad that Ambedkar was committed to annihilating.
The India of Ambedkar’s Dreams
For Ambedkar, the ‘nation’ was no ready-made thing to celebrate. Rather, it must be painstakingly built by recognizing and destroying the foundations of inequality and oppression. Contrast this attitude with that of the RSS and BJP, which brands any critique of existing Indian society, especially any critique of caste, gender and communal discrimination or intolerance, as ‘anti-national’ and ‘divisive’!
“We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality … in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?” (Ambedkar, Speech in the Constituent Assembly on adoption of the Constitution, November 25, 1949; henceforth Speech, emphasis added)
When Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet, upset with the Nehru Government’s dilution of the Hindu Code Bill, he said:
“To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex, which is the soul of Hindu Society, untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap.”
“Castes Are Anti-National”
Would the RSS brand Ambedkar as ‘anti-national’ for his bold words:
“I am of opinion that in believing that we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not as yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the word, the better for us. For then only we shall realize the necessity of becoming a nation and seriously think of ways and means of realising the goal. The realization of this goal is going to be very difficult ….
The castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality.” (Speech)
Annihilation of Caste As Essential for Democracy
While Ambedkar advocated many much-needed reforms including the Hindu Code Bill and caste-based representation and reservations, the question of the annihilation of caste was most crucial to Ambedkar’s conception of democracy. The key text where Ambedkar dealt with question has been dealt in greatest detail and most radical terms is Annihilation of Caste (Henceforth Annihilation)- a speech scheduled to be delivered at a talk organized by Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Forum for the Break-up of Caste System) of Lahore, an offshoot of the Arya Samaj — but later cancelled by the organizers. Here we find Ambedkar mercilessly tearing apart the varna-caste kernel of Brahmanism, in the process demolishing familiar apologetic arguments like (a) casteism is bad but varnavyavastha is good, (b) caste is necessary but untouchability is bad and so on.
To start with, read this passage from Annihilation:
“Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be all and end all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes. Each caste not only dines among itself and marries among itself but each caste prescribes its own distinctive dress.”
Caste, in other words, was the worst segregator – in fact “anti-national”, as he would declare soon after independence. Gandhi on the other hand reduced the whole agenda to that of abolition of untouchability and conducted an intense ‘harijan’ campaign for the purpose. His entire emphasis was on ‘penance’ by caste Hindus for the sin of untouchability. The campaign did not allow any space for militant action by untouchables themselves. In an attempt to mobilise Ambedkar, already a rising star among dalits by the early 1930s – in his campaign, Gandhi requested the latter to send a message for his magazine Harijan. Ambedkar did not let go of this opportunity to counter the illusion that untouchability or the problem of the outcastes could be solved within the caste system. Here is the statement he sent:
“The Out-caste is a by-product of the Caste system. There will be outcastes as long as there are castes. Nothing can emancipate the Out-caste except the destruction of the Caste system. Nothing can help to save Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle except the purging of the Hindu Faith of this odious and vicious dogma.”(Harijan, 11 February 1933)
But how to proceed towards this goal? Some of the religious but progressive Hindus believed that inter-caste dining and inter-caste marriages could perhaps close the gaps. In Annihilation Ambedkar first says that the latter is more potent than the former, since “Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount, the separatist feeling, the feeling of being aliens created by Caste will not vanish.” He congratulates the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal for actively promoting this and then goes to the very root of the matter:
“Why is it that a large majority of Hindus do not inter-dine and do not inter-marry? The Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong- headed. What is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. “[Therefore,] criticising and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras.…
Reformers working for the removal of untouchability, including Mahatma Gandhi, do not seem to realize that the acts of the people are merely the results of their beliefs inculcated upon their minds by the Shastras…Make every man and woman free from the thralldom of the Shastras, cleanse their minds of the pernicious notions founded on the Shastras, and he or she will inter-dine and inter-marry, without your telling him or her to do so.”
Ambedkar Warned Against Manipulative Misuse of the Slogan of ‘Nationalism’
In What Congress And Gandhi Have Done To The Untouchables, Ambedkar wrote:
“the governing class in India has placed itself in the vanguard of the Congress movement and it strives to bring everybody within the Congress fold. …[it] is aware that a political campaign based on class ideology, class interests, class issues and class conflicts will toll its death knell. It knows that the most effective way of side tracking the servile classes and fooling them is to play upon the sentiment of nationalism and national unity and realizes that the Congress platform is the only platform that can most effectively safeguard the interest of the governing class.”
Replace Congress with BJP/Sangh Parivar. Don’t you get a fair approximation of today’s scenario, with the additional aspect that that the BJP/Sangh Parivar, in the name of nationalism, defines that nationalism in terms of an aggressive Hindu majority united against minorities and dissenting voices?
“Educate, Agitate, Organise”
These words, in the order given here (which is often misplaced), appeared as the mast for Bahishkrit Bharat — India Excluded or Ostracized India — the first magazine Ambedkar published. In fact this was the motto of the utopian socialist Fabian society, about which he came to learn from his Oxford teacher John Dewey. “My final words of advice to you,” he said at the end of his speech at the All-India Depressed Classes Conference (Nagpur, July 1942), “are – educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself.”
Ambedkar never saw himself as the messiah of dalits and always insisted on independent rational thinking instead of blind faith on any supreme leader, including himself. “You must abolish your slavery yourself”, he said. “Do not depend for its abolition upon God or a Superman.” This approach, which stood in stark contrast against the guru worship prevalent in our country, found expression in his favourite maxim from Buddhism — atmo deep bhavo (Be a torch unto thyself or be your own guide). Indeed, this principle – very close as it is to the Marxist principle that the proletariat must secure its emancipation by itself – had its polar opposite in Gandhi’s views and modus operandi among the untouchables.
Ambedkar’s Radical Socio-Economic Vision: ‘Liberty’ For Workers and Peasants Not For Capitalists and Landlords
Not only the ruling class but even some influential Ambedkarite ideologues, with great hopes in the equalizing power of capitalism and globalization, tried to paint Ambedkar as a ‘free-marketist neoliberal’. But Ambedkar’s life and his writings are a testament to his strong opposition to capitalism and his espousal of the cause of the working class. In 1938 Ambedkar, while addressing the GIP Railway Dalit Mazdoor Conference in Manmad, had declared that the dalits had two enemies, Brahminism and Capitalism (reported in TOI, 14 Feb, 1938). When Ambedkar was unsure of his election to the Constituent Assembly, he prepared a memorandum in March 1947, published in May 1947 as States and Minorities: What are Their Rights and How to Secure them in the Constitution of Free India. This document, presented as a ‘Constitution of the United States of India,’ was far ahead, in its radical democratic social vision, of what became the Indian Constitution. This document recommended:
“Key industries shall be owned and run by the State… the State shall compel every adult citizen to take out a life insurance policy commensurate with his wages as may be prescribed by the Legislature… agriculture shall be a State industry.” The same document also advocated the state acquiring all agricultural land, dividing it into farms of standard size, and letting out the farms for cultivation to residents of the village as tenants, to be cultivated collectively.
The document prophetically observed that industrialization through private enterprise “would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe and which should be a warning to Indians.”
In the Appendix to this document Ambedkar observed how capitalism was fundamentally opposed to democracy:
“Anyone who studies the working of the system of social economy based on private enterprise and pursuit of personal gain will realise how it undermines, if it does not actually violate, the last two premises on which Democracy rests (i.e that the individual shall not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a precondition to the receipt of a privilege, and that the State shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others). How many have to relinquish their constitutional rights in order to gain their living? How many have to subject themselves to be governed by private employers? Ask those who are unemployed whether what are called Fundamental Rights are of any value to them.… The fear of starvation, the fear of losing a house, the fear of losing savings if any, the fear of being compelled to take children away from school, the fear of having to be a burden on public charity, the fear of having to be burned or buried at public cost are factors too strong to permit a man to stand out for his Fundamental Rights. The unemployed are thus compelled to relinquish their Fundamental Rights for the sake of securing the privilege to work and to subsist.”
He then brilliantly refutes the argument that State control would curb ‘liberty’:
“To whom and for whom is this liberty? Obviously this liberty is liberty to the landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to increase hours of work and reduce rate of wages. …In other words what is called liberty from the control of the State is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer.” (Dr. B.R.Ambedkar, States And Minorities, Appendix I)
Ambedkar on Constitutional Morality and Rationalism
People of India will never forget Ambedkar’s historic role as the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, in arming them with valuable weapons like universal franchise and reservation, which have given the downtrodden a platform to take on the deeply entrenched structures of inequality, injustice and domination of the rich and the powerful.
In addition to his well-known contributions, Ambedkar has left behind many other potent ideas and insights, if only in brief outlines. We must develop these in accordance with our situations and use them as political weapons in the current struggle against obscurantism, status-quoism, intolerance, patriarchy, regional/ethnic chauvinism and all that, and also in our long-term struggle for a people’s democracy based on genuine liberty, equality, and fraternity.
He made a very important distinction between societal morality and constitutional morality. The former refers to the old, spontaneous, commonsensical morality of the dominant community — as expressed, for example, in regressive attitudes towards women’s social and sexual freedom, LGBT rights, interfaith and intercaste marriages, beef-eating, and so on. Constitutional morality on the other hand is modern, consciously developed, progressive and based on principles enshrined in the Constitution such as egalitarianism, social justice, secularism and so on. As Ambedkar pointed out, “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated.” (4 Nov 1948, Constituent Assembly Debates Vol. VII)
In these days of frequent and concerted attacks on rationalism, another ingredient of Ambedkar’s world outlook assumes special importance: his commitment to rationality and the scientific spirit. One of the reasons behind his attraction towards Buddhism lay in its spirit of investigation, argumentation, dialectical approach and enlightenment. While summarising the essential teachings of the Buddha, Ambedkar wrote, inter alia,
“Everyone has a right to learn. Learning is as necessary for man to live as food is … Nothing is infallible. Nothing is binding forever. Everything is subject to inquiry and examination.”
Ambedkar on Labour Laws and State Repression
Ambedkar and the communist unions had joined hands to organize textile mill workers in struggles against the against the draconian Industrial Disputes Bill. Ambedkar’s speech in the Bombay Assembly against the Bill is a brilliant defence of the basic democratic rights of workers, and reads as a damning indictment of the arguments advanced by today’s Governments about labour laws. In that speech, Ambedkar made it clear that
“to make it (workers’ strike) a crime is to compel a man to serve against his will; [and making him a slave…To penalise a strike, therefore, I contend, is nothing short of making the worker a slave…a strike is simply another name for the right to freedom.”
He added, “… a democracy which enslaves the working class, a class which is devoid of education, which is devoid of the means of life, which is devoid of any power of organisation, which is devoid of intelligence, I submit, is no democracy but a mockery of democracy.”
His remarks on ‘equality’ in the context of the unequal situations of worker and employer, are as relevant in the context of the inequality between the privileged and the oppressed castes and the need for caste-based reservations:
“…Of course, it may be pointed out that this Bill introduces equality of treatment between the labourers and the employers, because, just as this Bill penalises the strike of workmen, it also penalises the lockout by employers….Equality is not necessarily equity. In order that it may produce equity in society, in order that it may produce justice in society, different people have to be treated unequally. This equity cannot be produced, if we propose to treat the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, the ignorant and the intelligent on the same footing.” (Bombay Legislative Assembly Debates, Vol. 4, pp. 1330-59, dated 15th September 1938)
As Labour Member of the Viceroy’s Council,1942-45, Dr. Ambedkar initiated programs for education, health care for workers and maternity leave provisions for women workers. He set up the Tripartite Labour Council in 1942, introduced compulsory recognition of Trade Unions, the Minimum Wages Act and the worker’s ‘Right to Strike’.
On Police Firing: In the Bombay Assembly, Ambedkar’s remarks in response to an enquiry report that justified police firing resonate powerfully against those who, today, say it is ‘anti-national’ to speak against fake encounters or firings by police or army. The report had justified the firing and blamed the Council of Action – of which Ambedkar was a member – for provoking workers:
“…I am also asking therefore another question to the Honourable the Home Minister. Is he prepared to prosecute the police officers who indulged in this firing in an ordinary court of law and get the finding given by this Committee sustained by a Judge and a Jury? Sir, I like to point out to this House that so far as the law is concerned, there is no difference between an ordinary citizen and a police officer or a military officer, and I would like to read for the benefit of the House a short paragraph from a very classical document which I am sure my honourable friend the Home Minister knows, namely, the Report of the Featherstone Riots Committee. In one passage it says:—
“Officers and soldiers are under no special privileges and subject to no special responsibility as regards the principle of the law. A soldier for the purpose of establishing civil order is only a citizen armed in a particular manner. He cannot, because he is a soldier, excuse himself if, without necessity, he takes human life..”
In this speech, Ambedkar mentioned Edward Thompson, former Governor of the Punjab who was an advocate of the cause of Indian home rule and exposed the crafty mindset. He said,
“I was horrified by the argument that he advanced. …The one thing that convinced him, he said, in favour of Irish home rule was this: So long as the rebellion was going on, no Englishman could shoot an Irishman, however violent his action was, because if an Englishman shot an Irishman, the whole Irish country went up in arms. He said that as soon as home rule was granted, it was possible for Cosgrave to shoot Irishmen, and nobody rose in rebellion against it. He said that one advantage that the Englishman would have from home rule to India would be that the Indian Ministers would be able to shoot Indians without any qualms. This is exactly what is happening. This is not the only occasion when disturbances have taken place. … The only question is this: Whether, in maintaining peace and order, we shall not have regard for freedom and for liberty. And if home rule means nothing else …than that our own Minister can shoot our own people, and the rest of us merely laugh at the whole show or rise to support him because he happens to belong to a particular party, then I say home rule has been a curse and not a benefit to all India.” (Bombay Legislative Assembly Debates, Vol. 5, pp. 1724-27, dated 17th March 1939)
Dr.Ambedkar’s visionary ideas of annihilation of caste and emancipation of the oppressed, and of a thoroughly democratic India are an inspiration and invaluable resource for all fighters for democracy today: be they workers fighting for the right to form unions and go on strike and against inhuman and unsafe conditions of work; landless labourers and poor peasants resisting private militias like the Ranveer Sena and demanding justice for anti-Dalit massacres; inter-caste couples facing murderous attacks; Dalit children facing discrimination and segregation in school and society; civil libertarians demanding justice in fake encounters and police/army firings; University students fighting for social justice and resisting privatisation and saffronisation; all citizens fighting for socially and economically just policies against corporate plunder, and for secularism and against communal fascism…
For all these fighters for democracy to come together to realise a shared dream of a truly democratic and egalitarian India will be the best tribute to that great visionary Dr BR Ambedkar at this challenging juncture.
Karawaan-e-Sedition: Kis Kis Ko ‘Anti-National’ Kahoge?
The ABVP-RSS-BJP and some media channels (who have mastered the art of airing fake tweets and doctored videos) are busy telling the world that JNU is a hub of ‘sedition’. The very same voices emerging from #OccupyUGC and #JusticeforRohithVemula are now ‘anti-national’ and ‘seditious’, if the ABVP-RSS-BJP and Times Now/Zee News are to be believed. Students activists, JNU teachers and well-known poets are now being branded “anti-national” in primetime shows. Even as we battle a police crackdown, arrests, jailing and suspensions, let us discuss ‘sedition’, the ‘crime’ we are being accused of.
Sedition is a Political Tool That Should Be Scrapped: In India, the sedition law was instituted by the British in 1870, to silence the Indian freedom movement. This law has however remained even after 1947, and ironically, various elected governments in independent India have perhaps slapped sedition charges more often than the British did in the 77 years between 1870 and 1947 (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/sedition-legislation-meant-to-suppress-the-voice-of-indian-people/article7758013.ece). The charge of ‘sedition’ has been widely and loosely used by Governments to harass and brand political opponents as ‘anti-national’. In recent years there have been no convictions under this law – the widely criticised conviction of Binayak Sen by a lower court in Raipur was a sole exception. Indeed, the purpose of this law is not to secure a conviction but to chill and punish free speech and dissent. In recent years, those accused of sedition include editors and journalists, cartoonists, and activists – for exposing starvation or communal/caste violence, criticizing the Government, or having left political ideology. Few examples:
Kahturam Sunani, an Odisha-based journalist with OTV, was charged with sedition in May 2007 for filing a report that Pahariya tribals were consuming ‘soft’ dolomite stones in Nuapada district due to acute hunger.
Tamil folksinger Kovan was arrested and charged with sedition for writing a song critical of Tamil nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa.
Aseem Trivedi, a cartoonist, was accused of sedition based on a cartoon.
Lenin Kumar, editor, Nishan, was charged with sedition in 2008 for publishing a booklet titled ‘Kandhamal’s rivers of blood’.
Scientist, PUCL and AIPWA activist E Rati Rao was charged with sedition in Karnataka in 2010 for an article in Varthapatra, a journal edited by her, alleging fake encounter deaths in Karnataka.
Niranjan Mahapatra, Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Pawar and other trade union leaders and social activists in Gujarat, as well as Sudhir Dhawale, journalist and Dalit rights activist in Maharashtra have been charged with sedition for alleged ‘Maoist links’.
Thousands of anti-nuclear activists in Kudankulam have been charged with sedition.
Clearly, the sedition law is a convenient tool to target, harass and defame anyone whose activism is inconvenient to the Government of the day. In contrast, note that those who have actually incited violence against people – such as BJP and RSS and Shiv Sena leaders in riots – have never been charged with ‘sedition’! When Ranveer Sena men stated to the Cobrapost that several BJP leaders had funded the banned outfit which orchestrated Dalit massacres in Bihar, no one was charged with sedition (http://cobrapost.com/index.php/news-detail?nid=8983&cid=23). In other words, waging violence and war against a particular section of people in the nation has never been seen as ‘sedition’ by the governments!
In the Kedar Nath Singh v State of Bihar (1962), a five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court read down Section 124A, stating that its operation was limited only to activities involving “incitement to violence or intention or tendency to create public disorder or cause disturbance of public peace”. In 1995, (Balwant Singh and Anr v. State of Punjab), the Supreme Court refused to punish two men for raising slogans of ‘Khalistan Zindabad’ in a crowded cinema hall the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated. In Bilal Ahmed Kaloo v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1997), Supreme Court held that “mechanical order convicting a citizen for offences of such serious nature like sedition and to promote enmity and hatred etc. does harm to the cause. It is expected that graver the offence, greater should be the care taken so that the liberty of a citizen is not lightly interfered with”. The above verdicts make the legal position very clear – slogans are not sedition, neither are articles or opinions or ideological positions. And yet, governments routinely slap ‘sedition’ charges on all those who ask uncomfortable questions, as a political tool to terrorise opponents.
Can we allow debate and political dissent to be criminalised as ‘sedition’? In JNU, we often say: ‘We Argue, We Listen, We Debate, We Are JNU’. We need to speak to all dissenting and contentious voices, oppressed castes, workers, peasants, students, minorities, and all the people from Kashmir or Manipur or Nagaland, and say ‘We Argue, We Listen, We Debate’. We need to be willing to listen, engage and empathise. We need to be able to say that media trials and capital punishment, fake encounters, rapes and violence by security forces, political massacres and pogroms cannot be justified in “OUR” name. This engagement and empathy can bring us closer to political solutions for long-festering questions. At a time when certificates of ‘sedition’ are being distributed all over the place, let us remember what Gandhiji had to say on the issue:
“Section 124 A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by the law. If one has no affection for a person, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote or incite to violence. But the section under which Mr Banker and I are charged is one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it, and I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it”.
Condemn the Role of Karnataka Police and Shameful Denial of the State Govt!
AISA strongly condemns the shocking racist attack on a Tanzanian woman student in Bangalore on (31st January, 2016) Sunday night.
According to eyewitnesses, the victim along with her five friends was traveling in a car and had the misfortune to reach the spot, where in an accident some 30 minutes before a woman was run over by a car driven by a Sudanese national. The Tanzanian girl and her friends, who had nothing to do with the earlier accident, were brutally targeted by the gathered mob. In a display of shameful lynch-mob racism, the students were forced out of the car and then the car was set ablaze. She was chased, assaulted, and had her clothes torn by the mob. The driver of the second car was beaten up black and blue by the mob, who then stripped the girl student. When someone from the crowd offered her a T-Shirt, that man too was beaten up by the mob. She later, with her torn clothes, tried to enter a BMTC bus that had slowed down nearby, but the passengers in the bus pushed her back down on to the road. According to one of the victims, people were streaming out from buses, auto-rickshaws and charging towards the victims, punching and kicking them.
The victims were in no way connected to the Sudanese man involved in the earlier accident. The two were not even of the same nationality — other than being, in the eyes of the mob, of the same colour and race as ‘African’. The attack on her is a clear case of lynch mob vigilantism purely based on the colour of her skin! What else is it other than racism?
Shocking Role of Police and State Machinery: The entire incident happened in the midst of considerable police presence, who were anyway there because of the earlier accident. But the police looked the other way and allowed this macabre incident to continue. When the victims reached the police station, there too police refused to file the FIR and it took two days till Tuesday for the complaint to be registered!
The Karnataka government is shamefully attempting to cover up the entire incident and trying to prove that it was not a racist attack. When you are targeted merely because of the colour of your skin, what is it if not racism? Rather than attempting to hide the facts, the government must acknowledge the truth because acknowledging the truth is the first step towards justice.
It is a shame that government’s ministers are making statements that it was not racism, but a reaction to the earlier accident! It is highly condemnable that the ruling class political establishment and law and order enforcing authorities have completely abdicated their responsibility by choosing to sanitise the lynch-mob racism rather than sensitise the society at large about the abominable racist character of the crime!
Deep Seated Racism: Such attacks on African people have been witnessed repeatedly in Delhi as well. We protested against a similar incident of mob-violence on African women in Delhi’s Khirki village, which happened with encouragement from the then AAP minister Somnath Bharti against Ugandan and Nigerian women who were accused of prostitution and drug peddling. They, too, were humiliated like the Tanzanian student in Bangalore. Earlier in Delhi, we witnessed a similar incident at the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station, where three youth were brutally attacked by a mob because they objected to being photographed without consent.
It may be recalled how in 2012 thousands of migrant people from the Northeast were forced to flee from Bangalore, terrorised by a concerted hate campaign carried out through SMSes and the social media. We have also seen how the people from the North-East have borne the brunt of the so-called “mainstream’s” violent persecution in the national capital.
While metro cities are showcased as hallmarks of ‘modernity’, we witness such regressive attitudes towards women and people of different ethnicities. From social ostracisation and institutional murder of a Dalit scholar in ‘Cyberabad’ to the spate of racist, misogynist and communal attacks in ‘India’s silicon valley’ Bengaluru – the pathological realities of ‘Digital India’ claims stand exposed.
From matrimonial ads to frenzied propagation of “fairness” creams and skin-whitening creams, words like “kaala” (Black) are used in our country as insults, robbing people of their self worth and dignity. And this despite the fact that India itself had been at the receiving end of colour dominance since colonial times. The silence on racism, casteism and misogyny needs to be broken.
We express deepest solidarity with the Tanzanian students, who had to face such a nightmare, in their fight for justice and dignity! Karnataka govt and police cannot be allowed to go scot free for their inaction and denial!
Resist Serial Political Targeting and Victimisation of Progressive Student Activists Across Campuses Under the Diktats of the Saffron Regime!
Down with the Victimisation and Ostracisation of 5 Dalit Research Scholars by the UoH Administration Under BJP-ABVP’s Political Diktats!
Yesterday, as a united student protest was going on against the victimisation of 5 Dalit research scholars by the University of Hyderabad’s administration, the news of the tragic suicide one of Rohith Vemula reached us. Even as we collectively mourn the shocking and tragic loss, let us not fail to nail those responsible. Rohith along with four other students had been indicted by the UOH Administration without any evidence. Even the administrative enquiry report mentions this clearly. And yet they were evicted from their hostels, barred from entering public spaces in the university, and participating in student union elections.
This action didn’t happen in a vacuum. A series of letters and communication between the UOH Administration, local BJP leaders as well MHRD reveals that the decision for this vindictive action was taken at the behest of the ABVP-BJP combine. No less that BJP MP and Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya has been writing letters to the MHRD for the past few months demanding action against ‘anti national’ ‘extremist’ and ‘casteist’ members of the Ambedkar Student Association in HCU. The victimisation of the Dalit students at the University, and the subsequent death of Rohith Vemula is a consequence of this targeted witch-hunt.
The HCU administration, ABVP-BJP and MHRD be held responsible for this horrifically condemnable role in this entire sequence of events. AISA has given a call for observing 19th January as National Protest Day. We call upon all students to unite and ensure that those responsible for Rohith’s death be punished.
Saffron Emergency in Campuses
Our educational system is currently facing an unprecedented crisis. With communal fascist forces in power, the entire state machinery and bureaucracy is being used to further a divisive communal agenda, to defend exclusion and growing lack of access to educational institutions, hostels and scholarships. In campus after campus, all democratic spaces of discussion, dissent and social inclusion are being scuttled, and the dangerous process of saffron infiltration and indoctrination continues unabated.
In the recent past, at IIT-Madras, the administration (acting on the letter of the MHRD) banned the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC), which the administration was forced to withdraw after country-wide protests. At FTII, the historic resistance of the students to saffron appointments has been met with every kind of brutal response–intimidation, victimisation, lathi charges and arrests. At EFLU, an emergency-like situation exists. Students are suspended for participating in peaceful protests, there is a total ban on public meetings, seminars and all democratic activities, and even facebook posts critical of the Modi government’s policies have led to suspensions and rustications! At IIT-BHU, Prof. Sandeep Pandey has been removed from his faculty position for daring to hold ideological views contrary to the ruling powers. The rustication of 5 Dalit students culminating in loss of a life in UoH is the latest in an ever-growing list of dangerous saffronized intimidation in campuses across the country, at the behest of the BJP.
As students, we are of course more than familiar with exactly who indulges in violence and hooliganism on campuses across the country! In DU, ABVP ransacked the DU History department and assaulted the Head of the Department (2008) for the History department’s ‘crime’ of inclusion of A.K. Ramanujan’s seminal essay the ‘300 Ramayanas’! They have regularly threatened, intimidated and beaten up students and left activists for their ideological views and struggles for students’ rights, latest being the assaults on AISA activists during a protest against the imposition of the retrograde CBCS in DU and vandalism to stop the screening of the film Muzaffarnagar Baqi Hai.
Who can forget the abuse and violence that students camping at UGC were subjected to by the ABVP members on the intervening night of 22-23 October? ABVP’s elected Union representatives from JNU and DU were attacking students demanding the right to education!
In Allahabad University, again, ABVP’s Union representatives engaged in physical violence to stop a programme related to #OccupyUGC. None of us have forgotten how ABVP activists were involved in the vandalism and lynching leading to the death of Professor Sabharwal in Ujjain some years ago.
Steady Sanghi infiltration in universities and use of state power have ensured that the very same university administrations which immediately suspend or rusticate progressive activists based on spurious complaints made by ABVP, NEVER take any action on ABVP’s violence and hooliganism!
In the latest incidence of state crackdown on dissenting voices, the Delhi Police brutally lathicharged and threw water cannon on the students protesting against victimisation of dalit students in HCU resulting in the death of Rohith on 18th December in Delhi. DU AISA secretary comrade Sudhanshu was beaten on the head and is severely injured.
In the backdrop of this dangerous trend of muzzling of democracy across campuses, saffronisation and commercialisation of educational institutions, we are also witnessing a remarkable resistance. Across the country, each and every act of saffron intimidation and harassment is being countered – from JNU and IIT-Madras to FTII, EFLU, Allahabad, and UoH. AISA and RYA once again appeal everyone to join national protest day against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula on 19th December 2016.
On 21st of October the students from different universities of Delhi stormed the gate of UGC in an outrage against the UGC’s decision to discontinue non-NET research fellowship. They occupied the inner premises of UGC demanding scrapping of UGC’s decision to discontinue the Non-NET Fellowship. The students stayed days and nights in the UGC premises and built up what has become the historic #OccupyUGC movement.
Interestingly the decision to discontinue the research scholarship was taken in the 7th October meeting of a UGC committee which was formed to decide ‘increase in the fellowship’. This abrupt and shocking decision united students from universities across the country and generated an unprecedented movement against fund-cut and commercialisation of education in India. Along with students, the occupy at UGC saw mass participation of teachers, elected Teacher Associations from all universities in Delhi, activists of people’s movements and the common people of Delhi. The #OccupyUGC movement, in fact has spread to colleges and universities across the country. Protests are being organised in Hyderabad, NEHU Shillong, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Wardha, AMU, Allahabad, Pondicherry, Chandigarh, Sagar, Rohtak and elsewhere in solidarity. Regional offices of the UGC across the country have seen spirited protests by students. With every crackdown from the police, the mass participation in the movement has only swelled.
Scrapping of Non-NET Fellowship: A Blow to Research in India The non-NET fellowship which is given to research scholars in Central Universities is a life-line in pursuing research for the students. Generation of new knowledge by original, quality and rigorous research by full-time researchers is essential for any developing society. Since Independence, public-funded universities had been envisioned for the purpose of promoting cutting-edge research by full-time research scholars. Scholars devote crucial years of their life in producing research for the society and the non-NET fellowship is only a “minimum wage” that is barely enough to sustain the daily needs of the scholars.
The recent policy shift of cut in public funding and drive for private funding will have two-fold effect : (a) it will push out students from common and deprived backgrounds from the arena of higher education and research and (b) with corporate profit motive dominating the arena, autonomy of ideas and sensitivity to social needs in a diverse and developing country like ours will be severely compromised.
So the decision to scrap the Non-NET fellowship generated mass protest all over the country. In response to the protest, the UGC and the MHRD have only been issuing diversionary notices, ordered lathi charge on students rather than meeting them and listening to their demands. The UGC and the MHRD along with the student organisation of BJP/RSS- the ABVP have been spreading that the fellowship will be ‘continued and a Review Committe has been formed to look into different aspects of disbursing the fellowship’. But the protesters have refused to be convinced by the lies spread by government machinery and the ABVP. Students have correctly pointed out that the mandate of the so-called Review Committee (as specified in different UGC/MHRD notifications) is to actually reduce the scope of the fellowship by introducing economic/merit or other unspecified restrictive criteria.
The #OccupyUGC movement has categorically rejected the farcical mandate of the Review Committee and articulated that :
- Getting into research rather than getting employed after graduation or masters degree is not an easy decision for students in India. Pursuing research only becomes possible when there is institutional financial support. Pursuing research is also creation of knowledge for the country and society for which the students should be duly paid. Thus any restrictive criteria in giving research scholarship will only make it impossible for students to pursue research. Students from marginalised communities and women who get into higher educational institutions after fighting out societal discriminations and family pressure will be the worst affected. Moreover, when every students has to go through a screening process to get into research in any Indian University, why does the UGC need to introduce any other criteria? Thus the movement has rejected the mandate of the review committee to introduce any restrictive criterion in disbursing research fellowship.
- The fellowship must increase from the present scale of Rs 5000/8000 to Rs. 8000/12000 for M.Phil./Ph.D. commensurate with increase in JRF. The fellowship must also be linked to inflation index for all future purposes.
- The fellowship must be expanded to all state universities without any exclusionary criteria and with an increased rate.
Massive Fund-Cuts in Basic Science Research: At this hour when a massive movement is going on against the scrapping of non-NET fellowship, disturbing news is coming about fund-cuts in science research institutes. • Ministry of Science and Technology has directed CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) to generate 50% of research funding on their own.• IIT’s have also been asked to partner industries for funding research. (The Hindu 28 Oct 2015). • CSIR has announced that no ‘travel grants’ will be given to the researchers this year due to budgetary constraints (CSIR website). • SERB (Scientific and Engineering Research Board) is also not giving revised amount of UGC-NET fellowship (SERB website). • On the contrary, to satisfy its obsession with ‘rankings’ the govt. is channelizing funds for select elite institutions thereby denying the same to others. (Economic Times 30 Oct 2015). • AICTE in the name of ‘quality’ has decided to cut down total UG Engineering seats by as much as 40% over the next few years, from from 16.7 lakh now to 10-11 lakh! Clearly, this is yet another move to open space for the foreign private players seeking entry via WTO! The combined effect of such across the board cuts in public-funding for basic sciences will push the science research into the clutches of corporate interests. Needless to say, this will restrict the access of common students into research and dictate the content of research by corporate sector’s profit greed and not by people’s need.
Impending Negotiations at WTO – Higher Education to be Transformed into a Commodity from a Right : It is not surprising that the decision to scrap fellowship comes in the month of October, just 2 months before the 10th Ministerial meeting of WTO at Nairobi, Kenya in December 2015, where the BJP-led central government is preparing to enter into a ‘binding commitment’ to make higher education a ‘tradable service’ at WTO! If the Indian government finalises its deal with the WTO, it would essentially mean that India on its own is agreeing to declare the country’s Higher Education as ‘tradable service’ open to global profit mongering corporates. To be precise, higher education in India will no more be treated as a ‘public good’ which the government should provide to its citizens for national self-reliance; rather it would be treated as a ‘tradable service’ in the global market which has to be sold by big profit driven corporates and bought by students at exorbitant fees. It would render higher education a commodity and students to customers. Presently in India a minuscule minority of students can reach higher education. The vast majority of young people hailing from common, poor and socially marginalised communities such as the SC/ST/OBC, minorities and women are deprived from even accessing higher education because of inadequate number of affordable public funded higher education institutions. Under the WTO regime, it would become impossible for students from these backgrounds to even dream of getting higher education.
Surrender of country’s sovereignty to WTO: WTO was constituted to serve the interests of the developed countries at the cost of accessibility of people in the third world as well as under-developed countries to basic rights. Along with a paradigm shift in higher education from being a right of people to a commodity, commitment to WTO in higher education would also mean a complete surrender of the country’s sovereignty to decide upon its own higher education based on need of the people of the country. The international laws of WTO regime and its supervisory bodies will make sure that governments of the nations under WTO do not formulate policies in contravention that has been decided by the influential global powers.
Fund-Cuts in Education and WTO Conditionalities: The paradigm of ‘free trade’ under WTO regime will compel nations to provide a ‘level playing ground’ for all service providers in respective sectors. For higher education, this would mean that the government will have to take active steps to ensure that public-funded institutions are treated at the same level with private and foreign corporates offering higher education. There will be a steady erosion of all existing subsidies and affirmative policies in public institutions, as any public subsidy will be considered a violation of the ‘level playing ground principle’ vis-a-vis private and foreign ‘traders’ in higher education. What can be more tragic and condemnable than the fact that after almost 70 years of hard earned independence the government of India is going to compromise the sovereignty of its people to have a say on the higher education of the country to the hands of WTO legal instruments? The recent moves to scrap/restrict research fellowship and massive fund cuts for science research are thus nothing but steps by the central government to send a ‘compliance report’ to its masters in the WTO.
The government is preparing to push the country’s future in such a direction without even taking the consent of the parliament or state legislative assemblies or the people of India. The world has recently seen how the people of Greece gave their opinion regarding Greece’s commitment to the EU. Is it too much to ask for the people of this country to be informed about the provisions under WTO and be consulted before the government proceeds to sell out education in the upcoming WTO meeting of December? Why is the government not making the details of the terms of negotiation public? Why are things being done in such a secretive manner? In the land of Bhagat Singh and Babasaheb Ambedkar, such a sell-out of country’s sovereignty, and compromise of the government’s responsibility to provide higher education and ensure social justice MUST Not be allowed.
In the month of December the farcical Review Committee on UGC research fellowship is supposed to submit its report. December is also the month when the our Ministers will fly down to Nairobi to sell out our Higher Education at WTO. It is utmost necessary that we ensure a complete chakka jam of the UGC-Central Government machinery to ensure our right to education. Join a series of united Protest Actions:
Nov 18 : Mass Deputation from UGC to MHRD (called by # OccupyUGC),
Nov 26 : Rally at Parliament (of FEDCUTA,AIFUCTO,National Platform in Defence of Education),
Dec 8 : AISA’s National Call Delhi Chalo -All India Resistance Camp (with AIFRTE),
Dec 9 : Protest Action (called by # OccupyUGC with AIFRTE)
Keep Higher Education Out of WTO! Stop Fund-Cut!
Restore, Enhance, Expand UGC Non-NET Fellowship!