Nitheesh Narayanan writes an open letter to JNU Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy in response to his highly biased and manipulated write up on the political violence in Kannur. Here is the truth behind the mounting terror of RSS on left activists in Kannur, a northern district of Kerala.
Dear Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy,
I read your piece in dailyo.in about the political violence in Kannur titled “Why isn’t Kerala cracking down on RSS and CPM’s bloody war in Kannur?” I was dismayed to see that the article has completely ignored the ground reality. I do not see any difference in how certain corporate media portrays Kannur and what you have written in this above mentioned piece. As a person who has grown up in that district and also had to face the physical attacks and murder threats many times from the Sangh brigade, let me respond to certain arguments you are making.
As a former student of you, I am terribly disturbed that the arguments advanced about the cause of the violence come out to be baseless, one-sided, and utterly false except that they fit into the Sangh script. I hope you will find certain time to visit Kannur and source the facts from the ground. I would affirm that, it is not a ‘dark area’, as you chose to describe Kannur in the article. I am confident enough to say, one will find it difficult to find a district in this country which has more number of public libraries than Kannur. I have the same level of confidence to say that you will be surprised to count the number of arts clubs and cultural platforms and the vibrancy in their functioning in each locality of the district. It is also a place in this country where collective social entrepreneurship in the form of co-operatives provides employment to the largest number of people. Let me also state that you will fail to prove that it is in Kannur that the most number of murders are happening. I don’t know who is providing you the information about this place or you just chose to believe what you have read in the right wing corporate media. Anyways, you must spend some days in Kannur. Let me offer you one of a the most fascinating experiences both as a political scientist and also as a peace loving human. Try it, it will cost only your biases and prejudices. Here, I am only attempting to show the irrationality of the testimonials you presented in the article.
In the sub-title to the article, you write that once the truth comes out, many in the country will wonder how all this went on for so long. If people of great credential like you are presenting the matters like this, I am disappointed to say that the country may take a long time to learn the truth. Fortunately, we, who live in Kannur have our lives to assess [definitely not to wonder] why this is so than waiting for your theories written from the glass houses. In the first statement itself you are reproducing a rightwing argument that whether ruled by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) or the United Democratic Front (UDF), the social welfare system was maintained and efforts were made to improve the living conditions of the poor!! Don’t you think that making this general statement and equalizing the role of left and right in improving the living conditions of the poor, you are committing an injustice to the history of Kerala which was filled with agrarian struggles and communist movements for equal rights and dignity? I thought at least your long time association with CPI must have taught you about the land reform and education bill. You seem to be clueless about how the communists ensured the continuity of the social reform movement of Narayana Guru, Ayyankali, Poykayil Appachan etc. I can only wish you go through the works of your peers. For that matter, I do not think your colleagues in CPI will have any other opinion.
Have you ever tried to trace out the background of the widely talked ‘violence’ in Kannur? Is it started all of a sudden at some point in the history? If so, why Kannur? Enquiry about this will lead you to late 60s, the time when Sangh Parivar planned its entry to Kannur as the henchmen of the owners of the Ganesh Beedi company which was based in Mangalore. This company got frustrated in EMS government’s decision to implement welfare fund for Beedi workers who were paid very low. The workers who were unionized by the Communist party stood vehemently for their rights. It provoked the Mangalore based company and they brought their criminal gang to attack the protesting workers. They also attempted to destroy the unity of the workers by making another union which will dance at the tune of the company. They also dismissed the Left trade union members. Company was also closed for some time to put the weaken the living conditions of the poor workers and force them to surrender before the company. But the Communist party, breaking the calculations of Sangh brigade, formed a co-operative firm for beedi production called ‘Dinesh beedi’. This actually aggravated the annoyance of the Ganesh company and they send its allies to physically attack the beedi workers who stands with the Communist party. The Beedi production units were attacked several times. Like what happened in Mumbai or Italy or Germany, the Sangh parivar fascists came to the picture by attacking the trade unions workers unity in Kannur. The first attempt to destroy the powerful trade unionism was resisted. Then they tried to foment communal violence for expanding their roots. That is how they planned Thalassery riot by spreading hatred against Muslims. You must get a copy of Justice Vithayathil Commission report which enquired about the riot and understand the role of CPIM under the leadership of the current chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in defeating the divisive communal agenda of RSS. You will also get to know about UK Kunhiraman, a CPIM Branch secretary who was killed by RSS for protecting a mosque. You will see the incidents of unleashing communal violence wherever the fascists have planned an entry. This is what was fought and defeated by the CPIM in Kannur. Since then, after failing two different plans to make inroads to the region, the RSS turned into a planof physical annihilation of CPIM activists in the district and it continues still.
You must be aware of the number of Shakhas RSS has in Gujarat. It is less than 1800. In UP, one of the largest states in the country, RSS has less than 4000 Shakhas. In Karnataka the number is less than 3000. Remember the criminal roles they played, genocides they unleashed, riots they organized in all these states. Do you know how many Shakhas they have in small Kerala? It is more than 4500! That is the organizational strength that they have built in Kerala over the decades with a planned agenda to infiltrate into the social lives of Kerala. I hope, as a serious political commentator you must have studied RSS and learned how much plan and focused work is behind the building of any Sangh Parivar outfit. Still they could not repeat a Gujarat genocide in Kerala, They failed to do what they did in Kandhamal or different parts of Karnataka. We have seen the series of communal riots in UP prior to last Loksabha elections and BJP winning huge majority of the seats after that. Kerala is, even with their strongest organizational machinery, still far from being a stage for the Sangh strategy of gaining ground through generating communal tensions. You will understand that this is not an ‘innocent’ development once you study the different attempts made by Sangh organizations to communally polarize the state or disturb the secular fabric in various times in the past. I can write a very long note only on this. RSS in Kerala is not a different species, something different from their counterparts in other parts of the country. They follow the same strategy of aggression. All those efforts were resisted tooth and nail and defeated in Kerala. You can never dismiss the role of the left led by CPIM in successfully blocking the Sangh agenda to be in a driving seat of the social fabric if the state. I hope you agree with me in that social atmosphere and people’s lives in Kerala is not a violent one. If violence is the character of the strongest party which forms government at the state, Kerala would have turned into a war zone long before. But then why when RSS enter the picture there is bloodshed and murders on both the sides? This question must not be answered with a generalized notion of ‘gang war’ in Kannur. This has nothing to do with ‘genetics’, but definitely with politics. For that one must study how RSS infiltrated into the different parts of the country and have a comparison with Kannur. I sincerely wish, our political sciences studies and researchers grow up to that level, instead of putting out uncritical equalizations and practicing selective ‘amnesia’.
In another part you say the ‘CPI(M) and the RSS have done politics in other states. There, if there was any killing, the law intervened’. It sounds as if the people are in a free run to kill each other in Kannur. You should have at least looked into the case diaries, or the number of people arrested in political murders before making such statements.. CPIM is the largest political party in terms of its influence among the masses, number of seats in the assembly and also with a very wide and strong organisational presence throughout Kerala. Kannur is the strongest bastion where 54% voted for the Left in last election. RSS is lacking in both electoral arena and influence in determining the social dynamics. But they do have a very strong organizational machinery. Still, the number of CPIM cadres killed by RSS outnumbers the other one. This can be ended only with a high level decision of RSS to stop the attempt to infiltrate into Kerala with the violent methods.
Do you really think such politics is happening only in Kannur? Or are you in a belief that law is intervening in similar incidents in other states. 15 years is not an enough time for a concerned individual to forget the manner law found its place in Gujarat. Hope you correct such highly irresponsible comments. You must also not think whatever does not comes to your notice or does not shake your conscience is not happening. Around 13 Sangh Parivar activists were killed by other Sangh cadres in Karnataka including one Hindu Jagran Vedika activist getting killed recently in Mangalore. I have the complete list of this heinous crimes committed by Sangh workers against their own colleagues. How long more will it take to shake the ‘collective conscience’ of the nation?
Let me conclude citing another dangerous element in your statement presented as an ‘innocent’ one. You refer to an incident of one school teacher hacked to death in classroom. I have no issue in anybody talking about this barbaric incident. All the political killings, irrespective of parties involved in it, must be condemned. But the people like you must not limit yourselves to depend on the news which was circulated consciously and selectively. Why a student leader, named KV Sudheesh, is hacked to death in front of his parents at his home doesn’t come to your mind when you pick up the examples? ‘A brick would have fit in many of the wounds in his body’ this was the comment of the doctor who did postmortem of his dead body which was cut into pieces by the RSS criminals. It was last year, an 8 year old Fahad was killed by a hindu religious fanatic who was a cadre of RSS in the nearest district. Two of my close friends have lost their fathers in murderous attacks of RSS. You will never refer the name of my friend Dhanaraj who was killed in front of his wife at his home few months ago. The day you wrote the article, one DYFI activist called Muhsin was hacked to death in Alappuzha. In an another shocking development one BJP worker Nirmal was killed by an another BJP worker in Thrissur. BJP called a hartal against CPIM after this murder! It was only few days back, one Sharirik Shikshak Pramukh of RSS, Vishnu, came out openly and said he was threatened to death for speaking out against the murderous plans of his own organization. He was under the custody of RSS and tortured for long 38 days. He was also forced to write a suicide note alleging a CPIM leader, Kannur district secretary to be specific, is behind his death. You can have a talk with him if want to know what is happening inside the Saffron contingents. This list will never end. All I wanted to say is, there must be no space for violence in politics. But, we must not commit a grave mistake by thinking political violence happens only when two parties involved. You must at least go through the history of RSS and read what Golwalkar talks about communists in the ‘Bunch of thoughts’. I’m not done, but I stop here. And I do welcome a detailed debate if you choose to reply. Or let us have an united effort to expose the cellars of the saffron inferno.
Call it a ‘February Recurrence’ or another of the systematically planned attacks on University spaces by the right wing, the events that unfurled on the 21st of February at Ramjas College of Delhi University was yet again a brazen attack on the underlying democratic principles of a University-freedom of speech, debate and dissent. After JNU and HCU it was DU’s turn to witness the curbing of free spaces that are open to multiple voices.
It all began with the Ramjas English Department and the Ramjas literary society organizing a two-day seminar on the topic ‘Cultures of Protest: A Seminar Exploring Representations of Dissent’. Umar Khalid, a PhD scholar from JNU who was earlier labeled as ‘anti-national’ by the right-wing, was invited to deliver a talk on Adivasi rights along with Sanjay Kak and Bimol Akoijam. This led to protests by ABVP, following which the principal of Ramjas withdrew the permission for Khalid’s talk. The organisers of the event decided to continue the discussion without Khalid. What followed then was a shocking display of hooliganism by the ABVP goons who disrupted the event using violent means like stone pelting and breaking of glass panes of the seminar hall. The police force present there to ensure the smooth conduct of events proved to be a sham since they did little to stop the ABVP goons who were attacking the students and teachers, and instead evicted the people present in the seminar hall.
The events that transpired on the second day in the university were a firsthand experience of fascism for many students. The biased state machinery heavily cracked down on the students who were protesting against ABVP hooliganism. The professors, students and media persons were brutally attacked by the ABVP goons who were holding the tricolor on the one hand and were pelting stones, bricks, bottles and eggs with the other. The ABVP-Police nexus was clearly visible in the manner the police dealt with them, where the ABVP goons were practically “allowed” to climb on top of the the police van and threaten the protestors. An emergency-like situation prevailed in the campus that evening with the saffron brigade doing rounds of the university and thrashing people whom they’ve sketched during the protest. Female students who received rape threats both publicly and privately moved to safer places out of fear of being attacked. Isolated incidents of thrashing were reported unofficially. The students were forced to flee from their own PGs and hostels because rumours of the saffron brigade checking hostels and PGs were being circulated. Heavy police force along with CISF was deployed in the university.
A peaceful protest in front of the Delhi Police Head Quarters followed the next day, condemning the Delhi Police’s inaction during the protest and also their refusal to file an FIR against ABVP. The copy of the FIR filed by the police reported the whole incident as a “clash” between two parties, “with the rightists on the right side and leftists on the left side”. The fact that it was an assault on common students and professors by the ABVP goons was overturned by this narrative. From all this, one can be sure about a thing - Universities that open up spaces of debate, dissent and alternative discourse make the fascist state feel insecure and will in turn create extra-judicial situations, with paid media and state machinery for its aid.
The social media has surprisingly taken up this issue very well with twitter and facebook handles like #FightBackDu and #StudentsAgainstABVP going viral. Student community all across the country has extended support to DU and a mass profile picture campaign was also launched. The students shall hopefully struggle against the fascist forces and would reclaim university spaces. DU awaits redemption from hooliganisam and corrupt forces and together we shall move towards a progressive learning environment tha would encourage free thought, debate and dissent.
(Aparna is a B.A Honours student of Miranda House, University of Delhi)
Close on the heels of Delhi’s Ramjas College, Savitribai Phule Pune University campus became the site of ABVP hooliganism last week. Students Federation of India (SFI) activists were attacked by ABVP goons on February 24 night inside the campus while putting up posters of a protest programme. Nasir Sheikh, PhD student and President of SFI’s Pune University unit, Sandeep Marbhal, MA student and Secretary of the unit, two other PhD students Satish Gore and Satish Padalkar and an MPhil student Satish Debade were brutally beaten. What is more, the injured SFI leaders were taken to police custody and a case slapped against them! The local police connived with ruling party elements to misrepresent the incident as a case of ‘clash’ between two student organizations but the truth is that it was a premeditated act of violence by ABVP. Apart from Ramjas college incident, BJP legislator Prashant Paricharak’s controversial comments in Solapur insulting wives of Army men, Education Minister Vinod Tawde threatening Polytechnic students and recent attack by ABVP on some Dalit students in Aurangabad university had caused much churning among Pune university students. The SFI was campaigning among the students on all these issues and had called for a protest demonstration inside the campus. It was certain that ABVP would be doomed in the campus if a democratic climate of open debate and freedom of assembly prevailed. That is why ABVP resorted to muscle power in Pune University.
But the violence that they unleashed has only galvanized the student and youth in a widening resistance against ABVP’s muscle flexing. On February 27, hundreds of students assembled in a protest demonstration organized by SFI in front of University gate denouncing ABVP violence, mischievous Police intervention and undemocratic stance of University authorities. Youth volunteers from Pune city under DYFI banner joined them. The police who sought to thwart the demonstration initially had to back out when the number of protesters swelled to many hundreds. SFI Central Secretariat member Datta Chavan, State President Mohan Jadhav, University Unit president Nasir Sheikh and DYFI Pune District President Jnaneswar Mote addressed the protest meeting. Later the leaders met the Vice Chancellor demanding strict action against ABVP goons and instituting democratic student life in the campus.
On the same day, students and youth under the leadership of SFI and DYFI came out on the streets in several towns across Maharashtra shouting slogans against ABVP, BJP and RSS, singing songs in protest and burning effigies. Demonstrations were held in Junnar, Karad, Jalgaon, Dindori, Solapur, Beed, Nanded University, Parbhani, Amravati city, Nandgaon Khandeshwar and many other places.
In Mumbai, renowned film maker Anand Patwardhan, AIDWA national General Secretary Mariam Dhawale, Firoz Mithibhorwala of ‘Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy’, CPI(M) leaders Ashok Dhawale and Shailendra Kamble and many other eminent citizens joined the student and youth protesters. Addressing the youth and students, Anand Patwardhan outlined the track record of ABVP, another arm of RSS which was formed when RSS was banned after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. They are now roaming around terrorizing students and teachers. Patwardhan said ABVP does not have any patriotic legacy, instead they have inherited the legacy of Savarkar who begged for mercy from British imperialism. Mariam Dhawale said the despicable reaction to Gurmehar Kaur is just an indication of pathological patriarchal mindset of ABVP and the entire Sangh Parivar. She said the government has nothing to offer to millions of people facing starvation and malnutrition but the ruling Party dictates what to eat, what to wear and whom to marry. Dr. Ashok Dhawle said that after BJP came to power in 2014, the liberal and democratic space in campuses have shrunk alarmingly in the country. The tragic experience of Rohith Vemula, the attack on JNU students, disappearance of Najeeb and the spate of incidents involving the ABVP at universities in Pune, Delhi, JNU, Allahabad Jadhavpur and other Universities demonstrate the intensity of attack on democracy in campuses. ABVP is spearheading this assault but it is no secret that it is acting under patronage of BJP government, he said.
It is a fact that majoritarian communal forces dominate politics and social life in Maharashtra today. But the way hundreds of students of Pune University courageously rallied against the attack on SFI leaders and the protests that occurred in various towns showed that resistance against rightwing authoritarianism is gathering momentum in the state.
Dr. Vikram Singh
Modi government has completed two and half years. The promise of ‘achhe din’ has vanished long ago and instead of that, we are seeing an all-out attack on life and livelihoods of common people. Students and youth had voted in large numbers for BJP in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 with the hope that it will provide relief from the unrelenting miseries imposed by the Congress rule. However, the experience of these two and half years has proved to be contrary. This government has relegated education and Employment- the 2 prime agendas of the students in this country.
We have witnessed during last couple of years an unrelenting authoritarian assaults on the campuses and students in the wake of the imposition of RSS’ agenda of Hindutva. This has also been period of growing struggles and resistance, with student movement emerging as a catalyst in the movement against authoritarianism. However, what have gone largely unnoticed is the increasing economic attacks on students.
Attacks on education:
The successive central governments of India have been demonstrating its stanch commitment to private capital and its neoliberal offensive. Present government is strictly implementing these neoliberal policies in the field of education which is weakening the hard earned public education system of India. These developments are nothing to be surprised at because they are part of the global campaign of the neoliberal capital. The impact of these policies is visible in rampant growth of private education institutions both at the level of primary and higher education. Due to commercialisation of education is becoming costly and more students are compelled to leave their education. On the other hand this impact is visible in poor condition of our education system and low achievement level of students.
According to the latest ASER report of Prathan organisation the overall enrolment in schools is 96.9% in 2016. However, in some states, the fraction of out of school children (age 6-14) has increased between 2014 and 2016. These include Madhya Pradesh (from 3.4% to 4.4%), Chhattisgarh (from 2% to 2.8%), and Uttar Pradesh (from 4.9% to 5.3%). In some states the proportion of girls (age group 11-14) out of school remains greater than 8%. These states are Rajasthan (9.7%) and Uttar Pradesh (9.9%). Joining them in 2016 is Madhya Pradesh (8.5%).
Nationally, the proportion of children in Standard III who are able to read at least Standard I level text is 42.5% in 2016. Nationally, reading levels in Standard VIII show a slight decline since 2014 (from 74.7% to 73.1%). In 2016, for the country only 27.7% of Standard III children could do a 2-digit subtraction. From 2014 to 2016, for class V children, the level of arithmetic as measured by children's ability to do simple division problems has remained almost the same at 26%. However, the ability to do division among Standard VIII students has continued to drop. This declining trend has been observed since 2010. The proportion of Standard VIII students who could correctly do a 3-digit by 1-digit division problem was 68.4% in 2010. This number dropped to 44.2% in 2014, and has further declined to 43.3% in 2016. In 2016, 32% children in Standard III could read simple words in English. In comparison, in 2016, 24.5% of children enrolled in Std V could read simple English sentences. This number is virtually unchanged since 2009. However, the decline in upper primary grades continues. For example, in 2009, 60.2% of children in Standard VIII could read simple sentences in English; in 2014, this figure was 46.7% and in 2016 this ability has further declined to 45.2%. In 2016, of those who can read words (regardless of grade), roughly 60% could explain the meanings of the words read. Of those who can read sentences, 62.4% in Std V could explain the meaning of the sentences. Both these levels are virtually unchanged since 2014.
The main reason for this low level of achievement of students in schools is the huge number of vacant posts in the educational institutions and poor infrastructure. We have a shortage of trained teachers as well as training institutes. There are 6 lakh posts of teachers vacant under the SSA. Even in the KVs, 7698 out of 44,529 sanctioned teaching posts are vacant; so are 50 per cent of positions in teacher-training institutions. The picture is even worse in higher education: Universities (both state and central), IITs, NITs, IIMs, are all suffering crippling shortages of teachers. According to the Government records the institutes of higher learning under the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) face a faculty shortage to an extent of 35%. Even the top institutions of higher education are facing faculty crunch, IITs have 39% vacancies and Central Universities follow with 38% vacancies. In all the central universities 1,277 positions for the post of professor (or 53% of the total sanctioned positions); 2,173 for associate professor (46%); and 2,478 for assistant professor (26%) are vacant. Even Delhi University (DU), some 60% of faculty positions at the university are vacant. The situation of state universities and colleges affiliated to them is worst and beyond imaginations.
Government is continuously bringing various notifications through UGC and MHRD which is bringing education more towards central list undermining the rights of the states. Central University Act, NEET, RUSA, Central Syllabus etc. are such efforts which are aimed to have more central control on education. We can clearly see increasing thrust of centralization with the proposal of a separate testing agency to take all entrance exams in the country; while the existing bodies such CBSE, AICTE etc will be asked to focus on academics only.
BJP government is pushing its Hindutva agenda in education sector especially through the changes in text books. These changes range from distortion of historical facts to teaching of pseudoscience. Various attempts are there to give text books a colour of Hindutva. Numerous appointments are there of heads of different universities, educational and research institutes, who are vigorously implementing the agenda of RSS. This is the most dangerous aspects of the plans of Hindutva Brigade. They want to convert education institutions the centre of training the minds of future generation to think, visualise and comprehend India as Hindu Rashtra, centres where minds will be trained to hate people from other communities, to establish so called supremacy of one religion against the pluralistic character of real India of People from diverse cultures, castes, regions, languages etc.
Apathy of government towards public education can also be witnessed in the budgetary allocations and promises made in the education sector. While the education sector today requires massive expansion to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend, the present approach of this government will only lead to worsening of the quality in all spheres of education. India has decreased its spending on education from 4.4 percent of GDP in 1999 to around 3.71 percent, undermining the work done in getting more children into school, and its prospects for improving its poor quality of education. “Most of the developed world, having a more mature education system then India and higher levels of GDP are even today spending around 4.5 to 6 of GDP on education sector, realizing the benefit the education sector has on society, but in India, despite the massive demand-supply gap in the quality of education, still has not been able to reach those levels.
Education sector has seen remarkable reduction of budgetary allocations during the Modi regime. This downward spiral started from the first budget itself, which the Modi government presented. For the Dept. of School Education & Literacy, Modi Sarkar spent Rs.45722 crore in 2014-15, down by Rs.1134 crore over the previous year (UPA’s last year). Then in 2015-16 Rs.42187 is estimated to have been spent (revised estimates), further down by Rs.3535 crore and in 2016-17 budgeted allocation, the govt. has allocated Rs.43554 crore, up by about Rs.1367 crore over the previous year.
Story of the 2017-18 is same. One more important aspect of this year’s budget has been the decision to do away with the classification of plan and non-plan expenditure. This is in line with the government’s decision to dismantle the Planning Commission and replacing the Five-Year Plan mechanism by a medium to long-term planning system under the NITI Aayog. Apart from a more aggressive push towards market reforms, this move also means that this year’s budgetary allocations can’t be compared with the last year’s allocations.
While the fiscal deficit for the financial year 2016-17 was 3.2% of GDP, in the same year the tax forgone was a massive 3.18 lakh crore that is equal to 2.1% of the GDP. The social sector spending including that on education can be increased by reducing the concessions to the corporates and big businesses. Clearly during last three years government is pushing the agenda of triple ‘C’ in education system i.e. Commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education.
STATE OF DEMOCRACY IN CAMPUSES:
Basic ideology of BJP and RSS is against any kind of democratic process. This is visible in the functioning of the central government. This government takes most of its decisions through ordinance only and very less time is spent in parliament debates. Our Prime Minister and other central minister are not keen to participate in the parliament debates. Our vocal Prime Minister, who is known for his rhetoric speeches, always escapes when it comes to speak on relevant issues in the parliament. Even when he speaks, speaks like as he is speaking in election public meeting. Most of the sessions of the parliament are failed to do public business demanding presence of Prime Minister during important debates. We have witnessed, just before the every Parliament session government will take some controversial move and there will be deadlock in the house. It looks like these are deliberate efforts by the government to avoid the discussion and decisions on real issue of common man in house. Same is the practice of state governments which have BJP governments.
BJP government is adopting the same understanding in the educational institutions. There is an all round attack on the education institutions especially university centres. Our campuses are being converted into police stations in the name of providing security. UGC through notification have asked all the universities to establish police station inside the campus along with various other anti democratic measures. The real aim of all these steps is to control the student politics. This government do not like any dissent or question from any section of the society. Education teaches us to ask rational questions. Naturally students become the first target of this government because they raise their voice against any wrong policy of the government. Instead of addressing the genuine issues raised by the students, central government and MHRD is attacking the democratic culture of the campuses. Even students are being arrested for critical facebook posts. There are planned conspiracies in various universities to attack the democratic spaces of campuses and in all these incidents ABVP was a close ally of the government and administration. We have witnessed these types of attacks in IIT Chennai, FTII Mumbai, HCU, JNU etc.
There are physical attacks as well as ideological attacks in campuses by BJP government. In the name of love for nation and nationalism all sort of discontent are considered as antinational. There is a kind of environment in which either you are on government side or will be declared anti national. Autonomy of all the universities is in danger as autonomous decision taking bodies of the university are under scanner. Vice chancellors who are appointed by their political patrons are undermining the democratic meetings and even by passing the meetings. Typical example is academic council meetings of JNU, where vice chancellor in trying to dictate his opinion and taking decisions unilaterally despite of strong resistance by other faculty members. If this can happen in JNU, situation of other campuses can be imagined.
Student union elections are not being conducted in most of the campuses. Where elections are conducted, elected unions are not invited in policy making decision process. Administration of the educational institutions does not listen to the issues raised by the unions. Union leaders are met with various false cases and are being victimised. This attack on the democracy in campuses is lead and monitored by the Government Ministers who are preaching students to not involve in students politics in public meetings and through media.
The incidences of suicides have increased in educational institutions inside the campuses which reflect the anti democratic environment of the campuses. In most of the campuses administration is found directly involved in creating such conditions. In HCU there was a direct involvement of Vice chancellor and other government ministers to create such an environment which forced Rohit Vemula to end his life. In Nehru College of Trishur district of chairperson and vice principal are charged with direct involvement for suicide of Jishnu Pranoy and booked in police charge sheet. Girls are not safe in the education institutions. There are incidences of sexual harassment, rape and murder of girl students in campuses.
Our central government is trying to convert our education institutions into Gurukuls of their ideology having no space for democracy, where students will be converted into blind followers who will not question the caste or Varna system and will follow the dictates of the ruling class.
ATTCKS ON SOCIAL JUSTICE:
Education is widely recognised as a potent tool for the “socioeconomic mobility” of the vulnerable sections of the economy. But our central governments seems to forget this fact and is implementing the policies which adversely affecting the students coming from socially deprived sections. Prime indication of government priority is allocation in budget. This year (2017-18) the budgetary outlay for SCs and STs are 2.4% and 1.2% of the total outlay respectively, both of which are far less than their share in population. Similarly the gender budget spending is merely 5.3% of the outlay, which again is far less than the prescribed 30%.
These budget cuts have had direct impact on the students from the marginalized sections. In the last two years, we have seen steep fee hikes in numerous government institutions. The fees for the B.Tech courses in the IITs have been increased from Rs.90000 per annum to Rs.2 lakh per annum. The application fees for the CSIR-NET examinations saw a massive increase of 250%. It is not possible for the students from the socially deprived sections to pay these huge amounts of fees hence most of them are forced to leave education.
“I have to get seven months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that”, wrote Rohith Vemula in his suicide note. This is only a reflection of how the delays in government-sponsored scholarships drive the students from Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe (SC/ST) communities into desperation. Fellowship schemes like Rajiv Gandhi National fellowship, Maulana Azad National fellowship, CSIR-JRF and UGC-JRF are the only means by which hundreds of students from socio-economically deprived backgrounds are able to continue their higher studies. Many such students have to send a significant portion of their fellowships back home also. But, over the last two years, the budget cut has translated into delays up to eight-nine months in the disbursal of the fellowships.
The students from socially backward sections are facing hard environment during this regime of BJP government. There are numerous incidents of caste based violence and brutal attacks on dalits and tribals in India during last two years. The incidence of Una, Gujarat is only one of its kinds. Same is the situation of our campuses. 19 students belonging to the dalit, advivasi and minority sections have committed suicides in our higher educational institutions in the last five years. The nationwide protests following Rohith’s death brought to fore this harsh truth that students from the marginalized communities have to face in our campuses. It is in this backdrop that the demand for a comprehensive legislation against the caste based discrimination in educational institutions has been repeatedly made.
STRUGGLE FOR PRO-STUDENT EDUCATION POLICY
It needs no reiteration that educational institutions today have become sites of neoliberal planning and execution of its business game plan. Privatisation has been on anvil for quite some time now and it is justified by the argument that it improves the quality of education and enhances the efficiency of teachers as well as students. This phenomenon is visible in the way the spread of private educational institutions has been happening.
The recent notification of UGC on the MPhil/PhD admission which was published in the gazette on 5th May, 2016 shows the direction in which this government is moving. This shows that government is avoiding the debate on education policy but is already implementing its vision in parts. The disastrous impact of this notification on the social justice, autonomy and inclusive nature of the universities is already in front of all of us in case of JNU. This UGC notification far from being a “guideline” is in effect a “straightjacket” with rigid examination criteria, admission rules and the criteria for the eligibility of research supervision. We are opposed to this understanding of privatised and commercialised education. Over the years this vision has failed to fulfil the requirements of the public of India. India needs a strong public sphere of education. Students community is demanding control and check on these private institutions. We were hoping that proposed new education Policy of BJP government will deal with this crucial need of ours. In fact, there is no proposed mechanism to monitor and check the private institutions. The student community is demanding for long to bring a central legislation to monitor the admission process and fee structure of private institutions but there is no mention of such provision in the draft.
Much has been written about new education policy. This new education policy is nothing but only a new document advocating the commercialisation, centralisation and communalisation of education. Fully undermining our social needs this NEP is new exclusion policy.
Students of the country are in struggle for a pro student education policy focussed to address the needs and requirements of the Indian education system. This education policy can only be evolved by the active participation of teachers, academicians and students but not by the dictates of Nagpur.
Under this scenario students of India are in struggle in different campuses of the nation. For last two years we have seen militant struggle on all these aspects against fee hike, to have state control on private institutions, for social justice, in defence of democracy. Students’ Federation of India is in forefront of all these struggles. On 3rd March thousands of the students will be marching to Delhi against the attacks on education, Democracy and social justice and for a pro-student Education Policy.
This March is happening not only against the RSS-BJP’s assaults on the autonomy, democracy, education and employment. It is to reassert the alternative vision of education for a better India. At a time when the Hindutva combine is attacking the very foundations of our education system to further its ideological agenda, it becomes very important that we build a movement with a positive agenda.