Let universities be what they are supposed to be

Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel
“Path is the target”, so goes a German saying. Once firmly on the path, students as

Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel
Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel

our future leaders will reclaim our lost identity as Indians. I hear them echo “Manzil ki tharaf dho kadham chaloon aur samne manzil aajai”.

A generational change has finally taken place in JNU and Hyderabad University with Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohith Vemula replacing fugitives and traitors who flaunt the patriot sash, as anti nationals. Everybody in the government and their grandparents are talking about nationalism. It’s known all over the world that India as one of the oldest democracy with the most youthful workforce also has the most ageing political class. No plan, design or strategy, no matter how crookedly and carefully crafted would work unless the assumptions made for it’s success worked out. But such state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. Debates on the latest turn in Indian government- oppositions relations has moved between two extremes from the government standing firm on their stance by also relying on videos without confirming the veracity of the same, on the one hand, to the juicy prospect of wiping out prospective anti-nationals and induce a heavy dose of nationalism by hoisting the tricolor whenever and wherever possible. There is also a third position that of some media, showing us that all of these anti national slogans to rapes will be history if only we download just 3 mobile phone applications. All three are ludicrous. The first comes from the lazy old- fashioned, aggressive Indian mindset of ‘words are all we have’ to prove our nationalistic fervor. The second comes from a new, post- duck out and post- reform gung-ho approach that is incapable of reviving nationalism in the real sense. The third is well, exactly what we can expect from certain sections of the media otherwise called as stooges. Innocent, cute and absurd. The conflict has already sapped the energy of the nation and diverted virtually all attention from day today governance that should find remedies for unemployment, a disabled- unfriendly milieu, pollution, slums, street children, public toilets, beggars, drugs and corruption. We need services from the government with an inclusive approach and accountability to be put in place. Can’t students’ unions be alienated from political affiliations whatsoever so that universities remain exclusive temples of learning?

The real and larger picture is more complex and saddening. A Kanhaiya Kumar and Rohit Vemula as anti nationals signify the launching of a larger game-plan in India by the BJP to create a Brahman State and definitely not an egalitarian, equitable and inclusive state. India can’t afford to be just that. Watching the current goings on in the country, we can share the exasperation but not the complacency of ‘Manusmriti’ I on Rohith Vemula’s suicide. At the level of governance and political management, there is so much that is inconclusive and tentative that one lives in a limbo of numbing indeterminacy. Are our government’s broad principles here to destabilize India as a moderate Hindu state, a handicapped democratic nation, a Bharata with deep rooted differences that cannot be weeded out by any nationalist? What happened to Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University and Kanhaiya Kumar in Patiala House Court only tells us that there is a marked and definite shift from good and just governance to goondaism and violence in terms of how our government sources it’s entertainment. These shocking real life stories are not just frightening reminders of fall in safety standards in the biggest democracy of the world suggesting a complete deterioration of the very nature of the law enforcement agency as such. Seeing the Patiala house court footage, I understand that the most disturbing phenomenon is the way crime in our society is taking new and unexpected forms as is it’s conniving inhuman proportion. The scenes replayed establishes the fact how brutalized the great Indian society with its elected representatives has turned out to be with the cops playing their part as mute spectators and cheer leaders as men in black coat, even rented coats, take on a 27 year old. Is this how justice and law enforcement blend without any bumps! We also have a Bedi to remind us that it isn’t wise on the part of the police to take on lawyers and also that it isn’t the police alone who are endowed with the power but even a judge can put things in order if he wants to with appropriate CrPC sections at his/her disposal.

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Rohith and Kanhaiya are sons of ideal parents whose genuine attempts to dream of a caste free transformed India are throttled in the hands of politicians who survive on vote bank politics. These two sons of the soil have already been a success in their crusade with a cause thereby creating fear in the minds of crooks by insinuating their unholy liaison with caste politics, power and corruption. In this age of intensive media coverage only a moron would try to camouflage India’s awkward moments namely 1969, 1984, 1992, 2002, 2013, 2015 and 2016 riots, a “big bull”, an infamous arms scandal, a coffin gate, Hijacking of IC 814, a rath yatra and a demolition, a L Modi, a Vyapam in MP, a 2G spectrum scam and the 13 wonders in Modi’s cabinet with a ‘Kanhaiya antinational purdah’. Before any new attempt, our PM should at least know 13 as a number itself is considered unlucky. What is good governance without dramas, right? For a son of a physically disabled father and mother, an anganwadi worker with a monthly income of Rs. 3500 the forum of the last resort turns out to be nothing less than scum and slime and is now first in the line of fire. A sting operation by India Today tells us that they can take us into more shady areas where no one is right and no one has the conviction to deliver justice because they are not blindfolded as Lady Justice. All it took to make a nation of billion patriots against 2 or 3 students branded as anti nationals are just three idiots who call themselves VS Chauhan, Y Singh and Om S. These three monkeys, unlike Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru, with their feet in their mouths represent a whole new generation of patriots with a new symbol aka petrol bombs, a new identity of justice and a mission to thrash people till they soiled their clothes.

Wasn’t Godhra riots antinational? Isn’t it still a blot on the very identity of India as a unified nation amidst diversity? When certain leaders talk democracy and human rights, brags about violation of religious freedom and get away with all these, don’t we understand they have over reached their powers? Wasn’t the ensuring of the safe escape of Warren Anderson antinational? Didn’t that bunch of ministers with important portfolios act like anti nationals when they ensured the ‘SWARAJ’ of L Modi in spite of the 15- show cause notices against this fugitive? Magic of the surname or otherwise, aren’t these leaders acting against national interests? This “First-timer” record holder’s diplomatic articulations then acquired a defensive tone in true “Fast track diplomacy” style. Take for instance her stand on helping the disgraced IPL chief get his travel papers in London claiming her act to be a humanitarian one with BJP’s ideological mentor the RSS enlightening Indians that this seasoned minister is full of patriotism and nationalism. Having made a measured point through the FM in a high frequency, it would have been wise to leave it at that rather than enter into a debating paradigm. Anybody blessed with a good public memory will remember our leaders’ connivance with the Hinduja and Reddy brothers or vice versa. All for selfish interests against national interest. Will this amount to anti nationalism, is everybody’s doubt.

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Relating to history is fine as long as it enriches our democracy leading to evolution of socially, culturally and economically vibrant societies. History should not be relied upon to hold on to caste hierarchy.

What is certain is that while the dystopic blame game lambasts every evil done on every student, alongside the valuation of good governance has tumbled down the gutter, education of any kind should remain inversely proportional to the evolution of a caste free society and today’s government is addicted to its ideology of a fascist nation. We undoubtedly remain conscious of our numerous weaknesses, the poverty that must be eradicated, the socio- economic disparities that must be at least narrowed and the rampant corruption that has to be checked right from the grass root level. Do challenges spur the government to greater enterprise and effort or rather making it defensive?

By any account, India is increasingly seen across the world as an intolerant nation. What could be more seditious and antinational than Kalyan Singh’s statement, 12 yrs after the Babri Masjid demolition calling it an “Act of God”? He reopened the wounds inciting hatred and vengeance. BJP was never the invincible party of a shining India or Swachh Bharat but it always sputtered like a damp squib and hurtled between non- issues such as Veer and Seer, mandir and masjid, beef and greenleaves. Of course these are different times Mr. Prime Minister. The pressures of a coalition politics and the watchful eye of M Bhagwat may make it difficult for the PM to govern a diverse country as big as a continent with the second largest populace on earth. Yet the manner in which certain ministers are transiting from cabinet to jail for illegalities worse than a few slogans should at least call forth an emotionally charged statement from Mr. Modi if he can’t reach for the grand trishul of honesty. Isn’t he good at it?

Governments that came and went have never remained true to one precious Nehruvian ideal, namely the free contest of ideas. Silencing historians, messing up with personnel in academic institutions will never make India a place where free debate can breathe and dissent can flourish. Battle of ideas shouldn’t turn into a war of personal vendetta. A right thinking citizen would never agree of a Stalinist repression of the freedom of speech or screeching ‘saffron’ every time some student says something the RSS hasn’t heard before. Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar are two tragedies and the issues thrown up are many and urgent. Will the government measure up to the task of addressing them? Meanwhile let’s watch out because April 1st is fast approaching.

The likes of Swami Aditynath, Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Prachi have no business in politics and governance but should be confined to some ashrams, mutts or temples otherwise our country may not grow united and students will not excel on indices on which the world measures development.

Finally, I just pinched myself to confirm if the one who just walked out of Pune’s Yerwada Jail was the one arrested under TADA in 1993 and hailed as ‘Ugatva Surya’ by a cartoonist. Whatever, he made sure to kiss the ground and salute the national flag the only customary act, as of now, to establish evidence of his patriotism.

Let not another mother moan, “Jurm jeet gaya, hum haar gaye”. Let the word “Nirbhaya” rule the hearts of the honest and brave.

Writer can be reached at elsalyciasjoel@gmail.com

(The writer is based in Chenai. Holds a doctorate in biotechnology. Contributes to Womans Era, I Quote, Women Exclusive (WE), infinithoughts, and other national and regional dailies like the New Indian Express and Asian Age.)