Celebrating Eid in Kashmir and the Growing Insensitivity of Our Times

A newspaper reported that 18000 people offered namaz in Srinagar on Friday (the Jumma before Eid). The population of Srinagar as per 2011 census was around 11.8 lakhs. And one wonders why the number of people offering prayers was too low generally and secondly, why does one want it as the news headlines. Muslims offering prayers on this day in Delhi did not make it to news. Obviously, the situation is abnormal and has been created wilfully. This Eid will not be same for the people of Kashmir, as guns seem to outnumber people. There is something wrong, abnormal as the Jama Masjid of Srinagar remained closed even on the last Jumma before Eid.

Festivals are always eagerly awaited. For some like the Bengalis they literally go crazy so does the market months before Durga Puja each year. There is a lot of planning, managing the everyday during those four-five days. Festivities have their own important place in our lives. People await Diwali, Christmas or Navratra because it gives them opportunities to do what they cannot during the rest of the year. They express love towards their dear ones, be with them, remind themselves that they are part of a human society after all the alienating lives they lead throughout the year struggling to meet their everyday necessities. It is the sense of celebration that entices people apart from their religious significance. This is the reason why there is more than one Eid (which means ‘celebration’). Munshi Premchand describes the exuberance of Eid ul Fitr in his famous story Eidgah:

A full thirty days after Ramadan comes Eid. How wonderful and beautiful is the morning of Eid! The trees look greener, the field more festive, the sky has a lovely pink glow. Look at the sun! It comes up brighter and more dazzling than before to wish the world a very happy Eid. The village is agog with excitement. Everyone is up early to go to the Eidgah mosque. One finds a button missing from his shirt and is hurrying to his neighbour’s house for thread and needle. Another finds that the leather of his shoes has become hard and is running to the oil-press for oil to grease it.

There is supposed to be a sense of excitement in air for everyone – old and young, men and women. The Jumma before the Eid is an important one and like any other festivity it is expected that the families reunite and celebrate the festival. The young, impressionable minds, who would have enjoyed the day most would ask why they were denied the pleasure. Those who deny become perpetrators for those young minds and on this day they would see the troops as those perpetrators managing the mosques, the streets and markets not letting them go free, run around and engage in all kind of disobedient acts that they would have done. The discomfort at being monitored every second destroys the possibility of celebration even if officially there is a relaxation of curfew. Premchand captured how the young boys waited more for this day than others. He wrote:

The boys are more excited than the others. Some of them kept only one  fast— and that only till noon. Some didn’t even do that. But no one can deny  them the joy of going to the Eidgah. Fasting is for the grown-ups and the  aged. For the boys it is only the day of Eid. They have been talking about it  all the time. At long last the day has come.

However, the Kashmiris cannot contact their family members and or be with them. Whatever the Indian state did has denied the possibility of celebration of one of their most awaited festivals to a huge community. It has taken away the basic right that any individual wants – be with their family, celebrate with freedom the festivities and enjoy the day that the children, youth, old, men and women await so eagerly.

The Human Pain and Suffering and Insensitivity of Our Times

What surprises is that the people in rest of India are more driven by what the Indian state has done and less concerned with the sufferings of other humans. Would it have been a normal, acceptable situation if people were denied celebration of Diwali or Durga Puja in Delhi or Calcutta? It would have created a havoc as media would have ran campaigns to show how people were denied of even their basic human desires of celebration, meet their families and share the joys with others. Media houses move their microphones across different locations asking people what they think about the abrogation of Article 370. People respond with a predominantly positive feeling about abrogation. Newspapers do not even mention that there are protests and that there is huge discomfort that people are experiencing at being denied the normalcy of leading their everyday lives. Rather, there are WhatsApp messages now celebrating the possibility of buying land in Kashmir or showing a saffron image of an Akhand Bharat. The political patriarchs are joking about the Kashmiri women. What all of them, from the people on the streets to the political patriarchs, miss is the pain and suffering of Kashmiri people and forget that those pains are same for everyone whether it happens in Delhi or Srinagar and Kargil. 

One of the hallmarks of what has happened in last five-six years has been the intensification of a dehumanising ethos. We do not get perturbed when someone is lynched, when mass crimes of rape and physical violence happens against particular communities, when food censor happens for the majority simply because they like to eat non-vegetarian food during the whole year. The protests or solidarity meetings that happen against lynching or against atrocities on tribal and intellectuals are attended by very few people. Increasingly, the feeling of empathy has replaced with mechanical world of try to guard one’s own interests and if any act that does not remotely appears connected with these interests one lets it go. On the other hand, the media (social and electronic alike) manages to create a consensus about what is one’s interest. This process has led to insensitivity towards the others who are made to suffer.

The most obscene manifestation of this will be when Kashmiri people won’t be celebrating Eid and the rest of India will be indifferent to them watching and re-watching Indian Oil sponsored display of masculinity with Bear Grylls in evening.

Photo courtesy: Khaleej Times

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Ifs and buts of Elections 2019


I am not a psephologist, neither do I owe the ability to perfectly predict what goes on inside mind of Indians. Social scientists of variety have been at it to tell us who will win, whose winnability is it this time in Indian Parliamentary elections. Facebook’s, WhatsApp and so on, they are all over it. Hats off to their ability.

I got inspired and thought I will also try my hand at this very attractive vocation. So I asked the question to myself: who will win the General Elections 2019? I don’t have a clear cut answer and that is an answer in itself because it does not seem like a wave – a clean sweep that we saw in 2014. Then I went on to see what if

What if SP-BSP alliance wins around 40-45 seats in UP

What if Congress performs a little better in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh following their win in assembly elections thereby preventing 2014 repeat performance for BJP there

What if DMK-Congres combine performs well and takes away at least 75% seats in Tamil Nadu

What if Congress-JD(S) combine manage to get half of seats in Karnataka and Left does the same in Kerala

What if TMC wins around 34-36 seats in Bengal

What if North East does not repeat itself as 2014

With such ifs BJP may not retain the position it held in 2014. This would mean that some other political forces might form the next government. And given that it is all about ifs and buts this may or may not happen. What is important is to think about what will happen if there is a new government – new political forces who claim to represent a counter-narrative to the earlier regime?

The Battle at Begusarai: More than loss and win it is about what kind of politics we want

There are a lot of anti-BJP intellectuals who have not been writing why people should vote for Kanhaiya Kumar. And I understand the predicament. For them, dilemma emanates from the fact that either of the anti-BJP candidates – RJD or CPI – would work. I also understand why both are put at the same plane – because there is a belief among many that the need is to defeat BJP at all costs, which I may not agree with. Defeating BJP is also an ideological act of defeating a politics that uses communal hatred, hates dissent and neglects the masses to serve a few corporates. Any opposition to right wing must be able to answer why despite alliances of different kinds it has not been able to curtail growth of right-wing in India since 1989. Similarly, it must be able to answer if fighting right wing is only about electoral alliances or is it also a much deeper question of socio-economic transformation. Begusarai to me is an interesting conjuncture to dwell upon these questions.

The elections for the Begusarai constituency have acquired significance because of two reasons: firstly, it has Kanhaiya Kumar, who has been made into a symbol of anti-BJP politics, contesting, and secondly the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are pitted against Kanhaiya Kumar. As usual the politics of caste and religion is being played at its best by the RJD and BJP. In this age of technology driven democracy the social media is flooded with messages on why one should keep community’s interest in mind while voting. For secularism and democracy to exist a more profound battle needs to be waged – a battle that is ideological, a battle that transcends the communitarian politics in an age and time when community’s political allegiances keep shifting. This is also an age and time when identitarian politics shorn of its political economy is debated by journalists and university academics in isolation from what is happening on the ground. This is not a battle about an individual called Kanhaiya Kumar. It is neither a battle of one community’s assertion over another. It is rather a battle about how those political forces, who win in the name of a particular religion or caste, when come to Parliament have the singular agenda of destroying the sense of collective, privatising each and sphere of our lives, transform all of us into precarious wage-workers, destroy any semblance of the public (whether in health or education) and take away from us our rights to express, dissent and disagree.

In a situation when Raj Thackeray supports Congress, when Dalit formations like RPI and Dalit Panthers go with right wing, when RLSP shifts from being a BJP’s partner to being Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) or when Nitish Kumar keeps wavering between secular and communal goal posts it has become difficult to make sense of secular politics or for that matter politics of social justice. What was RLSP, RPI, JD(U) or others doing when Muslims were being lynched, when sectarian food regimes were being put in place or when universities were attacked consistently as they were in the government? Everything that the central government was doing had their tacit acceptance. Their goal posts shift from being secular to being communal and vice-versa. When Sanjay Kumar, a faculty at central university in Motihari was nearly lynched to what extent did the political compatriots talking about communalism and social justice take the battle forward apart from issuing statements? The political battle is turned into a farce by political organisations such as JD (U), which sought vote on an anti-communal plank (as in 2015 assembly elections) but became part of the communal government. In a situation when politics has become farce, when it has been shorn on any ideological commitment to the ideas of justice, equality or transformation and when electoral battles are no longer about ideas but about being in power the discourse of CPI candidate in Begusarai that we do not promise you things that are beyond our control but we promise you that we will not sift sides, that we will fight alongside you, that we will contest the forces that create unemployment, agrarian distress, sectarian violence and so on is a refreshing break. It, then, becomes an electoral battle about ideas and politics of transformation. It ceases to be a rhetoric or typical opportunist bourgeois electoral process. In this kind of situation the battle is not about an individual such as Kanhaiya Kumar. He is merely an embodiment of whatever has transpired in politics in last few years. What brings together so many people in his support is not only his ability to brazenly stand against the powers that are out to destroy the ideas and places that talk of a world where you are not put behind bars for being a dissident but because he symbolises a possibility, a hope that would enkindle a new wave (whose direction will have to be decided soon).

Some journalists went to the extent of wrongly presenting facts about the elections, more so when there is anti-BJP Mahagathbandhan hell bent on ensuring that the CPI candidate should not win. This is not a Battle only about winning or losing. It is more than that. It is about upholding a politics, which is negotiating between the rhetoric of social justice, which didn’t lead to anything more than curtailing the hegemony of savarnas, and the politics of hatred. It is about moving beyond that rhetoric by bringing in the element of redistribution along with recognition while simultaneously countering the menace of the most ugly collaboration of neoliberal and neoconservative forces. Kanhaiya Kumar and Begusarai in that sense must be read as symbols in this Battle.

It has also been seen that once again the onus of putting together an anti-BJP front has been put on the left with questions such as why is it contesting against RJD or Congress. RJD has put up its own candidate against CPI in Begusarai and Rahul Gandhi has contested against a left candidate in Kerala. A close look at the history of India would reveal that the Left has been moreprincipled and consistent in its fight against communalism. Not only that the recent resistance against the right wing in India on the ground has been led by the left be it the farmer mobilisations or the student’s resistance in campuses. The candidature of Kanhaiya Kumar needs to be seen in this light as well – as a person who withstood the onslaught of the repressive state apparatuses of police and criminalised ethos of the right wing student politics. Every time one thinks of what happened to JNU during last five years among many images that conjures in front of our eyes one of them is that of Kanhaiya Kumar resisting the administration, being hounded inside the justice system physically by lawyers while the institution only stood there looking at all this like a helpless entity. Can you recall the image of Kanhaiya Kumar and Vishwajit being assaulted inside court premises by lawyers? It was a blatant statement from the right wing that spaces such as that of even judiciary is not beyond their reach (remember that nothing happened to those assaulting lawyers).  

I am yet to see that image of a fighter in the RJD leadership or the candidate from Begusarai. While one would not question Laloo Yadav for stopping the rath of Advani when no one was daring to but the current leadership is not the same. Tejaswi Yadav or Tanveer Hasan do not invoke any imagery in you specially if you have grown up in Bihar and have kept a close watch on its politics. Their names or that of the RJD today invokes an image of a blank canvas, without any concrete thought or action on the issues that confront us today. There is a general lack of ideological tenacity in anti-right wing politics. The Mahagathbandhan is no different – Jeetan Ram Majhi was with Nitish Kumar, RLSP was part of NDA in not so distant past and many other leaders have been part of different set of politics at different points of time. In other words, it is an alliance, which is not so embedded in a politics of anti-conservativism or anti-neoliberalism. Kanhaiya Kumar as of today represents a distinction – of being someone who is fearless, has fought on the streets and will hopefully continue to do that against both the forces and it will be a fight of principles not driven by the temporary electoral interests.

The intellectuals who were talking about defeating communal forces never posed the question to RJD and Congress about its decision to put up candidates against the left even though they were not asking for many seats. What history does Tanvir Hasan symbolises in this fight against the behemoth of an authoritarian state? Or for that matter what are the credentials of Tejaswi Yadav as a political personality to fight the right wing resurgence. If electoral choices are to be made on the basis on contributions of how much individuals have contributed to a fight then Kanhaiya Kumar from Begusarai or Amarnath Yadav from Siwan for that matter clearly win the case. By putting up candidates against them the other ‘secular’ formations have only played in the hands of the right wing.

This is a defining moment in the history of neoliberal-neoconservative India. It is so not only because the impending direction of politics will consolidate the common sensing of hatred towards minorities but it will also normalise the destruction of universities and schools – their intellectual-ideological structures. Killing someone because you don’t like his way of life, his food habits, his ideas etc., will be the new normal. Differences, debates, disagreements will become pathologies as authoritarianism in institutions of all types increase, surveillance reaches new heights and terminologies such as Justice will lose their presence even in texts. This moment is also defining because it awaits what comes out as an alternative vision to this authoritarianism – an ideological framing of idea of justice entertwined with anti-neoliberalism and anti-neoconservativism is urgently needed. Unless done we will slide down further towards an order that would not allow any space to meaningful opposition. Oppositions would remain only as superficial structures under garb of different names with similar politics. We have seen that in some of the states recently. What is required is a concrete political vision that is being put forth in Begusarai through the CPI candidate. It would need further debate, refinement and concretisation but right now as an electoral process the elections in Begusarai needs our attention as a crucial political statement.

(Note: Image courtesy https://www.socialnews.xyz/2019/04/12/begusarai-bihar-2019-lok-sabha-elections-cpis-kanhaiya-kumar-during-an-election-campaign-gallery/)

Inequality in School Education: Are we Asking Right Questions

To begin with, I must say that the fact that we are discussing EWS and access in school etc., is a reflection of the way in which discourses get shaped and defined. It would seem politically incorrect in a liberal framework to reject such a provision on the grounds that it does not allow us to address the basic and fundamental conditions that give rise to first inequality in society and then inequality in education. But it tends to make us believe that inequality is normal and given and therefore the way to provide good education to poor children is through some kind of quota. Nobody denies it as a stop gap arrangement but then it must be repeated time and again that it is a temporary arrangement and become comfortable with it as a quota system to tackle inequality.

The situation in education in general and schooling in particular is alarming. It is not only about the content but also the access to it. We are concerned with the question of access here more than the content. However, at some point it would be impossible to delink the two. The idea that there are people who need a terminology for identification, which is Economically Weaker Section here, is in itself a statement about the larger social and economic condition that exists in society. It is this condition which paved way for demands for EWS quotas in private schools. It is difficult to outrightly reject or accept it because it is connected with much more larger questions of how reproduction happens in societies. The demand emerged because

  • it has been considered criminal that private institutions take resources from the state but never give it back to people and that there is an accountability of private capital towards people;
  • it is considered that the mass of population also have the right to be educated the same way as the rich of the society.

However, we do realise that this process does not work that smoothly as some of the reports have indicated. The way schooling system is designed there is a logic of reproduction already inbuilt into it – a logic which would ensure that inequality in education remains because this inequality has its own functions to play in society. This has been much brilliantly explained by likes of Marx, Althusser and Bourdieu.

If the right to hope and dream is not a part of our education system or if idea of alternative possibilities are not to remain an intrinsic part of the knowledge framework it is obvious that we are imagining a world of a particular type. Education is about imparting the diverse possibilities, ways of thinking and looking at the world, not hiding what causes certain things, not denying that there is inequality, hunger, poverty, deprivation and discrimination and there are profound reasons why these things are there.
Hence, it is relevant to think if providing a quota can resolve the problem of access and inequality?

  • Is it not a stop gap arrangement in a larger battle which should ideally about ensuring that each and every child gets education of the highest possible quality?
  • Does the EWS provision really take care of the fundamental causes and conditions that produce inequality in access to schooling?
  • Are we even aware that there is a larger battle which is about ensuring that education ceases to be of two types – an elite education (in all respects – access as well as content and infrastructure) and an education for the poor and marginalised?
  • Is there a realisation that in the fight to ensure that everyone gets best education the simultaneity of short-term gains such as EWS quota and the long-term goal must be maintained.

It is time that we ask these questions to ourselves if we are committed to ensuring that imparting education has to be a non-discriminatory project. EWS has a lot of problems inbuilt into it because it is an imposition on the private schools to become sensitive, caring and have a consciousness of the wide gap in access to education that exists. There might be exceptions among private schools that take it as a mission but that is not the way the real problem at hand will be resolved because problems of inequality historically have not been resolved this way. More thinking needs to go into what can be the way forward.

Note: This is brief text of talk delivered at a panel discussion on EWS at Gargi College, Delhi University in 2018

The King and his Court gives a new farman: Attendance for JNU teachers

An university where students did not require to register their presence through an attendance system or whether the teaching and examinations will be held in the most unusual manner rather than the mechanised form of examinations and pedagogical transactions prescribed by a centralised examination branch that most universities had. Imagine a class happening not in the typical oppressive, uncreative format but in the most unconventional manner, a teacher asking you to maintain a daily diary of whatever you do in the class and then reflect on each lecture. These nature of assignments , or unusual questions posed to students could happen because there was no centralisation. And guess what – it produced some of the best intellectuals, bureaucrats and politicians proving that such an academic transaction could also be compatible with the dominant social order apart from producing critical, thinking students and human beings.

But look what they have done in a few years towards destroying that model of an university. Obviously, it has not been done a single person who comes as the Vice-Chancellor but with the help of a host of faculty members who are either in positions of power such as Rector’s and Chairpersons and Deans but also without any visible power. The agenda has been very clear: let there be uniformity, let all universities resemble each other – mechanised, uncreative, corporatised places which produces unthinking, subservient citizenry and workers for this auhtorian system to run with public support (!) So they issued another set of rules today after an Academic Council, which does talk much about academics but more about administration : the extremely prim and proper looking intellectual administrator issued th following press note after the Academic Council meeting:

Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi

Press Note 13-07-2018

The 146th Academic Council Meeting held on 13 July 2018 took a series of decisions on a host of critical issues that would bring about major improvements in academic and research activities of the University.

In addition, the AC also adopted certain rules and regulations which will improve governance and accountability of all the stakeholders of the university, such as students, teachers and staff.

While JNU had already implemented the rules of attendance for students and administrative staff, the 146th AC meeting through its resolution has made attendance mandatory for the teaching community as well, JNU faculty need to give attendance at least once in a day. Moreover, the AC also approved a rule that during the registration process at the beginning of every semester, all the incoming and continuing students are required to give an undertaking that they will abide by the attendance rules.

Secondly, an important decision has been taken by the AC to make JNU Entrance Examinations completely computer-based, i.e. online mode. Many members pointed out during an hour long discussion on this issue that the admission process in JNU will now be fairer, efficient, secure and bias-free.

The third important decision of AC was to approve the introduction of a two-year M.Sc. Degree Programme in Mathematics in the School of Physical Sciences.

The fourth decision was related to a University level time-table to be in place which will enable the student community to make choices for taking up courses in various schools and also lead to proper time management, and better utilization of available class room space.

Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra
Rector I

I am reiterating what I have written earlier the plan is to do away with alternative ways of thinking and working. The Indian state wants every building, to put it figuratively, to be painted in the same colour. One should not be surprised if they implement biometric attendance for faculty members. Next step will be fee hike, which has already started under different pretext. But there will be raise in entrance fee as well admission fee soon.

The student as well as teachers politics will also not remain the same unless serious battles are fought. It seems like a fight to save the institution from it’s death. Will the teachers realise their position as workers and fight as them or do we still think that such serious battles will be won through lobbying and judiciary . Will JNU go back to the same status quo as it was even in 2013? If not, the battle is lost.

HECI: Inevitable Product of the Corporatised Capitalist Education

BJP regime still needs to learn how to frame a document of governance. It messes it up and makes it look unprofessional and infantile. The HECI Act is an example of it, as it is full of contradictions and incomplete facts. Here is an Act, which is clear about the intentions of the government but those intentions are badly expressed. As an example it talks of centralisation as well as self-regulation making it difficult to understand how would it implement the two. Anyhow, the most important part is that its intention is clear – concentrate power in the hands of government.

There is great amount of opposition and concern to the newly proposed Higher Education Council of India (HECI) as a replacement for the University Grants Commission. The concern, as far as it could be seen, emerges on the following grounds:

  1. It seeks centralisation of power with the Ministry of Human Resource Development
  2. It has no imagination for an inclusive higher education, which is otherwise constitutionally guaranteed
  3. It will adversely impact financing of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
  4. It goes against the idea and spirit of federalism
  5. It professes a misplaced notion of autonomy

The concerns seem genuine and well framed if I look at them experientially as a teacher-worker. But then it also raises, to begin with, a methodological question for the critiques: why is a policy measure like HECI seen in isolation when it should be dialectically located within the larger processes that constitute a system grounded in the way how capitalist ‘development’ determines the forms and content of policy in different arenas. None of the analysis or concerns that I have come across till now point to using such a methodology because of which most of them end doing criticism of current regime, which is flawed. Some analysis have pointed out how this is a continuity of the earlier regimes as well. It is within this framework of analysis that one can encounter answer to many of the concerns pointed above.

At the first instance a lay person like me does get baffled at the proposal to do away with bodies like UGC and asks a basic question of what has been the need.

One pragmatic answer can be that with changing times we need to “upgrade” or “redefine” our institutions. And the proposed act seems to be well aware of it at least the way it makes itself relevant. Its preamble recycles the old rhetoric of how central government is concerned about “determination of standards” in HEI. The same preamble reinforces the idea of authority that central government holds through instruments of “systematic monitoring and promotion”. In the same breath it contradicts its commitment to autonomy (read privatisation) by saying that it would promote “uniform development of quality of education in higher educational institutions” because it not only wants to dismantle state control over HEI through autonomy but it also seeks to create an unequal HE scenario with private HEI for those who can pay and the state run HEI with bad infrastructure for the masses who can’t pay. It redefines itself by saying that the “mandate” of UGC needs redefinition because the “priorities of higher education” have changed. Obviously one would ask what are those changes.

The other answer can be that like the present regime undid all symbols and institutions of the past because it wanted to show a clear break from the past (decaying) welfarism into a new world of outright aggressive corporatised social, economic and political order this move is one among many. A new order has set in, a new imagination and new world needs to be showcased. The recent move is merely that. In this sense it is a continuity of the same process which replaced Planning Commission with Niti Aayog.

The UGC is obsolete because given the needs and requirements of the current situation Indian state needed a body that fully liberates education from its management. It is not that UGC was not doing anything towards liberating it. It had been allowing universities to run on guest and adhoc faculty. It had reduced funds, the infrastructure was being squeezed, the authoritarianism evident in any corporate funding was becoming the order of the day, students, faculty and staff were discouraged to unionise and therefore could not become stakeholders in the university system. Scholarships have been cut and teachers were sent letters early this year that if they needed seventh pay commission they must mobilise funds to run the institution. Nobody seems to be talking of the Gazette Notification that created different category of universities? What more is expected in terms of corporatisation except that all this needs to be formalised and institutionalised. Many of the voices of concern have been, in fact, part of the institutions that talked of redefining the institutions because in the changed situation with private universities etc., new institutional frameworks need to be worked out. If a move like this has to be opposed it cannot be opposed as a stand alone event but the whole process has to be opposed but unfortunately many of us have been part of the process at one point or the other.

Within the given mandate UGC had outlived itself. A new mechanism to facilitate a full-fledged overhaul of education system in interests of private capital to allow rampant and uncontrolled profiteering is required. One way to do this is to centralise the working of the system. Decentralisation, which has been critiqued in the past as messy, is a way to counter the invasion of private capital to some extent, till state does not become fully colonised by private capital and the decentralised governance becomes a facilitator of its rule. That process of colonisation is nearing it’s completion. It was started by the Congress regime in the early 1990s and has been carried forward by every successive regime. What BJP has done is that it has loosened the shackles through changing the nature of all institutions. It has defined and implemented the idea of ‘autonomy’, which is a move towards complete integration of HE in the market as it also talks about how HEI in India could have an education and research “in a competitive global environment.” The moment discourses on linking market and educational institutions came up in past, and even Yashpal committee was concerned about it, it implied that one is moving towards erosion of the idea of education in general, which should not have anything to do with whether one gets a job after completing it or not. Once, that becomes the concern the institutions will end up doing what private capital wants it to do – become direct producers of tailor made labour power for the market. It is not surprising then that the discourses on skilling would come up after that and so would emerge discourses on prioritising the disciplines and reframing the courses that are taught. Linked to these would be prioritisation of expenses with institutions. Some of my colleagues get fascinated by how an institution in West is run by only guest faculty but has a lot of other resources Or how the administration academics still look at UK/USA as model without even thinking about how their HEIs are being destroyed. Sometimes it does not seem like myopia of analysis but a comfortable position of how well we can live within capitalism by becoming its best advisors.

Section 15.3 of the proposed Act and its various sub-sections talk about academic standards and how to ensure it. Many provisions such as 15.3.b talks about laying “down standards of teaching / assessment / research or any aspect that has bearing on outcomes of learning in higher educational institutions including curriculum development, training of teachers and skill development.” This is centrally determining what is required as a knowledge or not. What should be an outcome of higher learning – be a good, servile worker and the institutions must be geared towards it or produced a critical knowledge. This new move will not only determine what kind of courses will be taught but also who will teach them and who will not. Provisions on content will be decided by a group of people, which will not have many academicians (02 out of 12). The question that remains is whether the HECI will be capable of going through the courses etc., of such a mammoth system or will a set of courses approved by it be valid throughout India. The way it is proposing the working of HEI across India will it not change the very fact of education being in the concurrent list?

Section 15.4 makes it amply clear that the HE would look like a market place where different enterprises compete to survive, flourish or perish. It talks of (15.4.c) laying down “standards for grant of autonomy for institutions and provide flexibility and freedom to institutions granted autonomy to develop their own curriculum”, (15.4.d) specifying “norms and standards for Graded Autonomy to Universities and Higher Educational Institutions and accordingly prescribe regulatory mechanisms” and; laying down “norms and standards for performance based incentivization to the faculty and the Higher Educational Institutions and the Universities”. It makes its intention amply clear by proposing that universities will be enabled “to become self-regulatory bodies for the maintenance of academic quality in higher education and research and in colleges affiliated to it” (15.4.m). The self-regulation also means that the institutions will not have to constantly go to the Ministry if it does not want money. Once, it fulfils all the formalities of annual reporting (which we know by now how corporates are experts at manipulating). At the first instance it might appear contradicting to the idea of centralisation it may not in longer run. These provisions if read along 15.3 also indicate at the centralisation aspect of the content of HEI. The Government decides what to teach, how to teach and (in other words) what not to teach.

One is surprised to read scholars argue that UGC with all its lacunae has been good whereas the HECI will be very bad. However, I would see HECI, dismantling of UGC, institutions of eminence, autonomy to HEIs, etc., as moves towards liberating the HEIs from clutches of state funding. It, at the same time, also moves towards making Higher Education more unequal, destroying the possibilities of research and teaching. But there is nothing new in this because this was already happening and the concerned analysts have failed to understand the inevitability of this. This would also mean that if a battle is to be waged against this it has to be enmeshed in the larger battle against the system that produces these policies.

Punjab, Goa and Delhi Elections: Scripting a Requiem for AAP

The municipal election results of Delhi have been of special interest this time not so much because one wanted to see whether the BJP-RSS wave (a combination of corporate capital and cadre based politics) sweeps it or not but more because it would give a mid-term appraisal of AAP’s hold over the city. First it was AAP’s humiliating defeat at the Rajouri Garden constituency in an assembly bypoll and now it’s drubbing in the MCD elections. The party would have its usual naïve and implausible explanation – such as after the assembly bypoll Arvind Kejriwal’s comment that people in Rajouri Garden constituency were unhappy because their sitting MLA was sent to Punjab – and then after MCD elections it is obviously the EVM’s fault. Those who are blaming the will have to ensure that when paper trail will be introduced in 2019 General Elections they must win to prove that BJP wins only because it manipulates the machines because they don’t they would be further discredited. The opposition in general and AAP in particular are still not seriously analyzing the reasons of BJP’s victory and therefore have no plan to counter its surge.

However, this is the right time to reflect upon the ‘phenomena’ called AAP. When it won the landslide victory in assembly elections in 2015 analysts and activists felt that a new political force had descended on India’s political horizon. Remember that when it won it was not a chance victory but a concerted work by ‘volunteers’ from across the country and it was a victory of ‘hope’ that AAP would cleanse the system and allow an ideal and clean model of governance. You would have sat in a rickshaw two years back and heard words of praise for ‘Kejriwal’. Going around Delhi talking to people then one felt an excitement about this new political force. The frustration of the middle class with the existing parties and governments and its search for an ‘ideal-type’ governance found an echo with AAP while the poor of the city saw promise of a better life in its rhetoric. The contractual teachers, the temporary DTC staff, the health employees and more importantly the youth had hope from the new dispensation. These hopes, two years down the line, have been shattered and the support base among youth, middle class and the precariously working population has declined drastically.

It all started when a few people within AAP felt insecure and started purging it of others who might have challenged them as objections were raised to the way tickets were distributed among many other things. Given that some of the MLAs have been forced out of the party has partially proven those objections to be true. On another front the party started appointing its public faces to different state bodies, which could have been given to others from outside the party to expand the organisational reach and the public faces could have been assigned important organisational role. For instance, it could have started identifying intellectuals with expertise to head bodies and it would have sent a different message. Along with this its experiments in student’s politics in Delhi University failed miserably and it could neither make inroads into the vast mass of unorganised workers who have been suffering from extremely precarious existence. Like other non-BJP political forces it failed to organisationally capitalise on the demonetisation issue as well. Many of these things were difficult to manage because of the high rhetoric that AAP engaged in during elections. It lacked the basic understanding and foresight that once in state power it would have to follow the rules of the game like going back to a welfare state when the national economy is being aggressively neoliberal was an impossibility. It also needed to realize that within the given framework there are limitations imposed by countervailing political and bureaucratic forces.

It has undertaken significant initiatives in the field of education and health as one could see infrastructural developments such as construction of school buildings and improving health facilities. However, it failed when it came to regularizing teachers in their jobs and undertaking qualitative changes in curriculum and pedagogy. It made a historical decision to implement the idea of neighbourhood school which was recommended as early as 1966 by Kothari Commission and it would have set in motion a lot of changes in schooling system but it could not foresee the High Court’s rejection of the notification at private school’s plea. A step like this could have been made use of if there was an organisational set up to follow it up and take it to the larger public. The idea that private systems of education or health care are not the affordable solutions to the education and health needs of masses and that there can be alternative models as Scandinavian countries or British or French systems demonstrated prior to their dismantling by neoliberal state could not be taken to public. The reason was AAP has lost its network and it never had a robust cadre base.

If AAP needs to save itself from a wipe-out in 2020 it will have to understand two things – that it’s rhetoric and promises of 2015 cannot be achieved fully on account of many political and economic reasons and, secondly, to survive Congress is not the opposition it is the BJP, which has a huge cadre support base through RSS and financial support through corporate funding. In order to sustain itself it will have to expand itself and get out of an oligarchic organisational set up and try to build organisations across the sections that it considers its long term support base. During the MCD elections in a constituency like Greater Kailash or Chitranjan Park one could see that it did not have volunteers, leaflets, public meetings, hoardings or any local mohalla faces. The others had all these. If they do not realise right now and start acting on it even after Punjab, Goa, Rajouri Garden and MCD fiascos this might be a requiem for a political trend that appeared briefly only to get lost in what seems to becoming an unipolar Indian politics.