In universities such as Ashoks, what would the culture of dissent and politics look like? How much can a capitalist funded university that wants to impart high quality liberal arts education succeed in ensuring critical education? Would such universities ever open up its gates for students from all sections of the society in a country wherein less than 10% have access to higher education? Would it allow for complete academic and intellectual freedom?
The article by Shiv Visvanathan “The Chilly justice of the Gulag” in the Outlook is a revealing indictment of all (and more) that is wrong with our Indian academia.
Over the last two days, my facebook has gone on overdrive with feminists finding themselves in polarised positions against the list of perpetrators that Raya Sarkar, a Dalit lawyer in California circulated on facebook after compiling the names of some powerful men in the academic world and alleged sexual harassers. Some feminists as mouthpieces for the entire community wrote an apology of an article in kafila urging that the list be taken down for it violates ‘due process’ of law. Other feminists have come out in full support and some have taken the middle ground, allowing themselves to articulate their confusions, while many have remained mum for the more one thinks about it the more contradictory one seems to become.
Dalit students talk not only of their social alienation in these elite spaces, but of their intellectual alienation. Why is it that we do not use moments like this to reflect on the very nature of our social sciences? Why is our academic and intellectual culture such that, despite writing of subaltern subjects, social stratification, caste, nationalism, resistance and oppression, it is not able to speak to a section of students in the class?
Delhi University is fundamentally a feudal fiefdom. Within this kind of a climate the recent injection of the idea of developing market and technocracy means the attempt is to update the fiefdom in keeping with the times. But fundamentally the campus is only intermittently argumentative.
“Though the University is claimed as a “modern” institution which professes all such values that can be the markers of “modernity”, namely; liberty, equality, fraternity and rationality etc., this claim can only be made on the perils of overlooking a large set of questions that emanate from the kind of social reality we live in…
Rohith Vemula wanted to express the lived reality of being a student in the school of Life Sciences and the discrimination he faced in the laboratory, through an academic paper. He had sent an Abstract to the annual sociology conference to be held in the university. The Abstract was titled “Discovering Caste Prejudices in Science Laboratories: Unheard Narratives”
A student looks behind the facade of 15th Best university in the Country, North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong Campus
In fact, one of the failures of politics within the ‘University of Ideas’ has been its inability, while pointing out the horrors of Indian nationalism in Kashmir, to demonstrate the problems of nationalism within the so-called mainland.
The university and the nation are antithetical entities. Historically speaking, the idea of the university emerged much before the emergence of the idea of the nation-form.