By Kawalpreet Kaur:
Soon, the final semester results will start pouring in and Delhi University will officially close its doors for me. I will be a graduate of an esteemed college from one of the most prestigious universities of India. My university, which usually makes headlines for its sky-high or sometimes 100% cut-offs, roaring fests, and sometimes obscure pay packages, is now back in the news again. Like all the previous years, this year too, anxious parents and aspirants continue to line up outside colleges in the fretting heat with the hope to secure a seat in the premier university, known for its high cut-offs. This year, the respite has come, but only in the form of relatively pleasant weather and not in the cut-offs, which seems to have only gone higher, higher than last year, higher than the previous for certain courses. But in the zeal of turning it into the ‘best’ university, somewhere we are missing an important point, i.e. why does the university continue to offer only 60,000 seats with 63 colleges and no new colleges are opened, even when the number of aspiring students continue to surpass every year?
Prior to taking admission, I was always in awe of the sacred ‘aura‘ attached with DU as my father, who has been working in DU for the past 25 years, used to recite so many stories of joy, achievements, its professors, research work, sports day, farewell, festivals etc., to me. Delhi University, from his eyes, was a society in which a student absorbed the graces and accomplishments of a higher form of life; where academics is the pursuit of larger truth and an active discussion is transpired with culture and society. What is taught inside the classroom is linked with the realities of larger world outside. As Cardinal Newman, an important Catholic intellectual, pointed out, “In the University the gentleman does not merely know things; he is receptive to the tone, the meaning, the lived reality of what he knows.” Thus, the general principles of any subject can be learned by books at home; but the detail, the colour, the tone, the air, the life which makes it, is learned in university. It is not simply a repository of knowledge but it shapes a well-formed and graceful personality.
With this idea, my journey in DU started, but I didn’t know that I was destined to be a student of the erstwhile FYUP batch and during my time, the university unfortunately made headlines for all the wrong reasons. As if, the unfortunate guinea pig experiment of the Four Year Undergraduate Program was not enough; with the change in the helm of government, a similar, ill-structured, Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) was imposed on the next batch. As I am a student of psychology, a course which gives maximum weightage to the practical component, under the CBCS system, the component was reduced and core papers were diluted to a large extent. As if that was not enough, they introduced the relative grading system which only added more fuel to the existing chaos.
Entering final year made me realise that what I had studied in the cocoon of my classroom was controlled by the policies of our governments.
The priorities of the government on higher education speaks loudly when on one hand, institutes like IITs and IIMs are witnessing major fee hikes, some even by 100%, and on the other, premier institutes like FTII and now NIFT are clamping under the burden of ‘politically motivated’ appointments. The appointed chairpersons have displayed no knowledge or credibility in their respective fields of art; the only credential being or being affiliated to members of the ruling party. Also, the major push to change the syllabus in the textbooks of primary schools and removal of references of Gandhi and addition of V.S. Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha, infamous for being a British stooge, as our ‘hero’ of the freedom movement, speaks volumes about the divisive agenda being pursued by the Government.
The slash in the funds by NDA government dedicated to the education sector has jeopardised higher education even further. The fund cuts present another gloomy picture for students and teachers alike. The latest UGC gazette notification has led my university professors to boycott the admission process. The notification would have increased the work hours of teachers excessively while simultaneously undermining the quality of education and cutting the jobs of over tens of thousands of ad-hoc professors in DU alone. Our professors have been going round-the-clock in different colleges, talking to students, their parents and telling them about the reasons for boycotting the admission process. One of the important reasons given by teachers is that, since 2008, no major post has been filled in DU and the teachers are not being appointed permanently even if they have been working for years in colleges and are also denied promotions. This spells the crisis, the premier university is in!
Whenever these unprecedented attacks on university autonomy and quality are challenged, ABVP, the ruling party in the student union, gets active on the ground to shut every voice of dissent against its parent body and also ensures that it vandalises every scope of discussion and debate. Recently, when professor Chaman Lal from JNU was invited to give a talk on Bhagat Singh, it was disrupted by the infamous union. We must ask how hallow are their claims of celebrating Bhagat Singh and Dr. B R Ambedkar, when any discussion on their ideas are vandalised and termed ‘anti-national’. When Rohith Vemula in HCU challenged the hegemony of these goondas, he was reduced to being casteist and anti-national.
I ask, when I am leaving my university, what has become of you? Few years back, this would have sounded incomprehensible that regressive student unions openly give diktats to ban societies, theatre groups, and disrupt movie screenings which don’t pass its ‘nationalist’ test or, simply, which exposes them. My friend saw her own professor being roughed up by these scouts in Kirori Mal College over the screening of the documentary “Muzaffarnagar Baki Hai“. Did they do this to silence the truth of Muzaffarnagar or to hide the misdeeds of their own party men who were accused of provoking riots?
From disrupting seminars to assaulting professors, as recent as in SRCC College, these custodians of “Bharat mata ki jai” leave no instance to issue a character certificate for ‘women’ students in campus. They displayed the same arrogance when journalists from The Quint were conducting a survey on ‘Sexual preferences and safety’ with the prior consent of students and assaulted women journalists in campus, in the name of protecting culture. We must ask unequivocally what ‘culture’ is it that forces a woman to not talk about her will freely.
Now, when I bid goodbye, my head lies in shame that a student in my university has lost his capacity to hear from one ear after being thrashed by ABVP goons in his own college while he was assisting students with admissions. He alleged that the goons were not students from his college and were led by Himanshu Bidhuri, the son of BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri from south Delhi, who asked him to chant, “Bharat mata ki jai”. When he refused to give in to their coercive demand, he was beaten up. Is this thinking any different from those who think they can do anything as long as they enjoy political patronage and impunity from any law? Abhinav, a student of Deshandhu College and an activist of AISA was admitted in the AIIMS trauma centre after the attack. No FIR has been registered in the case till now as police has been delaying it over silly excuses. This violence and political shielding is no longer new to my campus and I know this too wouldn’t be the last unfortunate case. This only spells the danger of how quickly the low-level fascism, generated in the name of threats and fear, is catching up in our universities.
I know every heart bleeds with the massacre in Dhaka, Baghdad and now in Medina and I see a common thread which binds them all with Abhinav. In Dhaka, they were killed for not reciting verses from the Quran and in India, similar certificates of patriotism are being distributed in the name of “Bharat mata ki jai” daily, to silence everyone who questions and dissent.
Here I bid my final adieu to my alma mater who taught me to fight, to stand in all adverse. As I look at the smiling faces of the new ones coming to DU, I see hope in their eyes. I know they will learn to fight back like the FYUP batch did, like Rohith did, like the CBCS students did, like FTII and JNU. I want to leave with the hope that they wouldn’t succumb to the designs of the fascist scouts and that the student-teacher unity of my campus will continue to stand against all such attacks. The goondaism in the name of nationalism in campuses should end and I hope that all campuses will rise in rage to preserve what universities are meant to teach us i.e., free thinking.
Batch of 2016
IP College for Women
Take campus conversations to the next level. Become a YKA Campus Correspondent today! Sign up here.
You can also subscribe to the Campus Watch Newsletter, here.