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Suppression Of Universities Is A Leaf Out Of British Imperialism

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In the early 19th century, British cultural and social policies introduced Western education of science, economics and polity, albeit minimally, to ‘modernize’ the population of India. The Indian society had stagnated over the past few centuries, stuck in a rut of caste and conventions, and exploited by organized religious corruption. The British idea was to create a market for its industrial products and a society more open to Christian missionaries once it abandoned its own superstitions and ‘archaic’ religions.

The education system, though confined to a few, carried ideas of democracy and anti-imperialism even though it was structured to serve the colonizers. The Indian proved a quick learner and thinker. They absorbed modern ideas of liberty, individualism, and equality rapidly.

This intellectual awakening, led by Ram Mohan Roy who believed in a synthesis of Eastern and Western ideas, was a hopeful ember of individual thoughts even when it belonged to only a minute portion of the society. It culminated in the educated Indian’s analysis of the imperialistic nature of the British empire and the demand of their identity’s assertion. One of the most famous instances would be the Young Bengal movement, led by the Anglo-Indian Henry Vivian Derozio, who taught at the Hindu College, Calcutta. He inspired ideas of free thinking and to question all authority among his students.

And so, these British policies were hastily abandoned in 1858, post- the First War of Independence in 1857. But the motion of reforms was set in the Indian society and there was no turning back.

Why was this brief history lesson necessary?

To remind the present Indian society that public discourse and social engagement are revolutionary. It is why the British took swift action to pull back its education policies. And it is why ABVP goons are afraid of seminars and debates. The spread of ideas promoting an individual’s own ability to think is threatening to their existence. For who can understand the spirit of liberty and humanism enshrined in the Constitution of India, and not immediately see what those who violate it stand for?

Students are active and free thinkers, developing their cognitive ability on their own terms, as they take up both collaborative and dissenting ideas.

The culture of student protests in India is being suppressed violently for a long while now. JNU, HCU, FTII, BHU, KU—there is a systematic suppression being applied to eradicate questions, demands for self-assertion, and enforce assimilation.

Now, this arrives in DU. The on-going violence against students and teachers is a prime example of silencing the individual and persecuting beliefs based on a vision of a dignified life.

What happened at Ramjas College is not new. But this particular incident highlights, close to home, the systematic attack in the light of the recent wave of pushback against liberal ideas across the world.

In the guise of national pride, those drenched in the vitriol of fascist ideologies swooped in around the campus to create an atmosphere waiting to ignite. Then, with no support from the police or the Vice Chancellor, the students got caught in the fray. This, in turn, was used to turn the narrative around, painting the students as provocative and violent. Videos without context spread on social media and public opinion is now being turned against the DU students, using statements from various other occasions spoken by those invited.

The entire scenario seems dishearteningly familiar. Any attempt to contextualize videos, quotes, pictures is met with an organized resistance that uses the tactic of counter-questioning and derailing the moment actual logic breaks their bubble.

This is a vicious cycle with repercussions that a narrowed perspective of short-term selfish political goals is heedless of. It flames the inflammatory rhetoric that preys on fears. It feeds the alienation which, when explodes, is conveniently de-contextualized, again, and labeled “radicalism” that is deemed anti-national and in need of control by force.

If this isn’t a tactic picked straight from the British imperialism that leached the bones of South Asia for the pursuance of its own supremacy with exactly these steps, what is?

There are arguments from the cautious liberal of India who tries to draw parallels in the Western world, primarily the US. I understand the measures were extreme, but what can one do? Do you think the US will allow anyone to speak like this in its Universities? For all of US’s international faults, its public—which overwhelmingly did not vote for its current President—is, since November 2016, vocal against fascism in its domestic life at least. The historic Women’s March that surfaced on every continent, the UC Berkeley protests against the bigot Milo Yiannopoulos, the protests against the capitalist-driven Dakota Access Pipeline, the Black Lives Matter movement, the resurgence of Antifa and the Black Bloc—everything is an answer to those who have settled in their comfort.

The fight for free thinking, liberty, equality, and against fascism is arduous and often stumbling, but history is proof that it always prevails.


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  1. Piyush Awana

    Bullshit article. People raising anti national slogans must not have been spared.Do you have idea what happened in 90’s in kashmir under this “AZADI” protest.Many hindus were killed and fled from kashmir. If Abvp was not there same would have happend in delhi as well.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about the campaign here.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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