How Free Space In Ramjas College Has Been Shrinking Since The Clash In February

Posted by Bipasha Nath in Campus Watch
June 28, 2017

Famed for its active participation in student politics, Ramjas College stands its ground when it comes to questioning the authorities, be it within the college, or outside it. However, lately, asking the right questions, at the right time, has brought on the infamous ‘anti-nationalist’ tag on those who have dared to step out of their comfort zone, and speak out in the hope of bringing welcome changes in Ramjas.

Prior to the February clash between ABVP supporters and the students, aggressive questioning through protests and “controversial” seminars were quite common. In fact, it could well be assumed that these were even encouraged since authorities refrained from disrupting any form of activity that created space for dissent. In my three years of studying in Ramjas, I have witnessed protests – peaceful and otherwise, either solely directed towards college authorities, or as part of a larger call-for-action within the university – against the Principal, against the administration, against decisions made by the regulatory body, and many more. In my knowledge, never has there been any grieving party that was disallowed from sharing their concerns in any manner they deemed appropriate.

In retrospect, the February event became a game-changer and paved the way for many controversies in the college. On March 31, four colleges were denied permission to perform their plays at Mukhatib, the annual street play fest of the college, since they were based on the issue of nationalism, and therefore deemed as sensitive. Society members had blamed college authorities for this blatant censorship, which fell in line with the disruption caused on days of the February seminar. What many fail to understand is that no matter how many seminars, conferences, and events get cancelled on account of “anti-national sentiments”, people will always find ways to give voice to their opinions. Silencing every contentious thought will never be possible, for any side. Such incidents have proven that it can never be too late to collaborate with free-thinking, opinionated, and like-minded individuals to work towards building a future that is a better version of the present.

More recently, as was reported by the Millennium Post, there were rumours of adopting ‘gurukul-style teaching’ to “avert incidents” that were ‘controversial’. Students were supposedly expected to sing the national anthem every morning and attend “yoga classes to keep their minds off destructive activities”. While this statement got refuted by college authorities soon after, the effects of such claims cannot be mistaken. As has rightly been noted by Naina Gautam, an alumna of English department, Ramjas College, “We’d learned always to question authority. From professors, our textbooks, to even the working of the faculty, it was a democratic platform. If the gurukul-style teaching news were at all true, they were not only killing free speech but are also asserting archaic norms to change its image.”

Moreover, the idea behind hoisting the national flag in college campus – a statement that has officially been commented upon by the acting Principal, P.C. Tulsian, and can, therefore, be assumed as being true – seems as redundant as the ABVP’s ‘Tiranga March’ that had been brought out in response to the seminar, where they walked around the campus with an 180-feet national flag to protest against those involved in the February fiasco.

While it is being claimed that the inclusion of the flag is not a measure taken with the view to improve Ramjas’ public image, it cannot be denied that it is in tune with ideas of forced nationalism that has gripped the rest of the country lately. One cannot teach love for country to an opinionated, driven, liberal minded twenty-year-old.

Anybody who has witnessed the unrest in the college campus from February onwards would only see the flag as a subtle reminder of which ideology is currently in power. This being the current scenario, another Ramjasite, Harshita Hiya, who completed her final year of undergraduate studies this May, correctly notes, “When I started out in Ramjas, the first thing that amazed me was its acceptance sans judgment. You were you and were free to be you. February then obviously shook my faith in that image. Since then, many controversies have followed, the recent one being the adoption of Gurukul-style teaching in the college. The first time I heard of it, I was sure that such a thing, at least, would not come to pass. It is worrying to see that certain authorities seem desperate to redeem Ramjas in the eyes of incumbent powers, and the long nurtured spirit of the college is suffering.”

Given the favourable environment that the college has developed over the years, one can only hope the practice of rigorous questioning continues, despite opposing sides trying to suppress it.

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Image source: Burhan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

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