North Campus of Delhi University recently saw an installation of a statue which has Savarkar in the middle along with Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose on his sides. The installation didn’t have permission from University authorities. Student organisations like NSUI demonstrated to protest against the act by garlanding it with footwear and blackening the face.
Removal of the busts followed after the protests, and it has become an active political discussion in DU. The rationale of installation was the role Savarkar played in Indian national movement along with Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. It is an important act, and one has to understand it in two contexts. First is the distortion of debates from genuine issues related to higher education. Second, the presentation of ‘ahistorical’ facts as history to build a narrative for political propaganda.
India has the largest population between the age group of 15-24 in the world. 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 25, and 60% of Indians are below 30.
In 2000, when the current ruling party was in power, they assigned Mukesh Ambani and Birla to submit a report on policy framework for education. The report suggested various steps, like gradual withdrawal of Government from funding in higher education, restricting access of students to higher education, recover a big part of expenditure from students as fees, privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. This report also stated that politics has to be banned in higher education to gain complete control over institutions.
All India Survey on Higher Education released data on 2016-17 which described a gradual decline in growth related to the enrolment of students to higher education since the new regime began in 2014.
RUSA, a public-funded body which was formed in 2013 for strategic funding on higher and technical institutes has suffered a decrease in budgetary allocation from 1300 crores to 200 crores in the year 2017.
It has been observed that 2018-19 budget speech indicated a further burden on public universities and students by replacing grants as loans. HEFA directs a principal portion of the loan has to be repaid through ‘internal accruals’ mobilised through fee receipts, research earnings, etc. HEFA, which is funded by market funds, private donations and CSR funds have gained in budgetary allocation from 250 crores to 2750 crores.
In 2018-19, grants for central universities were reduced from 7,261.42 crores to 6,445.23 crores, and assistance for IITs also chopped down from 7,503.5 crores to 5613 crores. One-third of the posts (5600) are vacant in central universities. Crippling of grants and privatisation is going on. Universities are asked to mobilise funds for the rest of their needs, including payment for the staff which is going to be reflected upon the fee structure of universities.
The appearance of a non-existent JIO university into the list of institutes with eminence can be observed as a natural extension of this.
On the other hand, India is seeing its highest unemployment rate in the last 45 years.
It has to be noted that, it is during the same time, nationalism has become the point of discussion related to Indian Universities. Political streams which had no contribution to national movement became self-declared authorising bodies of patriotism. After the controversy related to nationalism in JNU, one can observe a massive cut in the number of seats and allocation of funds to their library. But the paradigm of public debate related to a premier institute like JNU was predetermined before that move.
Know-it-all Spiritual gurus are working overtime in air-conditioned venues to convince young people in Indian Universities on why it is important to be agreeable to everything around us. We can’t afford to be myopic on their role. Spirituality played a great role in Indian renaissance when Spiritual gurus enlightened people against social evils. They were never mouthpieces in saffron, of rulers in their times.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” (Joseph Goebbels)
As JIO facilitated a large number of people to access the internet, a parallel phenomenon also got strengthened. Information such as several UNESCO awards, microchip technology inside 2000-rupee notes, details of child kidnappers began to spread faster than viral diseases. A series of data is reaching out to a large number of people on a daily basis. While mainstream media were demoralised through brandings like ‘Presstitute’, social media transformed into an active medium which creates a platform for communicating to a mass number of people actively on a day. It has to be noted that it is the same youth who are the larger consumers of social media platforms. Technology doesn’t demand verification before the act of forwarding the message. So, it has become a source of misinformation, and fake photoshops.
Our cyber laws are also unequipped to prevent it by making people accountable for what they spread. Most of us haven’t developed the habit of verifying the information we get through other online or offline resources we have. With facilities to spread a piece of information to a larger number of people in rapid time, it is often impossible to prevent its reach or correct its consumers even after debunking factuality of it.
It has been used as a tool to spread false information, distort historical facts and provide false statistics for political propaganda. Mainstream media has exposed certain propaganda like that of Muslim lineage in Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi’s photoshopped image of having dinner with Imran Khan to propagate the undercurrents between his party and Pakistan was a recent example. But a considerable portion of the population is still consuming a hell lot of information from which they derive their political meanings. These people are often called as ‘graduates from Whatsapp university’. It’s not about just the medium or technology; it has to be seen as the light of the post-truth conviction of deceiving the masses for political gains. We should analyse the statue of Savarkar in that context as well.
VD Savarkar (1883-1966) was associated with the freedom movement in the first decade of the 20th century. He founded ‘Free India society’ to organise Indian students in England for the Independence movement. However, during the period he spent in Andaman Jail, Savarkar took a U-Turn in his words and actions. In 1911, by the first month of imprisonment itself, Savarkar wrote his first mercy petition. By 14th November of 1913, VD Savarkar wrote his second mercy petition in which he stated his confession for getting misguided into the road he had taken and assured his loyalty to the British Government. He even promised to be the “staunchest advocate of English government” if they release him. In his fourth mercy petition on March 1920, he desperately tried to please Britishers by stating “every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally co-operate with the British people in the interest of India herself”.
More than 3200 Indians were imprisoned in Andaman’s Cellular Jail, and 173 of them were hanged. In the entire history of Andaman Jail, only 3 prisoners wrote for mercy to British: Savarkar brothers and Barin Ghosh. If that is the history of it, then it is important to know who called ‘Savarkar’ ‘Veer’ (brave)? We know who called Gandhi Mahatma. We know who called Subhash Chandra Bose Netaji. But who called Savarkar Veer?
It was in a book called ‘Life of Barrister Savarkar’ written by someone named Chitragupta. On 1987, the second edition of this book was published, and it was revealed, Chitragupta was none other than Savarkar. Chitragupta in mythology was the scribe of ‘Yama’ who is the God of death. And this ‘Chitragupta’ in Indian history was accused number 8 in the charge sheet related to the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi.
In parallel to these confessions for participating in the Indian national movement, VD Savarkar was investing his intellect in political Hindutva which believed in the two-nation theory and co-operation with the British. If one goes through his life, it can be understood that it is not an accidental turn taken by him from Andaman. At the age of 12, Savarkar led a group of boys to attack a mosque during Hindu- Muslim riots and used stones on the mosque to shatter windows and tiles.
After his release, he took over the leadership of Hindu Mahasabha. While leaders of Indian National Congress were jailed due to ‘Quit India’ movement, Hindu Mahasabha entered into a coalition with Muslim League in Sindh and Bengal. Parallelly, Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar kept recruiting Hindu youth to British Army and propagated against the anti-colonial movement. Hindu Mahasabha Ministers were part of Sindh Assembly which passed a resolution for Pakistan, a separate state for Muslims. They continued to be a part after the resolution as well. Ironically, Savarkar used partition in the later period as a tool to spread hatred against Mohandas Gandhi.
Subhash Chandra Bose exposed the Hindu Mahasabha by attacking them with powerful words like “Banish these traitors from national life. Don’t listen to them” (at a public meeting on May 12, 1940 at Jhargram in West Bengal). Subhash Chandra Bose had expressed his support on Congress banning dual membership inside Congress to allow its workers to work for communal organisations like RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League on his editorial in the forward bloc weekly on May 4, 1940, under the title of ‘Congress and Communal organizations’.
Balraj Madhok, Hindu Mahasabha leader of that time complained that Bose with his supporters decided to intimidate Mahasabha by force and his people used to break up all Mahasabha meetings and beat up leaders. He further states Dr Mukherjee was stoned in the head by people of Boss.
RSS, the other stream which VD Savarkar was associated with, after its formation in 1925, never participated in the Independence movement and RSS viewed Anti-British freedom fighters as reactionaries. MS Golwalkar, ideologue and national leader of the party, had urged Hindus “don’t waste your energy fighting the British. Save your energy to fight our internal enemies that are Muslims, Christians and Communists”. When he took over the leadership in 1940, RSS secluded itself further from the Indian independence movement. They were vocal critics of our national symbols including National flag, the national anthem or Mohandas Gandhi even after independence.
Historically, the role played by VD Savarkar during the pre-independent period was the distortion of An anti-British national movement for independence to Anti-Muslim political movement which had collaborated with British imperialism and favoured the two-nation theory.
On the one hand, student organisations should be keen to dictate the point of discourse to key issues of students in higher education, and on the other hand, they should equip themselves to propagate the truth actively to a large number of people using digital and printing platforms. The knowledge produced in WhatsApp Universities is directly being imposed on a premier Indian University in this particular context. It defines an alarming situation where the youth has to find its truth irrespective of what has been served to them by spiritual gurus and WhatsApp universities.