An academician Ananya Guha reads into the goings on at Allahabad University.
The very fact that the President of the Student’s Union outvoted her male counterpart and, that he is at the forefront of making false allegations against her and her admission, supported by some allegedly rabid authorities, is an example of vicious male tyranny. It is convention that any position of candidature reserved for Scheduled Caste or Tribes, falling vacant can, at the discretion of the authorities be replaced by General Candidates. The University in which I work also follows such guidelines. What is happening in Allahabad University is not only another case in point of suppression of democracy and Fundamental Rights but also an infringement of women’s equality to participate in all democratic processes, and a crass attitudinal stand point which relegates them to the backwaters of subservience – to men. This is not only a shameless and egregious violation of democratic norms, but is also an ominous sign of how hooliganism and shameless muscle power can grip all democratic and secular institutions, where knowledge is sought but not sold like, as in a raucous market place.
What is astonishing is why the bogey of the reserved vacancy was raised, much after her admission was confirmed? Is it because that holding the President’s position, and that too becoming the first woman to do so in the country is something that her detractors simply could not accept? This is a rhetorical question and, in this context rhetoric implies seeking justice and freedom. Moreover the constant bludgeoning of the woman, by way of harassment, threats and false charges, belie all democratic claims of a nation – state which always trumps the ‘academic excellence’ card, reservation for women, educating the girl child platitudes.
The subsequent harassment to her is unprecedented in the precincts of a university of democracy and hallowed past. The history of universities of repute, known for great teachers and brilliant students weaves into the history of a country. The three Presidency universities established by the British later on went on to become the leading universities of the country. Universities such as Allahabad followed in its wake. A university which had in its portals the likes of Firaq Gorakhpuri and Harivansh Rai Bachchan, the multilingual poet-teachers, a varsity which once upon a time contributed a substantial number of IAS officers to the country, some of them known for their brilliant and distinguished academic records.
I am going on to history of institutions. Well known educational institutions have a rich legacy, an aura which cannot be dispelled, a past which shapes the present. True, people may believe, that some are today simply a shade of the past, that the old ‘ culture ‘ has gone or is no more like what it is before, but reputations always live, because a seat of learning acquires such reputation because of its teachers and students, who establish the institution’s credentials. Similarly teaching learning becomes reciprocal, as in universities like JNU, Delhi University etc. But a University such as Allahabad also has a solid past to fall back upon, incidents such as this besmirches reputation not only of individuals as in this case, but tarnishes the credibility of a university or academic institution.
But does this really make much difference at a time when the past and its historical implications are being cleverly obliterated and even sullied? An intelligent and perceptive reading of historical imperatives of a country or its institutions is burnt at the stake, like a Joan-of-Arc, and is considered to be gruesome heresy. Historical travesty is now a singular dominance in the shaping and re-shaping of this great country. Its historical antecedents and denudation of it, is now taking the shape of a large myth, urged by fantasy and falsification of views. It is also a direct threat and challenge to the Constitution of a country which sought to seek social empowerment in terms of religion, caste and gender.
We are now on a myth – making, larger than life destiny. How, historical forces will dispel this, is a question time will answer to record in the annals of History. This fanatical urge towards obliterating it is something which we will not only pay for dearly, but also something which the intelligent and the sensitive will resist stolidly. And I am not only talking of activists, writers and thinkers who have been raising their voices amid the rubble, but I am also thinking of a young India: clear, visionary and articulate – the India which our politico – statisticians harp on and bandy as the future of a Nation, at the drop of a hat.
History has its own logic, it shapes its own course and destiny. Meddling it can lead to a historical backlash, which can only lead to destruction, chaos and anarchy. What is happening in the universities today is simmering discontent, because credentials have not been respected, words of distinguished academics who have made contributions to the thought processes of a country have been undermined, and now in Allahabad University a woman student leader has been harassed for she dare speak the truth and do what others could not- challenging authoritarian rule. When a University system becomes partisan in whatever matter – appointments, political interference from outside, favoring one group of students and pitting them against other groups, then a university deviates from academic norms and takes the form of a political body, similarly ousting or transferring teachers because they uphold a cause, as what happened recently in Indian Institution Of Mass Communication New Delhi. Partisanship in educational institutions is the worst that can happen, because freethinking is ruthlessly suppressed. All this happens because Vice Chancellors and others want to curry favor to a political regime. This rot had undoubtedly set in Indian Universities for a long time, but now it is almost anarchic.
Ananya S Guha