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All-India protest against commercialization and communalization of education

By Prof Madhu Prasad, Dr Vikas Gupta*
The All-India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) organized on February 18 in Delhi a protest demonstration at Parliament Street, a nation-wide referendum on education policy, a People’s Parliament (Jan Sansad), and an evening of cultural resistance as part the full-day All-India Shiksha Hunkar Rally.
Thousands of students, teachers and education activists from across the country participated in the programme. They opposed the policy of privatization, commercialization and communalization of education.
They demanded public-funded free and equitable quality ‘common education system’ from KG to PG based on mother-tongue with social justice for Dalits, bahujans, adivasis, laboring masses, linguistic and religious minorities, transgenders, disabled, de-notified and nomadic tribes, especially girls.
The programme began with a protest demonstration at Sansad Marg addressed by Brinda Karat (CPI-M); Kavita Krishnan, CPI-ML (Liberation); N. Ramachandran, CPI-ML (Red Star), Dr Mrigank, CPI-ML (New Democracy); Prof Manoj Jha (Spokesperson, RJD); Prof Prem Singh, Socialist Party (India) and Sri Aflatoon, Samajwadi Jan Parishad; Prof Arun Kumar (JNU) alongside with AIFRTE Presidium Members Prof. Anil Sadgopal and Prof. G Haragopal.
Regretting his ability to attend, Chandrasekhar, leader of the Bhim Army, sent a message of support.
Effigies of many educational policies which are regarded by AIFRTE as leading to inequality and exclusion in education were burnt. A nation-wide referendum on educational policy has been floated by AIFRTE till March 18, 2019.
Thousands of ballot papers have been already submitted to the Referendum Commission comprising of Prof Manoranjan Mohanty (chairperson), Adv Sanjay Parikh, Adv Ashok Aggarwal, Dr Harjeet Singh Bhatti, Prof G Haragopal, Prof Madhu Prasad.
The primary analysis of trend demonstrates people’s aspiration for an egalitarian education system fully and directly funded by the state and free of all discrimination on the grounds of language, caste, class, gender, disability, ethnicity and religion.
The demonstration was followed by a People’s Parliament (Jan Sansad) at Ambedkar Bhawan presided by Prof Prabhat Patnaik, Prof. KM Shrimali, Prof K Chakradhar Rao, Prof Zhatsu Terhuja, Prof. Jagmohan Singh (great-grand nephew of Shahid Bhagat Singh) Sri Prabhakar Arade, Prof Anil Sadgopal and addressed by representatives of people’s movements.
The People’s Parliament adopted two resolutions. The first resolution condemned illegal arrest and the continuing threat of arrest on trumped-up charges against Prof Anand Teltumbde, member of AIFRTE Presidium. In the second resolution, AIFRTE demanded that any future government following the general elections to be held in April-May 2019 should reverse the trend of corporatization being followed at the command of World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) in pursuit of the neo-liberal reforms policies promoting profit-making in education and contractualisation of services. It also unequivocally stated its opposition to communalization in education.
AIFRTE participants raised the slogan ‘Education is the People’s Right! It is not a commodity for Sale!’ AIFRTE opposed the model of PPP (Public Private Partnership), fee hikes, education loans, and discrimination between elite and ordinary institutions, which lead to exclusion of the mass of children and youth from access to equitable quality education.
AIFRTE demanded establishment of a nation-wide fully state-funded and entirely free Common System of Education from “KG to PG" to ensure the Fundamental Right to education for all children and youth. It demanded that the first step towards achieving this goal was to implement the Allahabad High Court judgment of August 2015 through a central legislation.
The judgement directed that all those who receive any form of pecuniary benefit from the State treasury must admit their children to the neighbourhood government school only, so that all children attend common schools all of which would be rapidly raised to the level of Kendriya Vidyalayas once the children of politicians, bureaucrats, business and the professional middle classes are also required to attend these schools.
This was followed by a programme of cultural resistance wherein cultural groups from several states presented performances giving expression to people’s angst against injustice and oppression and fascist-brahmanical- patriarchal attempts to impose cultural homogeneity.
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*Presidium member, organising secretary, AIFRTE, respectively

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