Skip to main content

Report provides testimonies of "systematic" onslaught on higher education in India

Download the report here
By Anil Chaudhary*
The report “Indian Campuses Under Siege”, released by the People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space in India (PCSDS) simultaneously nationwide from different states/regions, records the emerging trends in the educational institutions across the country and the situation of crisis faced in education. This is even more relevant in the context of the increased criminalisation and marginalisation of students in the last few years.
In the face of increasing attacks on democratic space including higher education institutions, students’ bodies, teachers and civil rights activists, a number of civil society organisations came together to form People’s Commission on Shrinking Democratic Space (PCSDS) in 2016.
PCSDS held its People's Tribunal on Attacks on Educational Institutions in India, where about 130 testimonies of students and faculty were received from close to 50 institutions and universities across 17 states in the country, of which 49 oral depositions were presented before a jury panel of eminent persons comprising Justice (Retd) Hosbet Suresh, Justice (Retd) BG Kolse Patil, Prof Amit Bhaduri, Dr Uma Chakravarty, Prof TK Oommen, Prof. Vasanthi Devi, Prof. Ghanshyam Shah, Prof. Meher Engineer, Prof. Kalpana Kannabiran and Pamela Philipose.
Seventeen experts made submissions before the jury panel on the thematic areas being, the impact of privatisation and globalisation of education, distortion of history and syllabus and saffronisation of education, student unions and elections on campuses, criminalisation of dissent and structural marginalisation in educational institutions based on caste, gender and sexuality, region and religion.
On the last day of the tribunal, an interim report was released by the jury panel, comprising their observations and findings based on these depositions. In the final report, the jury concludes that there has indeed been a systematic onslaught on the very idea of higher education in India.
The jury observed that the extreme and manifold crisis in higher education which has grown over the last few decades in India, and has got accentuated in the four years before the tribunal, under the current regime.
This is deliberate, since an educated citizenry can put questions to those who rule and is essential for the furthering and deepening of democracy. Hence, the crisis of education is not simply a crisis of education alone but a crisis of society itself.
Through the testimonies on privatisation and globalisation of education, the issues of withdrawal of the government from funding education, fee hikes, removal of financial aid to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) students, and consequently, the denial of education to students from marginalised communities, granting autonomy to universities, self-financing courses, removal of scholarships and delays in scholorship and fellowship payments, centralization of admission process, the condition of state universities and colleges, among several other common and unique issues plaguing the higher education institutions in different parts of the country is brought to the fore.
The depositions on distortion of history and syllabus and saffronisation of education reveal the deepening presence of the Hindutva forces in campuses and the loss of independence of institutions responsible for curriculum building.
They record the spread of the Hindutva culture in campuses and through the syllabi and takeover and removal of secular cultures and truths. They also present the dismal state of autonomy in universities under the current regime, on account of the takeover of campuses by placing loyalists and the suppression of dissenting voices.
Several students and faculty have reported through their testimonies the how the whole process of elections is being undermined and influenced in favour of student unions like Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and rules only apply to other contesting students and not ABVP. The repression faced by student unions and associations and farcical process of conducting student elections is one of the major concerns.
One of the major trends that is revealed through the testimonies is the increase in crackdown on dissent and criminalisation of students in campuses across the country. Disturbing testimonies of extreme reprisals have been received from The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Hyderabad Central University (HCU), Delhi University, Jadavpur University, Allahabad University, Lucknow University, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU), Punjab University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Gauhati University and several others.
Dissenting students and faculty have been subjected to targeted attacks, even use of brute force. Use of criminal mechanisms to curb dissent has seen a startling increase, with sedition law, unlawful activities, rioting, arson and several charges being foisted on dissenters.
Students also presented painful accounts of marginalisation faced by them on Indian campuses on the basis of caste, gender and sexuality, language, region and religion. The increase in anti-SC/ST policies under the current dispensation has led to insecurity and increased marginalisation of the students from the communities, and their protests are met with severe reprisals.
Students challenging gender discrimination and sexism on campuses are also similarly targeted. Meanwhile, the educational institutions have failed to implement the legal provisions and policies in sexual harassment cases being reported on campuses. North-East and Kashmiri students reported the ‘othering’ and marginalisation, and in the case of the former, blatant racism on campus.
In the atmosphere of takeover of institutions by Hindutva forces and the communal rhetoric, Muslim students have been targeted and villified publicly, as communalism is on the rise in campuses as well as society.
The jury has expressed its serious concern on these multiple crises, which unless addressed, pose a profound danger not just to higher education in India but to the very fabric of Indian democracy.
---
*Convener, PCSDS. Click HERE to download the report

Comments

TRENDING

Young environmentalist's arrest 'sinister', even parents not told of her whereabouts

By Our Representative  The Coalition for Environmental Justice in India (CEJI), a civil society network, has said that it is “highly disturbing” that Disha Ravi, a young woman climate activist from Bengaluru was “picked up” in what is referred to as a “closely guarded operation” of the Delhi police. Disha, 21, has been remanded to police custody for five days after she was taken from Bengaluru to Delhi.

Mukesh Ambani's earnings during Covid 'can lift' 40% informal workers out of poverty

By Dr Gian Singh*  The Inequality Virus Report released by Oxfam, a non-profit organization, on January 25, 2021 on the growing inequalities in different parts of the world, sheds light on the growing economic, educational, healthcare and gender inequalities in India. The report has revealed that the wealth of billionaires has increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown period in the country.

US forensic revelation enough evidence to release Sudha Bharadwaj, others: Civicus

Counterview Desk  Civicus, a Johannesburg-based global alliance of civil society organisations and activists claiming to have presence in 175 countries with 9,000 members and working for strengthening citizen action, has sought immediate release of Sudha Bharadwaj, arrested in 2018 under the anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and accused of having links with the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Evolution of Sardar Patel's understanding of those 'involved' in Gandhi's assassination

By Shamsul Islam*  As the world mourns the 73rd anniversary of MK Gandhi's assassination by Hindutva terrorists on January 30, 1948, RSS, the most prominent flag-bearer of Hindutva politics, whose cadres rule India today, is found reacting angrily to the reality – that the criminals who assassinated Gandhiji were not only part of the ideological world-view of Hindu Mahasabha (led by VD Savarkar) and RSS brand of Hindu nationalism but were also connected with these. 

No Election Commission safeguard against electromagnetic hacking of EVM: Study

Counterview Desk  Releasing a new study simultaneously in Chennai and Kolkata in view of the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the Citizens’ Commission on Elections (CCE) – a civil society initiative – has regretted “lack of integrity of EVM voting”, pointing out, the Election Commission of India (ECI) does not appear to safeguard against the possibilities of ‘side-channel attacks’, i.e, hacking electronic devices through electromagnetic and other methods.

20% of FIRs against journalists in 2020 alone, targeted attacks in 2021 'too many to count'

Counterview Desk  Condemning what it calls “alarming rise in state repression and clampdown on news outlets and journalists” that “expose” the anti-people nature of the establishment, India's top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has demanded “immediate release of arrested journalists, withdrawal of arbitrary charges and protection of media persons facing threats.”

'Viability' of agricultural cooperatives vs govt proposed pro-corporate economic model

Dr Gian Singh* The farmer struggle started from Punjab against the promulgation of three agricultural ordinances by the Union government in June 2020 and the enactment of three bills by Parliament in September 2020 to replace these ordinances is unique in many respects. There is no other example of such a peaceful and democratic farmer struggle.

Whither right to food? Social security scheme allocation for woman, child 'reduced'

Counterview Desk Pointing out that women and children have been ignored in the Union Budget 2021-22, the advocacy group Right to Food Campaign (RtFC) has said that the Government of India should have taken into account the fact that even after the lockdown was lifted, distress among marginalized communities continues, with people having lower incomes and reduced food consumption.