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Why this JNU scholar is a 'beacon of hope, a symbol of resistance' in academics

Ravi Shankar Kumar, Abhay Kumar
By Abhay Kumar* 
College and University spaces in India have become a site of sycophancy, servitude, a breeding ground of reactionary ideologies, workplace for sexual harassment and shameless defender of all oppressive systems. Amid all this, my Jawaharlal Nehru University friend Ravi Shankar Kumar is a beacon of hope and a symbol of resistance.
Not many people know that Ravi got an offer to teach political science at a private college in Mohali in the early month of this year. He went there with all enthusiasm and zeal to teach.
I must admit that Ravi is one of the bright and original thinkers, engaging with Marxism. Unlike many of the so-called Marxists for whom Marxism is just a smokescreen to cover their selfishness, caste, class and gender interests, he tries to lead his life in the light of Marxism.
From Ravi and his friends, I came to know about the simple definition of Marxism: Marxism is an idea which aims at abolishing wage relations and commodity formation; it is the state where human beings are no longer forced to work for the profit of a few.
No doubt, Ravi, as a teacher, is an asset to any top university in the world.
When Ravi joined the college and started teaching there, he was quick to feel the exploitative system. He noticed that other than teaching and research, he was asked to do everything. This does not mean that he was not taking a class. He took more classes than the prescribed limit.
The bitter truth is that the university administration was least concerned about the quality of teaching and the well-being of students and teachers. The only concern of the administration was that it could get the maximum number of students which would ensure a large amount of profit in the form of fees. Given this priority, the teachers were asked to give more time to complete administrative work than to focus on reading and teaching.
It has been a matter of concern that non-teaching members have been gradually removed or drastically reduced by educational institutes. As a result, the work which was earlier done by the non-teaching staff has been passed to teachers. From Monday to Saturday and even during summer and winter vacations, teachers are supposed to carry out the never-ending work of data entry.
Against the cycle of exploitation, Ravi raised his voice and resisted, wrote a long complaint letter to the administration
The administration does not understand that to take one hour class, a teacher needs to read several hours and think a lot before. For administration, teachers are not thinking of human beings but soulless machines.
Wait, the cycle of exploitation does not stop here. Since the university has an exploitative system, a large number of teachers who join the college, often run away one day. The administration, instead of going for an introspection and course correction, is in habit of passing the work of the teachers who have left to the existing teachers. Ravi was given further work. The workload keeps mounting.
Against this cycle of exploitation, Ravi raised his voice and resisted. He wrote a long complaint letter to the administration. The administration, instead of looking into his genuine concern, decided to punish him. He was removed from the university WhatsApp group and even his official mail was suspended.
However, this did not deter Ravi. He kept fighting. He forwarded his complaint to the higher authority in Punjab. Let's hope that they take immediate action.
Let me repeat the sentences from which I started writing this post: College and University spaces in India have become a site of exploitation. Amid all this, Ravi is a beacon of resistance.
Sadly, his colleagues, who equally faced exploitation, decided not to break the silence. One may justify their actions by saying that these teachers are in a vulnerable situation and have no alternative. But keeping silent against exploitation is also not a solution. We only realise that chains fetter us when we try to walk.
But history will see Ravi's decision as a fight against exploitation. In my view, his act is simply revolutionary.
Those who do not speak against exploitation die every day. But those who resist may die once. But if the resistance leads to victory, it will free the whole of humanity.
Taking inspiration from Ravi, let's speak against academic exploitation. Let's salute his fight and speak against our own exploitation.
*PhD (Modern History), Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi



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