These days a campaign is going on by students of Delhi University to protest hooliganism of ABVP and inaction by government to curb it, rather it is getting free hand across univerisities in India. The fight is going on for more than a year when JNU students were attacked, arrested and abused for listening to pro-azadi speech for Kashmir. It seems evident that universities are divided over caste, religious and nationalistic divides.
2016 alone saw 144 registered complaints of caste based discrimination in Indian universities, of which not even 60% were addressed by the university staff. ABVP is opposing formation of students’ groups on Ambedkar’s philosophy -educate, organize and agitate. Gujarat’s 3 universities were in top 16 universities when it came to incidents of caste based discrimination. Neither prevention of atrocities act works, nor anti ragging law works nor basic IPC works.
Another trend is communal where increasingly, Muslim girls are prevented from wearing burqua or hijab in college campuses. These girls have fought patriarchy within the community to receive higher education, but such clothing related ban push them back to dark days without formal education and career prospects.
Third fight is on nationalism which has gripped the whole nation, not just universities. So if students or citizens speak any thing about increasing marginalisation of Dalits-Adivasis and Muslims, question government’s decisions like (supposed) surgical strike on terror camps or demonitization, raise questions on intolerance in public places & discourse, they are termed antinationals. So today in India, we can be either nationalists or antinationalists, and nothing in between. There is no freedom to define one’s own nationalism. Can add many things to this list like complusorily standing up for national anthem before a movie starts in cinema hall, only appreciating government’s (read Prime Minister Modi’s) policies, not having a different opinion on anything that matters to general public, etc are imposed restrictions on intellectual or parallel dialogue, important for any civil society.
This leads to a question, why is so easy to divide us? Some reasons I can think of are:
- As a society, we are still in feudal mindset. Hence proximity to power gives us power. And the feudal Lord is always right, all dissidents are punished. None wants to be punished. So a herd is united.
- We get impressed by good and loud oratory. We as a society do not seek our own truth. Hence political leaders and religious gurus rule us.
- We are a newly free/independent country (going to be 70 years this August). So any thought of difference or disruption is a threat to our collective psyche. Unconsciously we fear losing independence again if we don’t hold on to our identity (of caste, religion and great nation of the past). So whoever speaks against these, is perceived as a threat and hence labelled as the other (bad, cunning, antinational,……).
- Intellectually and culturally we do not have strong narratives to counter such homoginising and intimidating practices. There are some voices and efforts here and there, but they are not loud enough. So we remain polarized and see the other as a threat.
What are your thoughts? Would like to hear 🙂