University Grants Commission’s letter informing Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Registrar that it would scrap funding for Centre for the Study of Discrimination punctures the much-flaunted rhetoric of Sabka saath, Sabka Vikaas by the government of the day. This indicates the implementation of nefarious design of the RSS and its sister organisations to target the spaces of critical reflection and thinking. This incident shall not be seen in isolation from the larger unrest on the campuses of Indian universities ever since this government has come to power.
From the ban on Ambedkar Periyar study circle in IIT-Madras to the institutional murder of Dalit Rohith Vemula, or the appointment of Gajender Chauhan as the Director of FTII in Pune, or the UGC’s decision to scrap scholarship of research scholars last year to the attack on Najeeb in JNU campus and his subsequent disappearance, or the attack on the participants of seminar at Ramjas college of Delhi University to the very recent unfortunate loss of a young bright research scholar Muthukrishnan Jeevanantham of JNU. This is part of an organised attack on the university spaces in order to curb academic freedom and diversity on campuses across the country.
Recent Delhi High Court verdict has also turned down the appeal of students to retain the admission policy of JNU which provides ‘deprivation points’ to students from weaker sections of society. However, despite such exclusive policy to ensure diversity, there are critical voices within the student community which pitch for more democratisation of admission and recruitment policies. Instead of dwelling upon the goods of implementing the ‘deprivation point’ model to all universities across the country the government and the Vice-Chancellor of JNU Jagadish Kumar are pushing for UGC’s notification which does away with this existing model and singularly gives primacy to viva-voice in admission to M.Phil and PhD. Such moves will only prove to be detrimental to the diversity of the JNU campus in the long run.
Two years back similar news was doing rounds that the Jamia Millia Islamia University may shut down it's Dr K R Narayanan Center for Dalit and Minority Studies and Centre for Jawahar Lal Nehru Studies. Such centres are important agents surfacing the realities of our society and attempt to locate the marginalised social groups in the social, economic, political, educational and cultural realms.
An important question that confronts us today is that why the RSS, BJP and its sister organisations are so passionately running after the university campuses. How to make sense of the closing down of such centres when we know that they have an important role to play in our polity and democracy. Well, the answer can easily be found in doing a content analysis of ‘Panchjanya’- the mouthpiece of RSS which negates any claims of discrimination on grounds of caste, gender, religion, sexuality and colour as a conspiracy of ‘Leftists’ and ‘Christian Missionaries’. The aversion of RSS to the assertion of lower castes, marginalised and religious minorities is not a hidden fact.
While these centres and their publications remind us time and again that the land-holding patterns, representation in government agencies and institutions of higher learning, access to livelihood, health and primary education are indicating intense marginalisation of these social groups from the mainstream society. The publications of such centres point towards the lacunae which exist in our democratic institutions that have failed the marginalised social groups. They are important in explaining how caste, class, gender and religion are important markers of one’s identity into the social, economic, political and cultural life of the country. Such centres are important avenues where researches are being conducted on the philosophy of Dr B R Ambedkar, and about the plight of marginalised sections.
The actual cause of trouble for RSS, BJP and its sister organisations are the emerging political agencies of marginalised social groups across university campuses. Therefore, the need to close down such centres is also a realisation of the fact that the output of such centres does inform the politics too.
Closing down the centres studying discrimination and exclusion only propels the idea that Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas is a mere political rhetoric which doesn’t even recognises the problems whose solution it claims to provide. It propels the idea of a monolith citizenry without having any internal differentiations and cleavages.