DU Dilemma: It is Neoliberalism on Offensive

Ravi Kumar

Apart from asking questions such as what was so wrong with the three year undergraduate course or with the annual academic system the developments in Delhi University need much more attention for two more reasons. Firstly, these developments will have far reaching ramifications for the future of higher education in specific and commodification of education in general in the country. Secondly, it reveals how battles against privatization and disruption of welfarist regime are being lost everyday.

Neoliberal Inroads in Higher Education

The developments in Delhi University represent the most aggressive face of neoliberalism in many ways. Firstly, it redefines the epistemology of ‘innovation’ itself, which emanates through a top-down approach rather than a decentralized practice of dialogic policy making. Ever since the issue of semesterisation it has become amply clear how the different instruments of state and decisions of judiciary combined produced an undemocratic ethos within academia. Otherwise how does on explain that the administration every time takes recourse to legal institutions – whether against strikes or for regimenting the teaching labour force?

Secondly, along with this a new avatar of the University system has emerged, which is otherwise also known to pose challenges to the established wisdom. It is an institution now where the administration (as a conglomerate of academics in power) dictates aggressively and undemocratically the new policies. It expressed through threats to faculty members if they dissented or refused to abide by the recent orders. This aggression is also evident when one is asked to make a course in two weeks time. Consequently, this does not leave any space or time for any deliberative process to take place. The new university becomes a site of authoritarian structures and value system. Surveillance using modern technology and traditional muscle power become prominent methods of control.

Thirdly, by becoming so it saturates spaces of democratic politics and expression or dissent. Symbolically, the Walls of Democracy and the increasing beautification around administrative power-centres are representatives of this increasingly non-dialogic space between those who administer and those who are administered. Hence, the darbars, where the common man is expected to grovel in front of the lord, only become a natural culmination of such a trend.

Fourthly, this is also the time when one finds an unprecedented allegiance of a section of the teaching community towards the administrative lords. It is apparent in the fact that the new structures comprise primarily of teachers who formulate and implement the repressive rules and run the University with a heavy hand. They hunt down the other colleagues. This allegiance is generally countered through a more powerful mobilization of teachers on the other side of the battle-front but that does not seem to happen and it remains a matter of concern. The required solidarities are ruptured as a depoliticized academia imbued with the same logic of an aspiring middle class facilitates the aggressive march of neoliberalism.

Lastly, this whole process is put into place to change the nature of what is to be taught and how is it to be taught. Critical aspects of education are increasingly being excluded, as the demand is more for teaching things, which can give one jobs. It seeks to put into place a system that would impart a new, safe and detheorised education, which would prepare mechanized skilled workers, if at all, for the new economy.

These are only some of the aspects of how neoliberalism can be seen in the ongoing developments in the Delhi University. Being one of the largest universities in the countries its move will become an example for states to follow and UGC has already indicated its support for it.

Lessons to learn

What is happening to the higher education institutions already happened to the school institutions in a certain sense. They were ruthlessly destroyed through putting an unsaid blanket ban on appointment of regular teachers. Their curriculum development and, in many cases, teaching itself is outsourced to private companies. Teachers are not consulted and socio-cultural or political contexts of the sites of teaching-learning are neglected in pedagogical and curricular aspects. In other words, there is a non-dialogic and undemocratic process in which educational institutions are run. When the lakhs of contractual teachers across states protest to make the system more accountable they are beaten up brutally. This has been continuing for more than a decade now.

The University system is under attack now. What to teach and how to teach is being decided if not by private companies as in case of schools then by a handful of people in Delhi University without taking into account the pros and cons of what kind of learning process will it produce. What kind of workers would come out of it remains to be seen. If the education system as a whole is under attack should its constituents such as the teachers not have built bridges and expressed more than mere sporadic gestures of concern. In the new situation the solidarity of the labour force (teachers in this case) is under attack. It is no surprise that the case for biometric attendance argues that if Delhi University had such a system in place the teachers would not have tried to “engage students and members of the public against proposed changes in the curriculum.” Inbuilt into these moves, which are endorsed by the state and its other instruments, is the idea to weaken and destroy all forms of solidarities within the system so that new policies could be implemented without any hiccups. With the growing number of private institutions (and lots of state institutions) one finds that the collective bodies of students and teachers do not exist. In such a situation, which will grow much more acute, it is important to realize for teachers that neoliberal stage of capitalism necessitates a much serious solidarity to encounter its aggression.

Correspondence (Distance Education) Students’ Rights Rally (Jan 21 @10 am, Delhi University)

Protest Rally (from Arts Faculty to VC Office),

Delhi University 

Jan 21 (Tomorrow, Monday), 10.00 am

We, the students of distance learning mode (Delhi University) have come together and launched a campaign that presses for equality of opportunity and dignity. For a long time we have been treated like an underclass in the very institutions of learning that are run through public money raised by our parents’ contribution to the coffers of the state, that is, through the sweat of their brows. We are the children of factory workers, farm hands, office orderlies, coolies, truck drivers, etc. who labour hard through most of the day and all the year round so that our society may prosper. We, the children of the wretched of the world, constitute the majority of every society in the world and yet we are the ones who are denied basic human comforts and dignity.

As we grew we soon realized that we are ruled by a state which demands every sacrifice from us but does not grant us any of our claims. From the early days of our childhood we have learnt the meaning of and are informed by the simple dignity which comes from a day’s toil and hardship. We have grown up watching children of our age play while we worked in their houses; we watched them pay more money as school fees than our parents make in a year. We went to schools run by the government for our ‘welfare’ but found teachers missing. We realized that life is not fair (to some) but that it shines benevolently upon some. Chubby princes and spoilt sweethearts are nurtured to be leaders of our (society?) and us, while we are conditioned to serve them.

It did not take long for us to realize that the world is not fair, but we did not let hope die, mainly because our parents believed in us. We have and continue to watch them sacrifice every small comfort to send us to school, (though it was not always possible). We have watched their eyes brim with dreams and hopes that one day we too would be able to join the ranks of the ‘born’ leaders. Though it was not always easy, we have kept the hope alive, only to see it shatter on passing out from our schools. There is a cut-off, we realized, meant to keep us from gate crashing into the ranks of those ‘born to lead’ and from spoiling their party. We realized that there is no way we could compete with the ‘bright ones’ who paid a fortune to enter the hallowed campuses of well known private schools of Delhi. Their teachers spoke fluent English, they had the latest e-gadgets to educate them, air-conditioned class rooms (and buses), home tutors and above all full stomachs. We were never meant to win for their parents and the state through its dual education policy had caused them to become ‘destined’ to win even before the race could begin.

Naturally, very few of our friends managed to cross the iron curtain of the cut-off marks—it remains to be seen, how long they would survive. But most of us were left out in the cold, hapless and teary-eyed, our tears draining away our parents’ dreams. It was then that we got to know from our benevolent rulers that there was some hope still. We could still be a part of the distinguished Delhi University through the distance learning program. The syllabus would be the same and teachers from DU would teach us. We cheered up and told ourselves (and our parents) that there is hope indeed—if Ekalavya could do it in Mahabharat, we could do it too. But alas, in hoping against hope, we forgot the eventual fate of Ekalavya, it dawned upon us gradually. We were being given classes once in a week and that too if we were lucky. Our teachers were mostly the ones who had missed the bus, and were teaching us as a compromise. The officials barked orders at us, talked to us as one would talk to somebody who is dimwitted; the security staff scoffed at our presence on campus on Sundays (the only day of the week we are allowed to ‘defile’ these hallowed shrines of learning). We were chased out of the campus as soon as our classes got over. The University did and does everything that it could/can, to convince us that we do not belong here. We were given the message that we were here only at the sufferance and burden of the University, and that we ought to consider ourselves lucky for the crumbs thrown at us in the name of ‘public welfare’. We could only seethe in anger and clench our fists, because we were alone in the crowd, we were just individuals trying to make the best of whatever little we had.

But now this is going to change. With our dreams shattered, dignities lost and our parents disillusioned, we have got little to lose. We have come together to put up a fight and with the intent of winning it at all costs. We, the children of India’s labouring class, the underclass of the University system and the pariahs to the ‘fashionable’ and ‘sensitive’ University community, hereby declare that from now on we are going to do everything within our capacity to shatter your peace of mind, your ‘solemn’ gravity and your vacuous sensitivity. We will not allow you, the ‘born leaders’ and your enlightened mentors to pity us, sympathize with us, or cast your benevolent glance at us. We want none of it, though we stretch out our arms to anybody who is willing to join us as an equal and to make a common cause with us. This is just our first step, a long journey lies ahead of us but we are prepared.

Prithvi

Convenor

Correspondence Students’ Rights Campaign

Contact: 9312654851

Supported and Organized by

Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS)

Why must social science be critical, and why must doing social science be difficult?

Raju J Das

Now-a-days, we hear the word ‘critical’ everywhere. It is there even in business schools: there is indeed such a thing as critical business or management studies. Conscious (=conscientious) capitalism, capitalism with a humane face, is presumably born out of such things as critical business studies. If business schools can be critical, can others be far behind? There is critical sociology. There is critical human geography? There is critical anthropology, and so on. Not to be critical almost means stupidity.

What does ‘critical’ really mean? It means being critical of the world, i.e. its social relations and inequalities. It means critical of ideas about the world, the ideas that sustain those inequalities and the ideas that do not conform to (conceptually-laden) empirical evidence. If one says that the place of women is in the kitchen or that people have a natural tendency to be only selfish and to buy and sell for a profit, there is clearly something here to be critical of, because these false ideas have an influence on people’s actual behavior. One must be critical because one cannot assume that what exists = what can exist. Uncritical work, as Alex Callinicos has said, equates what can exist with what does exist, and thus becomes status quo-ist. We must be critical because as Marx says, what appears to be true may not be true, so we need to dig underneath the surface appearances which represent inadequately partial truth and we must be critical of ideas which reflect the surface appearances.

Marx said that one should be ruthlessly critical of everything that exists, of the existing order, ruthless in that one will not be scared of the results of one’s research, nor of the powerful people.

Intellectually speaking, one can become critical of existing ideas about society by asking a series of questions of a piece of work. For example:

  1. Does a piece of work merely describe an event/process or does it explain it as necessarily caused by specific processes?
  2. Does a piece of work give more powers to things/processes than they can possibly bear/have?
  3. Does a piece of work naturalize a phenomenon by treating it as universal when it is in fact historically and geographically specific?
  4. Does a piece of work stress the cultural/ideational at the expense of the material/economic?
  5. Does a piece of work distinguish between necessary causes/conditions from contingent causes/conditions for something to happen?
  6. Does a piece of work treat an event/process as a mass of contingencies or does it treat it as a manifestation/expression/effect of a more general process?
  7. Does a piece of work conceptualize/treat/ analyze an event/process in terms of its necessary conditions and necessary effects (which may change over time)?
  8. Does a piece of work stress harmony and stability at the expense of tension and contradiction?
  9. Does a piece of work ignore connections between things and how their connections form a system which influence the parts or does it stress the difference and disconnection between things at the expense of the connections and similarities?
  10. Does a piece of work stress the individual thoughts and actions as being more important than structural conditions of individual actions/thoughts?

But what is the practical point of being critical? What happens if a professorial colleague makes criticisms of another colleague? One could say that by making (polite) criticisms of the existing ideas of scholars, we can change their viewpoints.  Many people hold the idea that: there are interstices of capitalism which can be used in the interest of ordinary people, and that is a way of fighting against the system and that, more particularly, things such as co-ops, labour unions, NGOs, identity politics, and social-democratic type parties can be used to significantly mitigate or eradicate humanity’s problems. Now: one can critique this idea hoping that the person in question will change her/his existing idea into a more radical idea, and that this will have an impact on radical social change in the world itself.

But this assumption is, more or less, wrong, for the idea underlying the assumption is that radical social change depends on merely change of ideas and that the change of ideas of the professoriate is crucial to radical social change (=transcendence of global capitalism and installment of global economic and political democracy = socialism).

My several years in academia now tell me that it is very difficult to radically change the ideas of colleagues (and most students), although one tries! It is very difficult to make them understand that, for example, the global capitalist class relation is at the root of major social-ecological problems in different localities and in the world at large, and it must therefore be gotten rid of.

A few of these individuals may change their ideas. However, the academic stratum as such will not. As the ideological representative of the petty bourgeois and bourgeois forces, this stratum cannot relinquish its job of defending and protecting the sanctity of private property and capitalist private property. The places the academia occupies within the bourgeois ideological system define their class-role. This or that capitalist can support the cause of socialism by changing her/his side. Engels did. But the capitalist class as a whole cannot commit mass suicide. This applies to the professoriate as well. Consciously or not, they stick to their roles. Their being critical stops at the door of capitalism. At best, they may be critical of the time- and place-specific excesses of the system, of its anti-democratic nature, but not the system as such. They are critical of e-m-c (everything minus capitalism). Besides, for a large part of the professorate (the movers and shakers of the academic world, who are also often the gatekeepers of knowledge), the ideas are material because they have gripped the minds of the professoriate masses: that is, they have invested in their ideas and have made a career out of their existing ideas (e.g. professor X says that ‘labourers – and not just businesses – have an agency in making changes happen in society’ and has a large following with which come many material-cultural benefits), so why will they so easily change their ideas?

And, even if one is able to change their views, the fate of radical social change does not critically depend on what views are held by professors, although their views are not entirely immaterial. The reason is that: they are not the revolutionary class. Only the working class is that class, given proper ideological and political preparation. This is the class which must sell its ability to work for some compensation and which has very little power to decide the conditions of work and how regularly it will be employed. This class produces the source of profit, rent and interest and this class can stop its production. Genuine Marxists critique the capitalist world and ideas about capitalism which the academia holds, from the standpoint of the material suffering and political power of this class, which is an international class. A more correct understanding of society than it has is in line with its class-instinct, its material life situation, both what it is and what it can be.

The main – rather ultimate – practical reason why Marxists should be critical of existing ideas is to contribute to the raising of consciousness of this class, and not the raising of consciousness of professors. The working class (I am including the semi-proletarians in this category) is constantly being ‘deceived’: its thinking is characterized by partial truths and sometimes complete falsehood. This is a most important reason – apart from blatant coercion – why capitalism still continues. The working class takes capitalism as a natural form in which life has to be lived. This class does suffer from false consciousness, bourgeois consciousness. This is why the working class remains politically weak and the capitalist class, strong.

False consciousness is constantly being produced. It is produced for many reasons. These have got to do with two aspects of one mechanism: ‘control’. It is produced because the objective reality of the capitalist society creates falsehood (as Marx indicates in chapter 1 of Capital vol 1). Let us call it the Capital 1 Model. Because of the absence of direct control by working-subjects, over the way in which useful things are produced, because people are having to exchange the things they need for what they have, because they are having to enter market relations to satisfy their need for food and other things, they therefore think that these things by nature have a price tag, that we must always buy the things that are produced for profit in order to satisfy their need. Every person needs food. That is a universal and natural fact. But that food has to be produced capitalistically, by agribusiness or capitalist farmers, is not natural. People think it is. This idea of naturalizing something that is not natural needs critique.

False consciousness is also produced because of the presence of control of the ruling class over the working subjects’ ideas (as Marx explains in German Ideology). Let us call it the German Ideology Model. The ruling class, directly or indirectly, through the state or through civil society agencies (which are the darling of ex-Marxists dressed up as post-Marxists), controls the ideas of ordinary people and makes them believe that, for example, austerity is good, user-fees increase the quality of service, and so on. That this mechanism of control does not always work is a different matter. It is a different matter that coercion is often used to put people in their place, if after having correctly understood the reality they take action to remedy it. Force was used against even mildly anti-capitalist Wall Street occupiers in New York.

False consciousness is also produced because all kinds of petty bourgeois forces and their academic spokespersons come up with strategies which bind the working class with the bourgeois and petty bourgeois forces (e.g. join bourgeois trade unions; vote for social-democratic and even liberal type parties). The working class thinks that following these forces will bring lasting benefits. Let us call this the Lenin model (which insists on the independent political mobilization of the working class).

Because false consciousness is constantly created, there is a need for critiquing the ways in which this is created, who furthers its creation, and who disseminates it. The professors, even when they espouse some critical thought, are, at best, speaking the language of the petty bourgeoisie and left factions of the bourgeoisie (e.g. the enlightened elite who can think about the long-term and are willing to make short-term or localized and reversible sacrifices). The petty bourgeoisie has some hatred for capitalism because large producers crush them but they do not like the property-less workers either. Ideas do not hang in the air. Ideas are ultimately, if not immediately, ideas of classes and class-fractions. Critique of ideas is ultimately a critique of class and class-fractional interests therefore. Since the academia have a class-role to play – defend capitalist property with or without some reforms—their ideas reflect that function and therefore the interests of the class which they defend.

When one critiques the ideas of the academia, one really critiques the class interests they defend. Since their role is to defend these interests, whether by choice or not (and usually a combination of choice and coercion), any amount of criticism of their ideas is not going to bear much fruit. Therefore, the aim of criticism is not to change these people. The aim should be to clarify to the working class the true nature of the society and of the forces that stop the society from being changed. The point is to remove the layers of misconception from the working class which reflect bourgeois and petty bourgeois (including union bureaucracy) interests, which are ideologically produced by the academia, and which are disseminated through media (new and old), and through family, friends, and sometimes even by professors themselves. Consider the professors selling micro-credit, co-ops, ethical trade, unions, democratic revolution, or even ‘socialism in one country’, as solutions to problems of the humanity; and some of them also win prizes and grant money for knowledge mobilization and community engagements. A genuine critique of the ideas held by the academia will therefore be – can only be – from the standpoint of the interests of the proletarians. Capitalism is critiqued by many people. A proletarian critique is a different critique. It is a ‘critique of everything that exists’ type that Marx had advocated. By critiquing the ideas of the academia, genuine Marxists create conditions for the self-realization of the working class as a class, the realization of its own power and of what needs to be changed and how.

If what is said above is true and to the extent that this is true, this has implications not only for what topic one researches but how one researches it. The implication is quite precisely this: research has to be difficult labor. This is so because research has to be critical. It has to be critical for the reasons discussed at the outset (namely: it must uncover things which are not easily seen or felt; it has to be critical of various forms of exploitation and inequality, which are causes of many events/processes we observe, and so on). And, to critique – the labour of critique – is not easy – this is indicated by the 10 questions earlier provided as a sample of questions one must ask in order to be critical.

There is another reason, which is related to what is just said, why research must be difficult. Consider the following five statements.

  1. We research existing conditions (generally speaking).
  2. Existing conditions are present because forces to fight these conditions are absent.
  3. These forces are absent because it is not easy for these forces (e.g. revolutionary leadership; revolutionary ideas, etc.) to be present.
  4. So: our research presupposes difficult conditions, the difficulty of conditions. Difficulty can be thought of as an ontological condition: x wants to be but x cannot be, because of barriers to x’s existence. The current conditions exist because the future conditions cannot exist. Researching the presence of the current conditions is indirectly researching the absence of the future conditions (= the opposite of the current conditions), the absence which is caused by difficult factors.
  5. Therefore: research must be difficult. Dialectics demands this.

The vast majority of the global population, the working men, women and children, live in conditions of barbarism, the barbarism, which is described by the massive un- and under-employment, peasant dispossession, food insecurity, ecological devastation, constant threat of war, aggression and violence, and so on.  If transcending the present conditions of barbarism is a difficult affair, if intellectual and political preparation for this transcendence is a difficult affair, then researching the current conditions need to be – must be – a difficult affair. After all ideas more or less reflect the conditions which ideas purport to describe. Research must ask: why are the current conditions present? What forces support these conditions? What forces are undermining – and can completely undermine – the current conditions? Clearly, the cause of the current conditions and of their reproduction has deep roots. Ideas have to help us grasp the matter (=barbarism) by its roots. And when these ideas catch the imagination of the masses, then these ideas act like a piece of iron. Ideas do indeed matter, if we want to replace barbarism with civilization and sanity. But the ideas, not of any group or class, but of the class which potentially has the power to transcend the present barbaric condition.

Raju J Das teaches at York University, Toronto.

The Charge of Neoliberal Brigade and Higher Education in India

Ravi Kumar

This paper looks at the state of higher education in India – in terms of policies and the trajectory that it has taken in the aftermath of neoliberalisation of the economy. Through studying the discourses that  construct the edifice of the educational complex in the country, it unravels the dynamics of how economy, politics and education interact. Lastly, it explores the possibilities of countering the neoliberal offensive of capital and create a more egalitarian higher education system. Download:

Courtesy: The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies

Academia as a site of class struggle

Raju J Das

The recent student demonstrations in Britain, Quebec (and elsewhere) against neo-liberal education cuts (and fee increase) is an encouraging sign of sentiments of legitimate class anger brewing among students. This prompts one to think critically about academia as such. The academia must be a site of class struggle. And funding cut is only one issue. There are major problems with the academia itself. Students should fight not just for more educational opportunities, for an educational system that is not to be treated as a commodity. They should critically think about the very content of education being given to them by their professors.

One of the problems with the academia – universities, research institutes, etc – is that it is a great ‘leveller’, a ‘bourgeois-democratic terrain’. Take any topic, say, child labour. Lots of professors talk about the social-cultural identity of children (e.g. what does it mean to be a younger person, and all that). If you, as a Marxist, question them saying, what about how capitalism creates conditions for child labour to exist, these academics would say ‘yes, that is one approach, and ours is another’. Take the environment. Nature/environment gets transformed into ideas about nature/environment. So, anything and everything goes.

Marxism, as Terry Eagleton correctly remarks in Why Marx was right is ‘the most theoretically rich, politically uncompromising critique of … (the capitalist) system’. Marxism, however, gets constructed as one among several approaches. Irrespective of the intellectual merit of an approach, all approaches are considered valid within academic, on an apriori basis. Often, approaches which have little to do with Marxism at all are constructed as Marxism with a pre-fix (as in ‘post-Marxism’): those who do this practice double standards. They want to enjoy some prestige associated with Marxism’s rigour while denying the validity of every major principle of Marxism’s theory and politics. The history of the academic world, of production of social knowledge, appears to be a history of running away from the class question and its politics which define Marxism.

The effect is this: Marxism is forced to live in peaceful coexistence with other ideas. Here is the problem though: Marxism cannot naturally live that mode of life. No peaceful existence is possible (just as socialism in one country co-existing with capitalism in other countries is such a stupid idea in theory and practice).

There are only two types of approaches in the world, as Lenin says in What is to be done: socialist/Marxist and capitalist. Because Marxism lays bare the exploitative, destructive and oppressive character of capitalism which is the most dominant feature of our life, which is the most important cause of major world problems, therefore Marxism must be the dominant approach in society. To think otherwise is to fool ourselves.

It is not the friendly battle of ideas – Marxism vs the rest – that leads to this sort of peaceful coexistence. It is partly the structure of the academia which allows this to happen. And it is a structure whose main function is to reproduce capitalism and blunt class struggle.

Within this structure, then the agency of non-Marxists to weed out Marxists in various ways works. Within this structure, what works is the agency of bourgeois professors – which is what nearly all the professors are, although sometimes they give themselves a ‘critical’ name – in imposing nonsense and semi-ignorance, packaged as knowledge, on ‘helpless’ students (who constitute a ‘captive market’). This includes making students or encouraging them to do intellectually non-stimulating and politically infertile research, by making them read nearly-rubbish things in the class room, by holding out the threat of a low grade if students write radical stuff about society, and so on. Many students, thankfully not all, are complicit in this sort of game being played.

Within this structure – the supposedly democratic terrain – some ‘Marxists’ also get seduced and turn to non-Marxism (in the name of theoretical innovations to be peddled in the knowledge-market) or do not critically object to the non-Marxist nonsense on the pretext of collegiality, etc. This collegiality is in a way a reflection of crass class-collaborationism on an ideological plane: to the extent that non-Marxists represent the interests and ideas of the bourgeoisie and to the extent that Marxists represent the interests of the working class, poor peasants and all those still engaged in communal modes of life, collegiality is equal to collaborationism which is given a sweet-sounding name.

It is said that professors’ research should inform their teaching. But what kind of research do professors indeed do? To the extent that professors’ research is driven by a critical agenda – and note that being critical is as mandatory as younger students taking a writing course – their critique is a critique of those aspects which can be changed a bit: talking about things which cannot be changed are off their radar and therefore of their students. Professors ‘find fault’ with society (more accurately, they find fault with superficial aspects of society which can be modified a bit through the drama of so-called human agency as expressed in the form of NGOs, governmental action or union bureaucracy). But they get very edgy if someone points fingers at them. Much of their research agenda is primarily driven by whether their research will, for example, obtain a grant in the grant market, whether from business or from a bureaucratic state, which often sets its own agenda for giving money, and whether their research conforms to the agenda (‘strategic research plan’) of their institutions. Much of the research – funded or not – celebrates economic individualism or cultural individualism (the identity stuff, abstracted from the sheer material conditions). Poverty is replaced by ideas about poverty. The child is replaced by ideas about the child. And so on. Research has attained magical powers. If some workers think that they are not workers, the professor declares that the working class as a reality does not exist, and therefore class is as defunct as Stalinist USSR. By touching the keyboard on their laptops, professors can make an entire reality disappear at an instant.

Much of the research even by so-called critical scholars is about everything else other than capitalism’s class and systemic character. Research is about how to make the existing society look a little progressive on the basis of a little gender parity here, racial or regional equality there, and so on. Much research is purely descriptive: attempt to find causes of things is not a worthwhile project any more. No need to penetrate the structure of the world. Penetrate the minds of people around you. The entire reality is there. What and how people think about things is the main thing. ‘Ies’ (geographies, sociologies), ‘ality’ (governmentality), and a plethora of similar words decorate the academia, which signify multiple realities and social (=mental/emotional, etc.) construction of realities.

If a student garnering some courage tries to talk about class, or the state, the immediate response of the professors is: that’s old stuff or that is too orthodox or that has been done. ‘Do new things, man!’ is what a student is told. What to research is not to be determined by the lives and struggles of ordinary people, by people in their flesh and bones, as they produce and reproduce their lives. What to research is to be determined by ‘silences’, by what has not been researched (I will not be surprised to see a research project that will study the physical and socially constructed average distances among people defecating at dusk on the outskirts of a village in India).

The ‘democratic’ character of the academia will be put to test if lots of professors honestly follow the Marxist approach in a university. One or two Marxists can be allowed in a University as a token existence of radical dissent. The ‘law of dialectics’ will work if the number becomes large, too large. The quantity will change into a quality. The democratic character of the academia will also be tested if students start challenging their bourgeois professors, including in terms of what they make the students read and what is the content of what professors say in the class-room (which is supposedly based on their research). It is not too difficult to see students at the forefront of a renewed class struggle.

Raju J Das teaches at York University, Toronto.

Protest against a Cut-off System in +2 admissions

Government School Students Protest Against the Recent Government Circular Introducing a Cut-Off System in Class XIth Admission
KYS Spearheads Protests in Three Different Zones Against the Circular
Future of Thousands of Poor Students in the Doldrums

Today on the morning of July 11, hundreds of agitated government school students, their parents, as well as activists from Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), protested against the recent circular released by the Delhi Government’s Directorate of Education. Three different protests were held outside three separate government schools, i.e. outside Government Senior sec. School (Sangam Park), Government Sarvodaya Bal Vidyala (Nangloi), and Government Senior Secondary School No. 1 (Patel Nagar).

The contested Circular is extremely problematic because it has for the first time introduced a very high cut off for government school students who are entering class XIth (eleventh) in the Commerce and Science streams. This cut off is being implemented across the various government schools with immediate effect, and has created havoc with the young students’ lives. The immediate effect of this Circular has been that a large section of youth who are from working class families and are dependent on government school education, are being denied admission to these streams in government schools where they have been studying for years. More importantly, because a large number of these students cannot make it to the high cut offs, there is tremendous rush for admission in government schools offering Humanities/Arts stream.

Running pillar to post, the despairing students and their parents have decided to fight back and compel the Delhi Government to withdraw the Circular. Shri Sujit Kumar, KYS State Executive Committee Member, visited to all three protest venues and addressed the students. In his address he highlighted how the recent Circular was nothing but an attempt to further privatize school education. “When working class youth are ousted from government schools and denied their constitutional right to education, then where will they go—either they will be forced to drop out or to enrol in private schools where they will struggle daily to pay the high fees,” explained Sujit Kumar.

Indeed, the circular is a black spot and mockery of the recently implemented Right to Education (RTE), for it is assisting in keeping a large section of needy youth their right to education. Instead of increasing the number of its secondary and senior secondary schools, it is shocking that the Delhi Government is spearheading an unhealthy process like introduction of cut offs for admission to Class XIth. All this is clearly a big boost to the already on-going process of privatization of education.

Meeting with the authorities of the three concerned government schools, the delegation of students and KYS activists appealed to the respective Principals to write to the Directorate of Education, requesting for the recall of the circular. Realizing that the matter would need to be raised at the higher administrative level, the protesters decided to carry out a campaign and reach out to other affected government school students. If the aforementioned Circular is not withdrawn then a large demonstration will be organized against the Delhi Government to protest against its anti-poor students’ policies.

Open Letter to HRD Minister on the problems of working class youth and students

To,
Shri Kapil Sibal
The Hon’ble Minister
Human Resource and Development Ministry
Government of India.
26.06.2012

Respected Sir,

We write to you as part of our initiative to apprise the general public of this country of the multifarious and crippling problems faced by working class youth who wish to pursue higher education. We realize that your own privileged social background, as well as your current political association, will, in all probability, prevent you from pursuing a sympathetic assessment of our concerns. However, we still appeal to your authority and sense of humanity, and ask your office to consider the following facts and concerns highlighted by us.

Sir, it is a well-known fact that the majority of working class youth of this country end up studying in government schools, and despite our best efforts, we still lag behind students who are able to pursue their education from expensive and reputed private schools. It is not that we do not labour and study diligently. In fact, because we belong to working class families, we are well aware of the value of labour. Working hard to survive is strategy taught to us from birth, and it is the principle we follow even when it comes to studies. However, it is clear to us that despite the valuable contribution made to the economy by the working masses, their children’s educational rights are assigned little value. Majority of the government schools we study in are divested of proper resources like adequate teachers, supply of teaching aids, good infrastructure, etc. This dismal condition at the school level is aggravated by the extremely precarious conditions in which we live.

The large majority of our families live in one room apartments because of the meagre wages earned by us and our parents. And needless, to say most of this housing is situated in the city’s slums and JJ colonies—many of which face the threat of demolition. In fact, many of us who are writing this letter have watched our homes being destroyed by bulldozers during our twelfth class examinations this year. Even if we want to rise above all these obstacles and problems such as the temporariness of our homes, we find ourselves severely handicapped by the simple fact that our families cannot afford tuitions. Forced to pay high rents and to meet rising prices of essential commodities, our parents are unable to put aside money for tuitions, or to purchase much-needed study material. Sadly, despite their desire to see us perform well, our parents are sometimes compelled to ask us to work as well, in order to contribute to the family income.

This brings us to the question of how successive governments have failed to address these disadvantages faced by working class youth, and have consciously denied us adequate opportunities at the level of higher education. Sir, we strongly believe that your government’s support for the dual education system, and thereby, its promotion of privatization of education, is a major source of our ruination. By encouraging the private schools on the one hand, and, on other hand, not investing sufficiently in government schools, the government is consciously creating a condition in which affluent students of private schools (who have had access to the best facilities, teachers, as well as tuition) get the lion share of seats made available at the level of higher education. Hence, the current government education policy is such that higher education has become out of reach for majority of this country’s youth, i.e. youth belonging to the working masses. It is extremely disturbing that the government provides subsidized education only till the school level. Beyond school education, the government adamantly refuses to utilize public money in a manner which makes subsidized higher education available to working class youth. Instead, the doors to higher education are opened only to the select few who have proved to be “meritorious”, i.e. those who have undergone private schooling, and hence, have the marks.

Clearly, this skewed education policy which has existed for years, has ensured that only 5 to 7 per cent of youth make it to the level of higher education (see National Sample Survey). In actuality, a large share of this 5 to 7 per cent comprises of middle and upper-middle class youth. The working class do not get a seat in the regular colleges and are forced to pursue higher education from correspondence and non-collegiate higher education boards. Needless to say, correspondence courses, etc. represent the poorly invested sector within the higher education field—a fact well highlighted in the kind of teaching provided, the lack of classroom infrastructure and the poor performance of correspondence students. The above-mentioned figure of 5 to 7 per cent also reflects the simple fact that governments like yours, perceive higher education as an opportunity which should be provided to the minority and not to the masses. After all, an inclusive, mass higher education program would not allow the system to reproduce workers from amongst the society’s youth, because if every youth was to pursue a BA or B.Sc. course, who would line up outside the city’s factories for a job.

Having said this, we would like to reiterate how misplaced your concern for last year’s and this year’s cut-offs has been. In 2011, when some prestigious Delhi University (DU) colleges declared cut-offs that touched 100 per cent, you expressed grave concern and assured the public that such cut-offs would not be repeated. Back then, and even today, the impact of such cut-offs on working class youth, is something you failed to consider. While your government is satisfied with the fact that the same cut-offs have not been repeated this year, can you claim that under this year’s cut-offs, working class youth will also make it to the Delhi University? And does your decision to allow the entry of foreign, private universities provide a solution to the concerns raised by working class youth? The answer to both questions is a definite no.

Firstly, despite cut-offs that are below the magic 100 per cent figure, the majority of youth who are coming from government schools, will still not get admission in universities like DU. Why would we, when the quality of education provided to us in government schools allows us to barely pass the Board examinations. It is here that we would like to highlight the bitter irony of the higher education system—public money is being used not for the betterment of those who most need it, but for those who are from the affluent sections of society, have got the best, and have, hence, scored the most. At this point, you may like to argue that some government school students do make it to higher educational institutions. However, we would like to highlight how this is a misconception yet again. The tremendously small segment of working class youth who make it to the level of higher education, often fail to perform (complete their course, to score well, etc.) because of the lack of essential, complementary facilities like remedial coaching and scholarships. There are, in fact, numerous instances of working class youth being unable to pay their tuition fees.

Secondly, further privatization of higher education via entry of foreign universities, etc. is far from a solution to the on-going problem. It will only result in more private players entering the field of education in the bid to misuse a social need for private, business greed. Education will all the more become an opportunity to be provided to those who can buy it. And lastly, it is only with greater investment in education by the government that the current situation can be improved. The building of more government subsidized schools and colleges, rather than paving the way for expensive foreign universities, is the permanent solution.

High cut-offs and less number of seats are problematic in many ways. For example if there are less number of seats overall, the reserve seats will be lower. Thus reservation which was a constructive policy to bring out Dalits from the villages and traditional occupations would remain an empty box as a large number of students will not get a seat. For example in Delhi University there are 12000 odd seats reserved for SC/ST candidates whereas the number of applicants are around 24000 i.e. double the number of seats. Thus a large number of students from the reserve category are forced to go back to their villages and continue with traditional occupations. This would deny not only upward mobility but also makes Dalit students prone to caste oppression and atrocities in the villages.

Of course, such long term solution need to be supported by immediate relief measures that cater to the concerns and needs of the majority of this country’s youth. One such immediate solution which we put forward and for which we seek government intervention, is the provision of 80 per cent reservation for government school students in every category, i.e. in the general category, SC-ST category, PH and OBC category. We appeal to you and to the society at large to understand and engage with the voice of the majority. Let us not reduce education to the question of who can afford it, and let us not reduce the novel concept of subsidized education to a mockery whereby it is used to provide educational advantages to those who are already way ahead in the race. We appeal to your conscience, and ask you to transform education structure into a truly mass phenomenon in which those who are most disadvantaged, are given an equal opportunity to transform their lives via education.

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS), DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION, T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851 , 9313343753

High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students

Sujit Kumar & Dinesh Kumar, KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS), DELHI UNIT OF ALL INDIA REVOLUTIONARY YOUTH ORGANISATION, T-44, Near Gopal Dairy, Baljeet Nagar, New Delhi-110008. Ph. : 9312654851, 9313343753

High Cut-Offs Burnt by Government School Students!
Government School Students Demand 80% Reservation in Government-Funded Institutes and Universities!
Government School Students and their Parents Agitated over the Fact that Cheap Public Funded Education is Beyond Their Reach!
An Open-Letter is also sent to HRD Ministry for Immediate Intervention!

Today (June 26) a large number of government school students, their parents and progressive individuals protested against the high cut-off for admission in Delhi University. The colleges of DU declared their first cut-off for admission to various courses on Tuesday. With this the wait is formally over as far as the procedure to get oneself admitted in a college was concerned. However getting a seat secured in a college/course still remained a distant dream for many as the cut-offs have sky-rocketed beyond the expectations. However this is not something which is unique to this years’ cut-off. Every year cut-offs are so high that government school students are not able to get a seat in the institutes of higher learning. Our organization firmly believes that the cut-offis nothing but a calculated policy to keep the higher education beyond the reach of students from government schools, an overwhelming majority of whom come from socio-economically deprived backgrounds. These students have also sent an open-letter to HRD Ministry for immediate intervention.

It is important to note that the higher cut-offs eliminates the chances of government school students in the institutes of higher learning and the only recourse left to them is to do some technical certificate and diploma courses and become a source of cheap labour in the market. Also interesting is the fact that the government has not only continued with the dual education system but has kept the same cut-off for government and private schools.It is an undeniable fact that students from private schools with better teaching and coaching facilities get higher marks and the domain of government funded higher education becomes virtually theirs as there are a very limited number of seats. Whereas the students from government schools always have to kill their ‘ambition’ without anyone noticing the fact that the race was unequal from the start. The bad result of these government school students is a result of the larger policy issue. Most of the government schools students lack basic facilities and have insufficient number of teachers (mostly in science and commerce courses) which is magnified by their home environment as most of these students are first generation learners and mostly live in a single rented room with the entire family. The unavailability of sufficient teachers forces the students to go for unregulated tuitions which not only creates havoc of their career but promotes the privatization of education. It is high time that government should undertake its responsibility of ensuring that a large section of students is not denied higher education due to loopholes in the policy. We demand an immediate enactment of a policy that provides marks relaxation/reservation to students of the government schools in the publically funded institutes of higher learning. We do understand that the reservation cannot be a permanent solution. Therefore the government must abolish the dual system of education with private schools students with all sorts of facilities getting the fruits of cheap higher education on the one hand and on the other the government school students from socio-economically deprived background and lack of good learning facilities remaining outside the domain of higher learning. We also demand that the government should increase the amount of budget spent on higher education for the children of working masses.

It is to be noted that in India the number of students who go for higher education are abysmally low. Only 7 percent of the students who pass 12th standard go for higher education. Even these seven percent students do not get to study the courses and colleges of their choice, and only a very small number of students from them get seats in regular colleges. Most of the students end up doing their study through correspondence or distance learning. In Delhi University there are only 54000 seats whereas 146000 have applied for admission. Thus around a lakh students will be denied admissions. It is important to note that these students are aspirants yet they will not be given admission due to less number of seats. Isn’t it ironic that even from a small number aspirants a large number is denied admission. Most of students who are denied admission are from government schools and are first generation learners. Thus denying them admission eliminates their scope for upward mobility.

High cut-offs and less number of seats are problematic in many ways. For example if there are less number of seats overall, the reserve seats will be lower. Thus reservation which was a constructive policy to bring out Dalits from the villages and traditional occupations would remain an empty box as a large number of students will not get a seat. For example in Delhi University there are 12000 odd seats reserved for SC/ST candidates whereas the number of applicants are around 24000 i.e. double the number of seats. Thus a large number of students from the reserve category are forced to go back to their villages and continue with traditional occupations. This would deny not only upward mobility but also makes Dalit students prone to caste oppression and atrocities in the villages.

We demand:

1. 80% reservation for government school students in public funded institutes and universities.
2. Immediate increase in number of seats in institutes of higher learning.
3. Increase in the amount of budget spent on education.
4. Abolition of the dual education system.
5. Hostel facilities for all the students from socio-economically deprived background.

Delhi University Women Students’ Struggle: An Appeal

Friends,

Since January of 2012, residents of Delhi University’s largest postgraduate women’s hostel, University Hostel for Women (UHW) have been waging a battle against outright suppression of their democratic rights by, both, their hostel authorities and the University’s Proctorial Committee. Since the hostel’s Chairperson is also the Proctor of the University, the Proctorial Committee has been intervening in the matter, not as a neutral party, but in complete connivance with the hostel authorities. There are two issues which are central to the ongoing struggle of the women students, namely, the imposition of a union constitution by the authorities, and the existence of archaic and conservative rules in the hostel. In the process of their struggle, the women hostellers have been individually victimized to a ridiculous extent by the hostel Provost, Professor Ashum Gupta and the Warden, Dr. Tanuja Agarwala. The Warden and Provost have been sending letters to departments, making misleading phone calls to parents, denying extension of stay to M.Phil researchers in the hostel, verbally threatening their MA students that they will be given less marks for projects and assignments if they continue to support the struggle, etc. As a result, the campaign of the women hostellers has also been geared towards fighting rampant victimization.

Our struggle began when on 22 January, 2012 a six page document was pasted on various notice boards inside the hostel. The document was a copy of the Hostel Union Constitution drafted by the authorities in consultation with the hostel’s Managing Committee. While such a crucial piece of document can only be put into force after being passed by a two third majority of the hostel residents, who are the actual constituents of the union, no such procedure was followed in our hostel. To make matters worse, the hostel authorities tried to hold this year’s hostel union election on the basis of this imposed Constitution. While the authorities claim that they are implementing procedures followed during other student elections of Delhi University (such as DUSU, etc.), the structure of the Hostel Union Constitution reveals something very different. For example, the Constitution drafted by the authorities allows for the outgoing union president to continue on the new hostel union as an ex-officio member! Similarly, before the residents began challenging the authorities, the newly announced election criteria consisted of stipulations which seriously prevented the formation of a strong, independent students’ union. The new election criteria were an unhealthy combination of the stringent Lyngdoh committee stipulations, as well as certain disqualification criteria formulated by the authorities themselves.

A “valid” candidature was, hence, ascertained according to the Lyngdoh recommendations on age and attendance to a course, as well as the system of memos (i.e. the issuing of warning letters for the smallest breach of hostel rules—most of these rules being highly unpopular and contested). The receipt of 5 such memos was arbitrarily made a criterion for disqualification. It is only because the women students united to fight this imposition of a hostel union constitution that certain non-Lyngdoh election stipulations (like disqualification on the basis of memos issued and number of years of residence in the hostel, etc.) were taken back by the authorities. Unsatisfied with this partial victory, the women students have pursued their struggle because apart from the arbitrary introduction of Lyngdoh recommendations, the Constitution imposed by the authorities allows for extensive control of the hostel authorities on the union. Since the attempts of the authorities has been to minimize the autonomy and strength of the students’ union, the hostel residents collectively decided to submit a signature petition to the hostel Warden and Chairperson.

The second issue on which UHW residents have been campaigning is existing hostel rules. Most of the rules in force are those formulated way back when the hostel was started in 1970. The current residents in the hostel are challenging rules such as ‘no exit after 8:00pm’, submission of leave applications approved by Head of Departments for more than one week’s absence from the hostel, the tedious procedure of gate pass and double-locking of rooms which does not exist in the men’s hostels, the limited number of late nights and nights out, closing off the canteen to visitors, etc. Many of these rules such as not being able to exit after 8pm are illogical, especially when we consider how the same authorities allow the residents entry up till 11:00pm under the late night provision. An archaic rule such as ‘no exit after 8pm’ prevents women students from stepping out for urgent work, or even something as simple as getting photocopies from the nearby market, Patel Chest.

However, apart from this, certain the rules (such as closing off the canteen to Miranda House and other college students and staff) have also worked towards making Chhatra Marg (where the hostel is situated) a more isolated place, and hence, unsafe. Certain other rules which are implemented solely in the women’s hostels, like the submission of leave applications approved by Head of Departments for more than one week’s absence from the hostel, are being misused to such an extent that the women hostellers and department heads are unnecessarily burdened with additional paperwork. It is, in fact, shameful that adult women are being made to seek approval from their departments even for personal matters such their travel/vacation plans.

Of course, under the pressure of the ongoing struggle, the University has decided to implement, from the new academic session, certain changes in the rules prevalent in women’s hostels. However, since these adjustments were discussed and formalized without any consultation with women students, they continue to create hassles for the women hostellers. Indeed, apart from a few proposed changes, most of the rules stand the same. In fact, not only will tedious procedures like gate-pass, double locking of rooms and issuing of memos for the smallest breach of hostel rules persist, the University’s new administrative order also proposes a hostel fee hike. Understandably, the women hostellers continue to agitate and raise their democratic concerns.

Typically, the collective struggle of the students has been trivialized and demeaned in several ways. Students’ democratic methods like calling meetings, circulating signature petitions, etc. are constantly projected by the authorities as “illegal” activities that spread “disturbance” and “disharmony”. Basically, when we take the initiative to raise our opinions and discontent, our authorities only see “untoward” activity…OUR VOICE IS NOISE FOR THEM!

Furthermore, ever since the women hostellers have been voicing their democratic aspirations, the authorities have viciously gone after individual students in the bid to transform UHW residents into a captive mass which has no democratic voice. The logic behind the multiple techniques of victimization is the need for the hostel authorities to break the collective will of the students and to project their collective struggle as that of a few individuals. In order to break the collective will and efforts of the residents, the authorities have been threatening individual students to withdraw from the struggle, and have tried to project the students’ legitimate struggle as a smear campaign pursued by one or two students who have some mysterious “agenda”. The techniques of victimization used unhesitatingly so far, include: (i) vicious character assassination, (ii) phone calls to parents and departments, (iii) accosting individuals on the stand they have taken and refusing to cooperate with them regarding the smallest of procedural work within the hostel, (iv) denying extension of stay to M.Phil researchers, (v) bombarding the more active students with show cause notices on every alternate day, etc.

For many of us these victimization techniques are equivalent to the techniques embraced by the management of private companies seeking to break the collective voice of their employees. Considering our hostel Warden is a faculty member of the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), it comes as no surprise to us that typical labour management formulas are being applied on us students. Haranguing individuals, involving the families of the protesters, threatening individuals with a series of show cause notices, applying multiple pressure on individuals by involving a not-so-neutral third party (in our case, the Proctor’s office, and in the case of workers, the Labour Office), etc. are very similar to the methods used by factory managers who seek to crush the collective voice of their employees. Using such labour management methods, the hostel authorities went out of their way to expose their unethical and undemocratic nature on two particular occasions. One such occasion was on 14th February when a large number of women hostellers boycotted dinner in protest. Rather than being concerned about the condition of the residents boycotting dinner, the hostel authorities ‘rewarded’ those who refused to support the campaign with an extra lavish dinner, and spent the entire day calling individual students to the office in order to force them to withdraw their support for the boycott.

The second occasion on which typical labour management techniques were unleashed on the hostel residents was on the 13th of March. On this day, members of the hostel’s Managing Committee, two Deputy Proctors, the Warden, Provost and Resident Tutor huddled into office to hold a Managing Committee meeting, as promised in writing. Ironically, rather than allowing the students to select and send their representatives to the meeting, the hostel Warden handpicked two students to represent the students’ point of view in the meeting called to ‘resolve’ the issues raised by the residents. As expected these students’ ‘representatives’ were not the more vocal of students, and were forced to compromise as they were outnumbered in the Managing Committee meeting, and were, in fact, locked into the office area during the course of the meeting. Disrespect for amicable dialogue and the strong desire to create a docile mass of women students are clearly reflected in such cases.

As the situation stands, individual victimization continues on a daily basis. For example, despite verbal assurances given by the Dean of Colleges, Prof. Pachauri, on the 16th of March, the hostel Provost has continued to contact supervisors and Head of Departments. The hostel authorities also released a list on the 19th of March of M.Phil researchers who will not be provided an extension of stay, despite the precedent being that the hostel provides such extension in strongly recommended cases. The hostel authorities continue to run UHW as if it were their personal fiefdom. There really seems to be no way to check their authoritarian, undemocratic and unethical practices, unless the larger Delhi University community extends support to the women students.

WE, HENCE, APPEAL TO ALL CONCERNED UNIVERSITY MEMBERS AND ALUMNI OF UNIVERSITY HOSTEL FOR WOMEN (UHW) TO STAND WITH THE DEMOCRATIC ASPIRATIONS OF THE WOMEN STUDENTS, AND TO HELP PREVENT DELHI UNIVERSITY’S AUTHORITIES FROM REDUCING STUDENTS TO A VOICELESS, DOCILE MASS. In the larger context of the backlash against all democratic voices in this University, the ongoing struggle of women’s students emerges as a litmus test for democracy— do we as a University community want to create docile University youth, or right-bearing, politically conscious University youth?

Your contribution to this democratic struggle could consist of the following:
(i) Writing letters to the University’s Vice Chancellor that press for the prevention of individual victimization in its myriad forms, and for an amicable resolution to the issues raised by the students;
(ii) Writing letters to the University’s Vice Chancellor and Dean of Colleges that press for the removal of the hostel Provost and Warden since the two continue to derail a healthy dialogue process by victimizing individual students;
(iii) Writing letters to the media which highlight the sheer lack of tolerance for the democratic issues raised by the women students like the right to draft, amend and ratify their union constitution;
(iv) Discussion with colleagues and other faculty members so as to create a public opinion against how women’s hostels are being run according to the diktats of an authoritarian and conservative set of DU faculty members;
(v) Build students’ resistance against de-unionization and conservative rules, as in UHW, in other DU hostels as well.

Issued by Residents of University Hostel for Women (UHW)
COORDINATION COMMITTEE FOR WOMEN’S HOSTELS IN DELHI UNIVERSITY
Contact: 9350272637, 9818900179

Delhi University Women Students’ Struggle: Open letter in response to the show-cause notice issued by hostel authorities

To,
The Warden
University Hostel for Women (UHW)
University of Delhi
15.03.2012

Dear Dr. Tanuja Agarwala,

I am in receipt of a number of letters in which I have been asked to explain/clarify my “conduct” over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, none of these letters issued by you reflect a willingness to understand the issues raised by the hostel residents, and to see them as a democratic expression of the residents’ collective will. Your last letter (dated 12.03.2012) has asked me to clarify why action should not be taken against me, based on the alleged complaint that a few students were “misled” and misinformed into signing the Memorandum calling for a boycott of dinner on 14.02.2012. Your letter categorically refuses to consider the 14th February Memorandum as an expression of the students’ collective will. The very evidence of this fact is that I have been identified as a “culprit” who needs to explain her position, lest action will be taken. I do not wish to be identified as a “hero” of the hostel campaign or a person who can be identified as the “potential victim”. It is high time the authorities of the hostel restrain themselves in identifying individual “culprits” and in scuttling the collective democratic voice of the residents.

The entire campaign and the number of memorandums submitted to the authorities are a collective endeavour where no individual can be identified as the person behind the campaign. Of course, in all campaigns and movements there are some people who take the initiative, and are assertive in expressing the collective will of the others concerned. However, such persons cannot be identified as “instigators” because they are merely expressing in a consistent manner what majority of the people think is right.

Of course, there is always a general possibility that in campaigns/movements there are some individuals who are inconsistent in their position on the issues raised, and therefore, change their position during the course of time. This may explain why some individual residents retracted from their position on the boycott of dinner. However, a change in the position such individuals hold does not mean their earlier position was wrong, or that they were misled into the earlier position they took.

Having said this, in the case of our hostel there is a specific possibility that the authorities resorted to individual intimidation to get some residents to change their position on issues raised. We have indeed come across versions of this intimidation wherein individual residents were called to the hostel office and categorically threatened to withdraw from the campaign otherwise they would not be given extension, their parents would be contacted, their departments intimated, etc. In fact, few parents were called and asked to restrain their daughters. Such draconian, coercive and high-handed practices of the authorities have led to widespread fear amongst a section of the students. It is under such conditions of fear and actual acts of victimization that individual residents were asked to give in writing that they consent to withdraw from the campaign. What else can explain the simple fact that few individual residents began to retract from the boycott call after a lengthy visit to the hostel office? It is another thing that despite all the efforts of the authorities, we are still confident of the support of the majority of students, and therefore, will continue to assert the democratic rights of the residents.

To your allegation that some residents were misinformed into signing the concerned Memorandum, I and several other residents who have studied your letter, have only one thing to say, which is that we find such views unacceptable. This is because residents of this hostel are educated adults who never go around signing documents and memorandums in a fit of absent-mindedness. The Memorandum explaining why a dinner boycott was being called, was properly attached to the signature petition. There were regular announcements made inside the hostel mess, as well as individual dissemination of the boycott’s details during breakfast on the 14th of February. Subsequently, postering on the boycott was also carried out in the hostel on the 14th, which shows that rather than being misinformed and misled into boycotting dinner, individual residents were coerced by you to give up their decision to boycott dinner.

Most importantly, it is wrong to claim that because some students changed their opinion due to victimization or due to certain personal calculations, I and other students are causing “disturbance” in the hostel, and should hence, be punished. It should be recalled that on the 20th of February when the authorities and a section of the students exchanged undertakings in writing, there was a tacit acceptance of the fact that there were two parties of opinion on the issues at stake. It goes against the notion of jurisprudence where a party in conflict of opinion bestows upon itself the power to punish the other party for raising their opinion. Such an approach is neither impartial nor democratic.

It is high time the authorities concede the point that genuine issues are at stake and that there is a collective of women residents who are raising these issues. Elections at the earliest, adoption of the Constitution submitted on 03.02.2012, and the change in hostel rules (such as no exit after 8pm, gate-pass system, issuing of memos, mess rebate, etc.) must be addressed, and should not be trivialized any further. We will not let the hostel authorities victimize individuals or sideline the issues raised by the residents. The authorities have already broken their promise of not indulging in such victimization, as well as their assurance of calling a Managing Committee meeting where a proper discussion can happen with the residents.

Of course, if the authorities still feel certain residents have been misinformed into taking a stand in support of the hostel campaign, then they should ascertain this by holding a secret ballot referendum on the issues raised by the campaign. Perhaps, this is the only way in which UHW residents can prove to all that they are indeed thinking individuals.

Lastly, I am directed by concerned residents to inform you that if any action is taken against me, your office must be prepared to see the struggle continue as well as escalate. This is because when the collective spirit and democratic aspirations have embodied themselves in all the residents, the physical removal of one person makes little difference to the struggle. The authorities should, hence, be under no illusion that by subduing one individual the quest of the residents on their democratic demands will terminate. At the most, it is only for some time that your office will be able to scuttle the democratic voice of the students. Your actions against individuals will always remain a moral defeat in permanence. Hope a better sense prevails.

Yours truly,

Maya John