Delhi University, at crossroads
To the utter astonishment of the majority from the academic fraternity of Delhi University (DU), a series of concerted efforts have been consistently made since the days Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) has been put in place to tarnish the image of this premier institution.
The latest in the series to blemish DU is a news item, ‘Absolutist rule in Delhi University’, published in the Organizer, Weekly Magazine of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It makes a preposterous claim that DU is being governed in an entirely ‘absolutist’ way by the incumbent administration for the sake of ‘fettering the students’ voice and forcing undemocratic decisions on its students and teachers. ‘What apparently triggered such a provocative and controversial statement is the University’s decision to temporarily seal the Delhi University students’ Union (DUSU) office in the wake of a condemnable attack on the South Campus Director, Professor Umesh Rai, by one of the former DUSU office bearers.
The University press release made it very clear that an alternate space was made available for all the DUSU Office bearers except Raju Rawat, one directly involved in the attack.
Casual castigation of the kind Heena Nanda, the reporter for the Organizer, has made to establish an unpalatable and obnoxious link between the temporary sealing of DUSU office (which was required for a free and fair investigation to take place) and imagined absence of a democratic culture is similar to an insipid insinuation of the sort which some of the thorough going activists from the University itself made on the social media to suggest an equally unpalatable and obnoxious relationship between a premeditated, violent attack on one of the senior professors of our University by a person whose academic credentials are dubious by all accounts and a perceived alienation between students, teachers and administration.
Needless to say, this is an indicative of a dubious attitude of some of the so-called progressive as well as conscientious minds on the idea of violence as a means of protest. All those who are more than willing to covertly justify the incident on the pretext of either the imagined absence of a democratic culture or the perceived alienation between the students and teachers are indeed doing a great disservice to the very idea of a University in which dissent should find its rightful place in numerous debates and discussion, not at all in any kind of violence.
Delhi University is at the crossroads. The academic trajectory it has charted over a couple of years has received a range of divergent responses. It has been able to not only evoke a sense of euphoria and jubilation but also generate a great deal of criticism and opprobrium both inside and outside the campus. Radical reforms which include the successful implementation of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) and an almost equally successful introduction of an innovative and insightful concept called Antardwani, the annual cultural festival which makes available an appropriate and effective platform for both the students and teachers of all the colleges to showcase their potential for quality-research and their genuine inclination for good academic practices of all kinds have been instrumental in generating tremendous excitement, a lot of opportunities as well as many challenges for each of the stakeholder in this institution.
These reforms have been simultaneously subject to different kinds of partisan critiques and even downright condemnation by the opponents of FYUP and Antardhwani. These protesters have yet not been able to reconcile themselves to the undeniable fact that the FYUP is by now an incontrovertible reality as it has already completed its two-semester long journey successfully. What is really unfortunate is that in collusion with certain extraneous agencies, these ideologically-driven opponents have left no stone unturned to malign the University itself. From the very moment the idea of FYUP was conceptualized, they have been tirelessly arguing that the University is on the verge of death and disintegration. Some of the reasons they have enumerated for their claim of the University being all set to enter the valley of death are following:
(a) Students intake will drastically go down under the FYUP scheme as it does not offer student-friendly syllabi) the new course structure will adversely affect pedagogical practices (c) it will cause severe reduction of workloads for faculty members (d) that will finally pave the way for the contractual appointments in place of permanent recruitment.It is noteworthy that all their arguments have fallen flat in the face of existing facts. Students responded to the new course structure with such enthusiasm and in such large numbers that was witnessed never before.
The way college teachers have begun to shift their focus from traditional methods of teaching to the technology-based, continuous and rigorous research oriented one in their own areas of academic interest is unprecedented. And it is there for everybody to see that contractualism is nowhere visible but the interviews for the permanent recruitment of more than 4,500 faculty members have already started. Shockingly enough, some of the opponents of the above-mentioned reforms are hell bent on stalling the recruitment drive initiated by the University administration. They have so far not succeeded because the Delhi High Court where they moved to get a stay on the processes of appointment, refused to oblige, though accepted the writ petition for hearing.
What needs to be highlighted is that perhaps never before in the history of Delhi University, teachers and students have come across such insensitive and irresponsible kind of saboteurs masquerading as political activists who have preferred to be scheming to promote the culture of violence and get delighted in demonising the institution itself by all possible means, apart from trying to thwart the entire process of permanent recruitment, thus seriously endangering the prospects of thousands of ad-hoc teaches who have been waiting for years with a flicker of hope for the regularisation of their ad-hoc jobs.
This kind of political activism with a sabotaging motive reminds me of a statement made by Nobel laureate V S Naipaul during his India visit immediately after he was conferred the said prize in 2002 that politics has contaminated literature worldwide. One can definitely disagree with Naipaul and with all the valid reasons argue for the idea of politics and its importance for the well-being of both an individual and an institution. However, Naipaul seems to be right to the extent the political activism of a particular kind has made every endeavour to malign the image of Delhi University.
The author is assistant professor in English at IP College for Women, Delhi University