C Ahamed Fayiz
Since the beginning of this year, Indian campuses have been witnessing a grave turmoil. It is nothing but an expression of accumulated frustration born out of the inequitable system of governance in every domain, which has a long history of centuries. Campuses and educational spaces are the most vulnerable places for discrimination on a person from an oppressed community. The proponents of hegemonic ideology always deliberately attempted either to discourage or to co-opt students from Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi and other backward sections of society, who are marching towards holistic development and social empowerment.
The institutional murder of Rohith Vemula at HCU triggered nation-wide protests, bringing up questions on many issues pertaining to inclusion of marginalized and alienated groups in the higher education system. Surely, the main issue which has come to the forefront of our public domain is the question of caste. Meanwhile, the JNU sedition case had attracted global limelight. With the release of the students from prison, the matter is hardly seen in the media now.
Decades ago, Dr. Ambedkar had prophesied that it is only through the means of education, the oppressed communities would be able to liberate themselves. Many affirmative steps were taken to make them independent - such as granting them additional constitutional rights like reservation. In spite of all these attempts, why are the students from Dalit, Muslim, Adivasis and other marginalized groups still among the primary victims of discrimination in the higher education system, especially in universities? Who are the real culprits of the existing discrimination in the higher education system in India? The article aims to analyze this issue in brief.
The domain of knowledge has been confined in the hands of Brahmins, through which they established their power over the majority people of this land. We must realize that the universities have been working as the breeding ground of Brahminism throughout their history in India. In modern times, this hegemonic ideology strengthened its power in the domain of knowledge/academia - this can be termed as Academic Hindutva.
According to Edward Said, there are two types of intellectuals/academicians as described in his famous book "Representations of the Intellectual": Professional Intellectuals and Amateur Intellectuals. Professional intellectuals always stand with the state apparatus and hegemonic ideology which controls it. They could influence the policy formations of the state or they will be part of the state itself. On the other hand, amateur intellectuals are different from them, they always swim against the course and stand with the oppressed against the hegemonic discourses. Sometimes, they might not have even nominal academic qualifications, but they still continue to criticize hegemony with their self-acquired knowledge. Amateur intellectuals, who always challenge the hegemony will be haunted by the state.
In the Indian scenario, professional intellectuals can be classified into two categories: one which is influenced by formulations by Savarkar and his followers, and the other by those of Jawaharlal Nehru. The followers of the ideology put forward by Ambedkar, which was further developed through Dalit Panthers and Kanshiram, can be counted as amateur intellectuals. The post-Mandal era saw an increase in the number of Dalit-Bahujan-Muslim-Adivasi students admitted in the universities, they would be considered as part of amateur intellectuals. The left academicians who supported the Nehruvian idea of nationalism also can be categorized as professional intellectuals. The two types of aforesaid professional intellectuals believe in the status quo and have not raised any challenges against the hegemonic idea of Brahmanism in its genuine sense.
During the recent JNU row, we have seen the left - irrespective of their factions - claiming: we are more patriotic and nationalistic than Savarkarites, which itself proves their belief in this discriminatory system and nationalistic ideology which alienates the Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis etc., from the mainstream of our society. This decidedly proves that both of these kinds of professional intellectuals are two sides of the same coin.
We have seen that the students and teachers of HCU, who questioned the dominant Brahmanic ideology were arrested, tortured and imprisoned in the sense that the existing Brahmanic Indian state has identified them as a real threat to their ideology. These amateur intellectuals are a threat to those professional intellectuals too. So they are always under the threat of both physical and intellectual violence, from both Savarkarite and Nehruvian factions of Academic Hindutva.
The physical violence in the campuses of Kerala unleashed by left student organizations could be analyzed as a deliberate attempt to silence and eliminate these students from Dalit Bahujan communities from the spaces of higher education. Moreover, continuing physical violence and intellectual violence against these communities in the agraharas like JNU is more important and should be disclosed. It was the left academicians, who tried to silence the Dalit Bahujan academic discourses throughout these years, after the independence of our country.
One of the finest examples of professional intellectuals of this kind is Prof. Bipan Chandra, who had been regarded as the front-runner of communist struggle in academia and also labeled as a pro-Congress historian simultaneously. The fact is that he had taken a standpoint opposing Mandal Commission recommendations. He, in the post of a Professor in JNU, spearheaded an Anti-Reservation movement during the inception of the Mandal Commission. He was an eloquent supporter of meritorious India, not of inclusive India. He opposed reservation for OBCs in higher academia by crying that it would bring a historical loss for research institutions.
One of the articles published by Outlook1 in January 2010 also quotes Bipan Chandra on reservation in faculty posts: "Reservation above the Assistant Professor level will ruin JNU's quality of education, making it a third rate university". The story of the late Prof M. S. S. Pandian illustrates this leftist arrogance towards Dalit Bahujans. There was a lot of a pressure to avoid his appointment as a professor in JNU, pointing out his 'lack of his merit'. We must consider that it was during the rule of the first Left government under EMS Namboothiripad in Kerala, that the category of economic status was introduced into the idea of reservation through the Joseph Commission report.
The same idea of economic criteria in the reservation system became a big slogan for the Patel and Jat agitators recently, for which they owe a big debt to the left academicians in this country.
It was the same left academicians who formulated the theory of Muslim communalism equals Hindu communalism even though the Muslim community has been at point blank range before the Brahmanic Indian state. It is to be understood that the very idea of communalism is a problematic term in the Indian context which has being deliberately neglected by the left academicians and organisations. The recent call for Left–Dalit unity and Lal Salaam–Neel Salaam slogans from these leftist professional intellectuals should be analyzed, considering their intellectual violences perpetuated against the Dalit Muslim Bahujans, all through these decades.
They brutally neglected almost all Dalit intellectuals and their academic contributions throughout history. Recently, they are trying to appropriate Ambedkar by publishing annotated versions of Annihilation of Caste and Riddles in Hinduism.
Now, they have acknowledged Ambedkar as an insurgent figure2 after the institutional murder of a Dalit scholar. The recent call for Left-Dalit unity from various corners of the Left is nothing but an idea to appropriate the Dalit Bahujan political and academic discourses. The dreams of Dalit Muslim Bahujans united together about a society on the ideals of social justice and equality can only be achieved by understanding these political gimmicks of these professional intellectuals .
The whole debate on nationalism aroused after the JNU row is still silent about the innate violent and discriminatory nature of Indian nationalism towards Muslims in this country. The nationalism lectures conducted by the left leaning JNUTA could not address this issue in its real sense. Not a single lecture on the Muslim view point on Indian nationalism was arranged by them. The question is how many Muslim students have to commit suicide for this political question to be considered?
Many of the leaders described Kanhaiya Kumar, the imprisoned JNUSU leader as Bhagat Singh. Minister of Human Resources Department, Mrs Smriti Irani said Rohith Vemula is the son of India. A billion dollar question still remains, as Shan Muhammed, one of the students in HCU who was imprisoned for fighting for Justice for Rohith, asked in an interview after his release: "Can Umar Khalid be the son of India?"
Unless a Muslim agrees with the norms and regulations put forward by the Brahmanical system, unless he is ready to chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai, unless he keeps his silence about the dominant ideologies, no Muslim in this country can become the son of this country.
When the murder of a Dalit becomes a fatal accident in this country, the very existence of a Muslim, his name, his culture, his belief are enough to get him the anti-national tag. Both cases have nor much difference in essence. Rather than the mere chanting of Lal Salaam–Neel Salaam, addressing these issues with much consideration is the need of the hour.
Dalit Muslim Bahujan slogans of Jai Bhim-Jai Mim have the power to address these issues. It should be understood that the recent movement demanding Justice for Rohith is not just a movement to get justice for him alone. It is a move towards the fulfillment of Dr. Ambedkar's dream, i.e Annihilation of the Caste System. This movement is appealing for the creation of a society based on social justice and equality.
C Ahamed Fayiz is from Mannarkkad of Palakkad district, Kerala. He completed his law graduation from Government Law College, Ernakulam, and is now doing P.G Diploma in Radio and TV Journalism at Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.