Deconstructing the greatness of Indian Gurus

 

Prof Vivek Kumar 

vivek-kumar September 5th, the birth anniversary of Sarvaplli Radhakrishnan, is celebrated as teacher’s day in India. Students wish their teachers ‘Wish you happy Teacher’s day’. Many others quote the greatness of the ‘Guru’ from Guru Strotam dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya. However, if we analyze the autobiographies of Dalits then this ideal type image of an Indian guru gets deconstructed on its own. The Dalits (both men and women) in their autobiographies like Apne Ane Pinjire Mein (two volumes) by Mohandas Naimish Rai, Joothan by Om Prakash Valmiki, Mera Bachpan Mere Kandhon Par by Sheoraj Singh Bechain, Murdaiaah by Tulsi Ram, Mera Safar Meri Manzil by D. R. Jatav, Chhangiya Rukkh by Balbir Madhopri, ‘Jeena Amucha’ by Baby Kamble, ‘Shikanje ka Dardby Shushila  Takbhaure, Dohra Abhishap' by Kaushalya Baisantri,  to name just a few; have narrated a number of episodes in which their teachers have discriminated and humiliated them in their schools.

For instance, a number of Dalits have divulged in their autobiographies how their so-called upper-caste teachers used to  ask the Dalit students to go and clean the school field, or work in their field or, bring fodder for their live stock (see Om Prakash Valmiki, Sheoraj Singh Bechain, Balbir Madhopuri). Further, the teachers have gone to the extent of asking money for promoting the Dalit students in the next class (see Tulsi Ram’s Murdaiha). Beating of the Dalit students by the teachers and calling them by their caste names, has been very common way to discriminate the Dalit students. Another heart rendering aspect is that the women teachers have also been discriminatory towards their girl students. The women teachers do not allow the Dalit girls to participate in the plays at par with the general castes (see Shushila Takbhaure). They did not check their exercise books and always used to be cautious that Dalit girls did not touch them (see Baby Kamble). The trauma of Dalit girl students is doubled because the male teachers in their school and colleges made sexual advances in very subtle manner (see Kaushlya Baisantri). So we can observe these empirical evidences narrated by Dalits that Eklayas are still suffering.

Therefore, under these circumstances we have to analyze the institution of ‘Guru’ critically and avoid revering the monolithic-ideal image of Guru as an emancipator only. We should also highlight the way the ‘Gurus’ have enslaved, discriminated and traumatized the marginalized. How have they de-motivated and broken the self-confidence of Dalits, Tribals, OBCs, and Minorities and forced them to drop-out or even commit suicide. This has become all the more necessary because in coming days the digital divide is going to grow the marginalizing the aforesaid further. The time is also opportune because the discussion on New Education Policy-2020 (NEP) will be taken up in the Parliament in up-coming monsoon session starting from 14th September, 2020. Whether, NEP can evolve some internal mechanism to check the discrimination of the students belonging to the aforesaid categories. 

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Prof Vivek Kumar is Professor of Sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-the views are personal.