Only my truth will prevail

April 30, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

Prime Minster Narendra Modi thundered in the Lok Sabha on 27th November 2015 that his government has only one scripture and that is The Constitution of India; and then defined his idea of India by chanting eighteen mantras that include santyameva jaite (सत्यमेव जयते) and eakam sad viprah bahuda vadanti (एकं सद् विप्रा: बहुधा वदन्ति). Noble sentiments indeed.

On the other side Dinanath Batra of Wendy Doniger fame has written to HRD Minister Smriti Irani to get the Bipan Chandra’s book India’s Struggle for Independence “banned, recalled from everywhere and destroyed.” In this connection the MHRD Minister has said, “If I am to be called intolerant to ensure that Bhagat Singh is not called a terrorist, then that is the tag I will proudly wear.” Another part of the same government, an HRD Ministry official told The Hindu, “As of now, the Ministry has just forwarded a similar complaint by Bhagat Singh’s family members to Delhi University.” Which mean that the attempts of removal of the book from reference list are on.

The ban-culture

Banning books is nothing new in India, every one, it seems, likes to ban books which they do not like and cannot intellectually counter. The history banning books formally is at the least a century old. But more recently the demand for banning books or punishing people who express views that can be considered offensive by any stretch of imagination is being raised much more frequently.

And at the same time we keep on hearing slogans like satyameva jaite nanritam and ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti. The first one is from Manduka Upanishad and proclaims that the truth alone conquers, not falsehood. If one goes by the context where it is said, it sounds like a statement of a law of nature; only the discussion seems to be on the moral nature of the universe, rather than the physical. However, those who chant it and  simultaneously also demands bans on books and views do not seem to be convinced of this law of nature, therefore, want to actively ensure victory for their own kind of truth. Which goes against the second slogan.

Ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti is from the Rig Veda and explains that what different sages call Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, etc. are different names used for the same ultimate reality. It allows differences of perception at the surface reading. But one can also argue that the reality may not only be seen differently by different people, but the true nature of it may always remain contested.

It seems the MHRD Minister is either going against these mantras or she and the PM understand them differently. They seem to be saying that “BJP and its supporters’ interpretation is the only true interpretation and that their truth will prevail”. It is quite clear that the true meaning of these mantras and BJP government’s behaviour are at odds with each other. That however seems to be the case in almost every idea they pick up from Indian cultural history; their understanding of such ideas is almost always at variance with common Indian, be the idea ‘Hinduism’ or India itself or the greatness of Guru Dronacharya.

Controversies of this nature are being raised with a certain regularity which indicates a game plan to force people to accept their interpretation of Indian history, mythology, culture, nationalism and limits of freedom of expression. That which is counter to it should be banned or coved down by making the atmosphere unsafe through vigilante gangs. This is a systematic attempt to close the space for dialogue and descent.

The RSS-BJP seem to be increasingly recognising that religious card cannot be properly used while one is in the government. Therefore, they are bringing in the nationalism. But this nationalism is modelled on religion. This move of modelling nationalism on religion gives double advantage: their own religion can be made the basis of it and it can be made too sacrosanct to critique and question. Even if the intellectuals don’t accept this, it does not matter as long as common public does. Therefore, losing the intellectual debate is of no consequence, as far as electoral politics goes.

Education and ban-culture

A few years back ABVP activists objected to an essay by Ramanujan titled “Three Hundred Ramayanas” and finally the University of Delhi removed the essay from the course it was being taught in. In Rajasthan there was a controversy on relative space given to Akbar and Maharana Pratap in school history books. Now the issue is that Bipin Chandra’s book should be removed from the reference list in syllabus of a University of Delhi course. In the first case it was a mythological character who was supposed to be protected from insulting remarks, in the second it was a medieval Hindu hero, and finally it is an undisputed national icon. This movement has kept the idea of imposing their own interpretation intact while the characters have moved from limited to wider appeal.

Religion was always out of bounds of free discussion in our educational institutions. The education system never seems to have understood that a critical and unbiased understanding of history and dogmas of a faith helps understand the mind-set and behaviour, up to an extent, of adherents of that faith. We have conducted our education so far in a manner that most of the educated people are ignorant of religious dogmas, their historical fallout and their influence on the minds of the believers. All an educated Indian can parrot is “all religions say the same thing”, “no religion teaches animosity towards others”, “all religions teach love for humanity” and so on. These are inane slogans and create a completely false impression of religions in students’ minds. Actually, it is not at all hard to argue on the basis of religious dogmas, history and behaviour of believers that almost all religions are deeply divisive and bread animosity either in a passive latent form that can be used at any time by the religious leaders or of active violent variety. Even if this perception of religion is totally mistaken, it should be examined in the open. However, we only condemn such views outright and shy away from any serious debate on them. As a result many of the educated people behave in a schizophrenic manner: they have a public view and a private view on religion, which are at variance with each other; and deal with the resultant prick of conscience through self-deception and sophistry.

Now the interpretations of history are being made into the same kind of sacrosanct pronouncements. The attempt is to cast all historical characters in black and white. The richness, complexity, ambiguity and multyvocality within each historical character and event is being reduces to a formulaic good/bad binary. Thus blunting the tools of thinking, which is an antithesis of education.

Who is a terrorist?

This question is thrown at people with alarming regularity by those who want to produce arguments in favour of the current day personalities who are considered terrorist by common people. Politically it may be difficult to arrive at a consensus on definition of terrorism, but conceptually it does not sound to be such a big problem. Terrorism can be defined as a political ideology of using violence, indiscriminately to target even innocent people, to create terror in the minds of general public to achieve political goals. Anyone who believes, preaches and indulges in acts of perpetrating terror for this purpose is a terrorist. It does not matter whether his goals are justified or not, whether the historical processes that produced such an ideology are justified or not. The intention of spreading terror in the public by indiscriminate killing is enough to call it terrorism. Of course, in attempts to understand the causes and solving the problem of terrorism injustices perpetrated on the people whom the terrorist want to defend have to be taken into consideration; but that does not need to blur the concept. Terrorism in this sense may be seen as justified by some; but that does not mean that it is not terrorism.

On the other hand there could be an ideology of violent resistance, which does not want to terrorise the public, but only the perpetrators of perceived injustice, and does not kill innocents but only those who are directly involved in perpetrating injustice. It seems to me it is not appropriate to call such an ideology terrorism; not to call its practitioners and adherents terrorists.

If one accepts this definition then Bhagat Singh cannot be called a terrorist. As he is on record as being against spreading terror in the public, actually they wanted to create a favourable opinion of themselves in the public. They consciously avoided killing innocent people, even innocent Britishers were not their targets. They usually selected particular individuals who they thought had committed some act of grave injustice. This can be called violent resistance or armed resistance, but not terrorism. Therefore, calling Bhagat Singh a terrorist is somewhat unjustified. However, that does not justify banning books and writings which describe him as a terrorist.

Conclusion

The current NDA government is using double speak to confound people. On one side it chants slogans like ‘ekam sad-viprah bahuda vadanti’ and ‘satyameva jayate’ and on the other they want to ban books, want to be intolerant, by their ow admission, to some views and stifle debate and dissent.

Whether freedom of expression and space for dissent is allowed or not can be determined only when the views that the government detests but the constitution allows are not throttled. One can say nothing about freedom to dissent as long as all expressed views are in agreement with the government. And this government does not want to allow views it does not like in the public space and in education. So far they seem to be thinking of bans and their supporters are threatening to go to the courts; but they are indirectly also sending messages to their vigilante groups to attacking people whom the government does not like.

The double speak of the government needs to be exposed and the ban attempts need to be resisted. If they cannot refute arguments and views at an intellectual level then they should improve their capabilities rather using threats and state power.

*******


The Guardians of the Nation, The Warriors of Justice and the Sheep

April 26, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

 “One thing I feel very solemnly is that, if indeed some of these statements were made, such as “destroy the nation,” “barbadi Bharat,” and so on—they ought not to have been made. Anything that borders on condemnation of the national integrity and unity as such should be severely punished. That much is clear to me: whether they [the accused] said that, or who said what, and how, and when, will come out as a result of these enquiries.” Upendra Baxi. (Emphasis as bold and underlined added, italics original.)

http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/democracy-must-not-distrust-suspect-dissent-disagree

———————————————————-

We are the nation

We are the guardians of the true culture of this land.

All that is different from what we think is contamination in our pristine culture.

We are the guardians of the nation and the culture.

If you disagree with us: We will attack you, every where

We will attack you in the courts, on the streets

We will tell you how to express your patriotism, all other form are of no consequence.

Some of us will talk nice and legal language

Others will threat to kill

We are the same, the legal talk is to assure you; threat is necessary to bring you to the right path.

We will decide what you can eat, if you disagree our vigilante groups will attack you.

We will tell our women what to wear, whom to love. Those who disagree will be punished, insulted.

If you disagree with us: Go to Pakistan.

Amen!

*******

We want justice

We are the law unto ourselves.

If committees are to be appointed they should have all the people we want. If not, they are a farce.

If the police acts before the University processes are given time, that is wrong (This is genuinely wrong—Rohit), if the University processes follow, we do not accept the result. As you know, they are dictated by the RSS.

If Supreme Court gives a judgment it is determined by the Brahamanical conscience.

If the punished happen to belong to Dalits, Minority, or OBC it is the dominant castes suppressing and silencing them.

If the committees ask us to depose, we reject the committees.

We reject the legitimacy of the Indian state. (Not all of us, but we don’t allow to single out those who do, some of us make noises of accepting the nation and the constitution to shield all of us.)

We do not consider nation important.

We are fighting for greater justice.

We are the law, we are the judge.

If you touch us we will raise an international hue and cry. Our Guru’s are too well connected, their word is the truth.

We are engaged in bringing about a revolution.

We are the law unto ourselves.

If you disagree with us you are status-quoist, a rightist, a casteist, a majoritarian. You do not understand.

You see, we are the law and we are also the truth.

Amen!!

******

We are the sheep

We are the sheep

We follow, blindly

We make crowd in your speeches and slogans

We shout what you want us to shout

Clap when you want us to clap.

We remain invisible and give you visibility

We make the stool on which you stand and look tall

Our eyes and shut

Our minds are closed

We go by our emotions which you know how to manipulate

We lose our mind

And our existence

In your mind and your existence

We cease to be, to make you exist

 

Someday, yes, someday

Ours eyes will open

Our eyes when opened

Become the third eye of Shiva

Then we will get our minds back

Then we will get out existence back

Then you will cease to be

The opened eye of Shiva

Burns all evil

Amen!!!

******


Is understanding necessary before criticizing?: A response to Mr. Parth Shah

April 22, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

An article titled “A lesson in hidden agendas” written by me was published in The Hindu on 26th March 2016. Mr. Parth Shah of Centre for Civil Society and a great champion of so called school choice has written a rejoinder to that article, titled “Ideology Masquerading as Research”. This note is a response to Mr. Shah’s rejoinder.

The central objection to my article that Mr. Shah has is stated clearly, that the article “is a case study in ideology masquerading as research”. Further down Mr. Shah repeats his ideology argument or the term ideology nine more times in his less than 600 word rejoinder! Therefore, it is appropriate to make an attempt to understand this term ‘ideology’, even if it takes some effort and space.

The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (SEP) distinguishes two kinds of concepts of ideology, (and The Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy makes similar point in somewhat different language). One kind, it calls “liberal concepts of ideology” and broadly defines them as “an action-oriented system of beliefs” on authority of Daniel Bell. The SEP notes “the fact that ideology is action-oriented indicates its role is not to render reality transparent, but to motivate people to do or not do certain things”. Other kind of concepts of ideology it calls “Radical concepts” which can roughly be characterised as “… ideology, far from being a science, … or any set of action-oriented beliefs … is rather inherently conservative, quietist, and epistemically unreliable. Ideology conserves by camouflaging flawed social conditions, giving an illusory account of their rationale or function, in order to legitimate and win acceptance of them.”

Mr. Shah seem to be taking ideology in the second, radical and pejorative sense. It may give him a momentary satisfaction to dub my article as an ideological attempt to “camouflaging flawed social conditions” etc.; but he should know that this concept of ideology comes from the Marxist tradition. And in that tradition it is argued that “ideology exists to protect … social conditions from attack by those who are disadvantaged by them. Capitalist ideologies give an inverted explanation for market relations, for example, so that human beings perceive their actions as the consequence of economic factors, rather than the other way around, and moreover, thereby understand the market to be natural and inevitable.” (Emphasis added) It could be easily shown that Mr. Shah’s rejoinder to my article is doing exactly that.

I, however, will take the term ideology in the first sense where it is “an action-oriented system of beliefs … to motivate people to do or not do certain things”. This could be read as a neutral definition of the term, and could work for or against disadvantaged people depending on the content of those beliefs. In this sense my article is certainly to motivate people to do something—protect and improve the public education system; and “not to do certain” other things—to handover our education system to private profiteers. There is no masquerading as something else, nothing hidden, the article is plainly to argue this point, be it ideological or otherwise.

I am taking this position openly because if ideology is understood in this sense (liberal sense) then no research can give any direction for policy making without taking help from ideology. Research, in its best form, is wedded to ‘epistemic truth’; and epistemic truth alone can never give you direction for public policy without help from political values. Political values can be said to be coming from ideology. Therefore, ideology is a necessary system of action oriented beliefs and values that can use research as a tool to determine education policy. It is ideology that is the master, research is only a sub-serving tool. Mr. Shah uses an ideology that favours the market and profit making at the cost of public education, I use an ideology that favours public education and wants to guard the society from wolfish profiteering tendencies in the public education. We both are ideological in this sense, but I believe my ideology is for greater common good and his ideology is for market forces, and clams that market forces enhance greater common good.

Mr. Shah’s charge of “ideology masquerading as research” is committing the category mistake of describing my article as ‘research’. It is not, repeat—not, a research article. It is an ethical and political argument made in favour of public education and against handing over education of our children to market; it concludes “[t]he tirade against the PES and RTE is a classic case of giving the dog a bad name with intention to kill it, so that a wolf of their choice could replace it in the name of guarding the house”. The article only uses some claims from research studies, in itself it is an ethical and political argument; and uses democratic principle as the bedrock of the argument. And Mr. Shah should know that policy issues and large scale educational reform issues are essentially ethical and political. Research is nothing but an information gathering tool in such decisions. Therefore, nothing is “masquerading as research” here. It is the ethical position that the ‘ideology’ (if I am allowed to use the term) of democracy demands and supports.

The second charge Mr. Shah wants to lay at my door is “using classic debating tactic of shifting the ground” on the basis of my statement that public education system needs fixing, and then talking about problems with private schools. This is gross misreading of the article or being too attached to one’s own hopes and positions. I open my article by plainly stating that the Public Education System (PES) and RTE are under attack from certain quarters. Then, to be fair, I note that both PES and RTE may need fixing, but the attacks are still not justified. And then go on to define and refute those attacks. There is no sifting ground here, the article stays course steadily; only it does not fulfil Mr. Shah’s desire, which he cherishes on his own accord, without any indication form my article. All I can do is recommend Mr. Shah to read the article again a bit more carefully.

His third charge is that I “have low respect for the readers who are expected to believe that attack on private education is same as improving state education”. My article expresses no such misgiving at all. It is a refutation of arguments to allow and even help with public money those private schools which don’t even fulfil the norms stipulated by RTE. These schools are being tom-tomed as better alternative to PES on various spurious grounds. I am arguing against those grounds. It is necessary to take false wind out of spurious claims, and that is what I am doing, not at all saying that criticising private schools will improve PES automatically, for that one has to make separate efforts. To use my metaphor, I am in this article only trying to block the wolf’s entry so that the faithful dog gets a chance to survive and revive. This is either a deliberate misrepresentation by Mr. Shah or his failure to read the article properly.

It’s true that even after more than 60 years of independence the government schools are not doing well. But it is wrong to say that the governments attempted reforms properly and with political and administrative will. And Mr. Shah should know that public systems which are providing essential public goods cannot be abandoned simply because they don’t function well, their failure is no argument for abandoning them. We have no alternative but to improving them, including PES.

His next charge on me is that in this article I am attacking people’s choice. I am making an argument in my article that choice is not random uninformed picking up. Choice involves a deliberate well-informed judgment. That requires availability of information, understanding of the criteria for making judgment and freedom to choose. The situation in the market and society at the moment do not show much hope for fulfilling these conditions. If he wants to refute this argument he should show that these conditions are fulfilled or that these conditions are not necessary for informed choice. He is doing neither, simply repeating a market friendly slogan. Second, we do debate choices made by people, even criticise them. Choices made by people on female foeticide are routinely criticised and banned. People’s choices are not always sacrosanct, neither are they always wise. Criticising them does not mean declaring oneself wiser than others, it simply means opening a democratic debate to bring unexamined beliefs under conscious scrutiny. I wonder if Mr. Shah is aware that there may be a conflict between the parental choice and child rights as articulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and that there is a huge debate whether parents can be allowed to give any kind of education that they want to their children.

Choice is more than just leaving people at the mercy of capital dominated market. And therefore, private schools have to be regulated. Those which do not meet the minimum norms have to be closed down, exactly as quack doctors’ clinics have to be closed down. And that is not at all attacking people’s choices, it is protecting them from evils of the unregulated market.

Mr. Shah writes “[t]he one idea he does offer to improve state education actually trivialises the problem itself.” Then he claims that I am saying that changing a few clauses in the RTE act will solve the problem of educational quality, and grandly declares me out of touch of reality of government system. What can I say on this? Should I declare him out of touch with printed word? As anyone who reads the whole relevant paragraph will immediately see that it is making an argument against the cries of repealing RTE because it does not specify norms for learning standards. In this paragraph I give examples of many other legislations that are not implemented properly and may have lacunas, and we do not repeal them, we improve them by amendments and try to implement better. Here I am not talking of improving the learning standards by amending the RTE, I am talking of removing the lacuna in the text of RTE. Any normal reader will get that straight, but not Mr. Shah. Careful reading is a cultivated habit, not an ideological posturing.

Mr. Shah’s unfounded tirade continues, he accuses me of quoting from a research report “students in private schools are less likely to belong to low caste groups…which means that they are less inclusive.” And then inferring on this quote’s basis that “the repeated claims of better learning in private schools are unfounded.” And asks grandly “How does that follow?!” Well it does not, not at all, not from this quote; and no one claimed that. This paragraph in my article quotes two studies for two different purposes. One is a claim that the researchers “find insufficient evidence to claim that children in private schools outperform those in public schools in India… better data are needed”. No better learning in private schools follows from this. The lines Mr. Shah quote are just an additional punch to show that they are also non-inclusive to boot. Again he is accusing me for his own misreading!

Then Mr. Shah says “India Human Development Survey shows that students are more likely to be ‘beaten’ in government than private schools.” And goes on that form this it cannot be demanded that they should be closed, rather that they should be given time to improve. Good enough. And then comes the million rupee question: “If government schools should be given time and resources to do better, why private schools not be given the same opportunity.” Should we equate government schools and private school then? Should we equate slow progress in eradicating culturally accepted corporal punishment with non-compliance in infrastructure and teacher qualification norms as per RTE? The government schools should be given time and resources: 1. because it is the constitutional duty of the state to provide good education to every child, and the state under the greed and pressure of profiteers cannot be allowed to absolve itself from that duty. Private schools have no such duty. 2. Because public education system is the only mechanism to reach the last child. Private education neither wants nor can do this job. 3. Because education requires development of democratic values and social concerns in addition to marketable skills and private schools cannot do that. 4. Because the state funds are public money and the state schools are public property, it is the same owner. Private schools are owned by individuals and taxpayers’ money cannot be given to them for their own benefit. 5. Because state schools are duty bound to admit every child. And private schools are not. 6. Because even if they are not performing too well at the moment they are not out to cheat the public by false promises; and private schools are. The private ventures cannot be built on public funds, therefore private schools cannot be supported by the government money.

This question of Mr. Shah brings his ideology out in the open, and it is the second kind of ideology, not the benign one I have used in my argument earlier.

Then Mr. Shah as per his own admission finds a gem. He thinks that he has clinched the argument. He quotes part of my argument in which I claim that “PES conceptually can be better if managed well” in inculcating democratic and human values, “while the private system has it in its DNA” that it cannot inculcate those values “as it has to make profit on fees. For low-end private schools to do better on this count is impossible even in theory.” I say this after making an argument that to make profit at low fee, the private schools necessarily have to indulge in unethical practices of cheating the teachers, cutting corners, monopolising business of textbooks, school uniforms, transport, etc. Children studying in such atmosphere and listening to their parents discussing these issues, seeing the conditions of their teachers are socialised into a certain kind of ethics, which is unhealthy. Low fee charging private schools have no way of getting out of this problem as long as they want to make profit. Now, this argument may be wrong or right. But it is not said that it is based on research. It is a speculative argument on the basis of amount realised from the fee, possible school expenditures and possible profit margin. Mr. Shah accuses me of saying that it is based on research. I don’t claim that at all. What is based on research in this argument is that “The teachers” in many such schools “are paid less than minimum unskilled labour wages legislated by various State governments”. Rest of the argument is normative and speculative. However, it is a sound argument, not easy to dismiss. And this argument comes to refute the private lobbyist claim that per-unit cost for learning achievement is less in the private schools. This is a spurious and untenable claim as does not count the hidden costs.

Since I argue in this manner Mr. Shah thinks that he has an irrefutable argument in his punch line, which goes “[m]ay be Mr Dhankar should tell that to Mr Azim Premji whose for-profit business pays for his ideological battles”. I think Mr. Shah himself should communicate this gem of an argument to Mr. Premji. As far as I know, Mr. Premji understands the difference between business ventures which are legitimate places to make profit (like WIPRO) and education where he is not trying to make any profit at all (for example APF schools and the University).

There is one claim of his with which I am in complete agreement: “ideology trumps people”, certain kinds of ideologies don’t even allow people to read properly. And as far as my limited understanding goes, it is necessary to understand a position before one can fruitfully criticise it. some ideologies makes people forget this basic point.

*******


The MHRD letters to University of Hyderabad

April 20, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

The series of letters written by MHRD to the UoH is made out to be an incontrovertible evidence of “institutional murder” in the national press as well as in all debate on the unfortunate suicide of Rohith Vemula. Often just stating “the MHRD letters show it all” is considered the proof that the MHRD forced the UoH to “murder” Rohith Vemula. I wonder how many people have bothered to read these letters carefully and see for themselves what is written there in.

In this piece I am making an attempt to read and analyses these letters, and share what they communicate to me. My analysis and reading may be totally wrong and misplaced, and I will remain open to a different interpretation if advanced to me.

In total I have been able to collect 7 letters concerning this matter from various internet sources. All of them can be found here Rohith Vemula MHRD Letters to HCU. They begin with Mr. Nandanam Diwakar’s letter to Mr. Dattatreya and end with a letter written by an Under Secretary to MHRD to the Vice Chancellor of UoH. This list of letters I am referring to in this piece is as below:

  1. Nandanam Diwakar to Dattatreya, 10th August 2015
  2. Dattatreya to Smt. Irani, 17th August 2015
  3. (Email) Under Secretary to the Registrar, UoH, 3rd September 2015
  4. Deputy Secretary to the Registrar, 24th September 2015
  5. Deputy Secretary to the Registrar, 6th October 2015
  6. Joint Secretary to the Vice Chancellor, 20th October 2015, and
  7. Under Secretary to the VC, 19th November 2015.

The chain events leading to Rohith Vemula’s suicide as published in the Wire, on 19th January 2016, if believed, makes it clear that the first statutory committee looked into the matter before the first letter from MHRD came to UoH, and the Acting VC at that time was Professor R.P. Sharma. In the final report of the Proctorial Board it was recommended that “the five students who led the group to the ABVP student member’s room be suspended for six months on grounds of indiscipline”. Because of the protest of students against this recommendation the then Acting VC Prof. Sharma “decided to constitute another committee to look into the matter and for the time being revoked the suspension”. Prof. Apparao took charge as VC at the end of September 2015. It seems, though exact dates have to be looked into, that the decision of the Proctorial Board to suspend the students for 6 months came before the first email from the MHRD was sent to the UoH. And this decision was harsher than the final decision of suspension of students from the hostels but allowing to attend classes and use all other facilities of the university.

Now let’s come to the letters. The first letter from Mr. Nandadanam to Mr. Dattatreya, Minister of State, Government of India, is the longest and I think should be read carefully. The issue of supporting or opposing the BJP politics has to be suspended for some time when one analyses this letter. It expresses a view point in the Indian politics and understanding, without any endorsement or rejection, that view point is important, and has to be understood. Partly because in a democracy all voices have to be heard and partly because even if one wants to fight and defeat this view point, it can hardly be done without first understanding it.

This letter is written by a district level functionary of BJP to a Minister of State in the GoI belonging to BJP; therefore, the political intentions and use of power wielded by a MoS belonging to the ruling party cannot be denied. Therefore, let us note the political intentions as well as use of power to push those political intentions. Interestingly this letter is addressed to “Sri Bandaru Dattatreya garu” but actually begins by saying “Respected Madam”, that shows that the intention was to finally send it to some Madam, obviously, the Minister MHRD.

The letter claims that Mr. N Susheel Kumar () was abused, manhandles, tortured and hackled by ASA activist, by name only Dontha Prashant is mentioned. I read somewhere that Susheel Kumar is brother of the letter writer Diwakar; therefore, pushing political carrier of a brother by another brother should also be noted. The cause for this supposed to be attack is mentioned as a Facebook posting by Shusheel Kumar stating that “ASA goons are talking of hooliganism – feeling funny”. The letter also gives a list of various acts of disruption etc. by the ASA activists which includes disruption of a lecture by Amartya Sen and threatening students who criticise ASA politics. If thirty ASA students went to Susheel Kumar’s room to demand an apology and pressurised him to write an apology letter then the incident shows something. That is, the hooliganism remark is actually proved by this action (if the report is true); exactly as “intolerance” remarks by various people are proved by social media attacks on them.

There is an important paragraph in the letter which states the position of the letter writer regarding ASA politics in the campus: “We oppose ASA for not being pro-dalit and adivasi students association but for its methods and orientations that is nothing short of unwarranted aggression in the name of assertion and equality, contempt and hatred for all except them in the name of protecting particular social groups (threatening and intimidating dalits who subscribe to other political ideologies is one of their main political activity) and disintegrating the idea of unity in diversity that underwrites India as a nation-state in the name of narrow caste politics (paradoxically it is the identity politics of subaltern elites that they practice!) geared at pecuniary benefits rather than any tangible re-organisation and re-alignment of material conditions and mentalities.” The letter writer thus sees ASA politics as aggressive, against the idea of unity in diversity and casteist. And claims that he does not oppose ASA for being pro Dalit and Adivasi students. This looks like BJP’s political line. Anyone who questions BJP policies and opposes their representatives is promptly called “antinational” or “threatening” the idea of India, and doing caste politics. The letter writer, therefore, is reiterating his party line.

This is exactly like anyone questioning the left politics is immediately called reactionary and fascist. Any one questioning Dalit identity politics is called Manuwadi and casteist. Every political formation has its abusive labels; Diwakar is using his party’s abusive labels here.

The letter writer lists seven points as their prayer, explaining what they want from the authorities. They are worth reading and commenting in full.

  1. “Why is it made to perceive on campus that it is shameful to be Hindu and Indian in Indian Universities?” [Comment: this is BJP and RSS line about the atmosphere in the universities. I personally do not think it could be dismissed out of hand. In the last 50 years or so, due to (i) internal weaknesses of what is called Hinduism, (ii) distancing of intellectuals from Hinduism, as most of them do not admit in public that they are Hindus, (iii) criticising almost everything that is associated with Hinduism, and (iv) highlighting Hindu bigotry (rightly) but explaining or ignoring publicly expressed bigotry from other religious communities has led to a situation where many students coming from orthodox Hindu families which have no animosity to others feel that they are being derided just for being Hindus. However, it is just a question in the letter, which explains the writer’s worry. One may agree or disagree with this, but an Indian citizen does have the right to express this worry. However, the letter writer does not see the other side where Dalits students also feel shunned and minority students may have similar feelings. Our universities are getting increasingly divided.]
  2. “Why does university allow programs like prayer meeting for Yakub Memon?” [Comment: This explains the writer’s idea of limits of freedom of speech and expression. The letter elsewhere explains that this amounts to contempt of court as the Supreme Court upheld death sentence for Memon. This means that the Supreme Court’s decision should be respected, and cannot be criticised, BJP party line. Again, one may agree or disagree with this position, but many people do have this position and a citizen does have the right to complain about it.]
  3. “Why it is that students indulging in conducts unbecoming of students are not equally and proportionately punished?” [Comment: this looks like reporting a grievance emerging out of the perception that some students (by implication Dalits) are awarded punishments—if ever done—lighter than those awarded to non-Dalit students for similar acts. The perception may be right or wrong, but it could be expressed.]
  4. “Direct University of Hyderabad to enquire on all activities of ASA and other radical groups on campus.” [Comment: had this demand been for all student politics in the campus, one may have no objection to it. But it singles out only ASA and radical groups to be enquired into. One can understand this prayer (as he calls it) in the light of events he is complaining about, but it also expresses his mind-set of accepting the politics of ABVP, and considering it above suspicion; while desire to curb the politics of rival groups. Not fair, but one can demand.]
  5. “Formulate guidelines and policies to streamline what kind of program can be and cannot be conducted in Universities.” [Comment: I do not know how anyone can object to this? A fair demand, which if accepted would apply to all equally.]
  6. “Ensure ideas of nation, nationalism and nation building are propagated and spread in universities by the authorities at regular interval.” [Comment: it may sound very un-progressive to many intellectuals but all school curricula and many university vision and mission documents include these objectives. So how can one object to this?]
  7. “Set up committees to monitor activities of radical and anti-national students and faculties in University of Hyderabad.” [Comment: This is an accusation that the UoH does have antinational students and faculty. It also associates ‘radical’ groups with anti-national. This is an expression of BJP idea of universities, radicalism and nationalism. And is similar in character to number 4 above. One may disagree with this, but they have the right to express this as anyone else.]

One may strongly disagree with many conclusions and the politics behind this letter, it is also clear that it is to enhance ABVP politics in the campus. But it is also clear that these ideas and worries have to be engaged with, and people who want to take forward their own politics do write such letters. The letters of support written to JNU and UoH by many academics and intellectuals fall in the same category, though supporting opposite politics. One crucial difference is that this letter wants the state power to curb certain politics, while the support letters want the state power to freely allow that politics.

However, the claims of attack and physical harm to Mr. Susheel Kumar made in this letter are contested, and they actually may be false accusations in degree. This is coming from a position of power as BJP is ruling at the centre and partisan politics is certainly part of it.

The letter written by Mr. Dattatreya to Mrs. Irani forward the above mentioned letter and endorsed the accusations of both anti-national politics as well as attack on Susheel Kumar. He has written the letter on his official letter-head as a Minister of State, but makes the point that is writing as an elected representative from Secunderabad as well.

He claimed that the UoH “has, in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics.” In support of this claim he cites “that when Yakub Menon was hanged, a dominant students union, that is, Ambedkar Students’ Association has held protests against the execution.”

At the end of the letter he says that “The purpose of my writing this letter is only to highlight the affairs in Hyderabad University. I earnestly hope under your dynamic leadership things would change in this Campus for the better.”

Now all this is known BJP political line on caste and nationalism. The issue is: can people who hold these ideas—even if they are wrong—express them and actively work to realise them? Their nationalism may be narrow and they may want the marginalised groups to protest without challenging the idea of nationalism as they define it; but should not the thinking people pay attention to these ideas as well? To understand their origin, to investigate how much water do they hold, and to address those origins. The second point is: even if prayed to curb a certain kind of politics in the campuses, should state act on it? Now we come to that.

The first email from the MHRD is from an Under Secretary to the Registrar of UoH, written on 3rd September 2015. It is very short so I will quote it in the full.

“Dear Sir,

Please find attached herewith a copy letter dated 17.08.2015 of Shri Bandaru Dattatreya, MoS for labout and Employment along with enclosures.

It is requested that issue raised by the Hon’ble MoS may kindly be examined and the facts may be intimated to the Ministry to enable us to submit reply to MoS.

With regards

Ramji Pandey

US” (Emphasis added)

It is worth noting that the email requests that the issue raised be examined and facts be intimated to the MHRD so that they can submit a reply to the MoS who raised this issue. It does not ask for any other action against any one. Just enquire and let us know.

I do not know what else a ministry can do if issues of such nature are raised about politics in a university? The MHRD is not asking to take any action, not asking if any action is taken, not naming any one; all it does is refers the matter to the responsible and competent authority to ascertain facts of the matter, so that a reply can be furnished.

All the subsequent letters of the ministry repeat the same request with reference to letters that have been sent before, and none of them mentions either students or suggests any action to be taken or demand that any other action than examining matter be taken.

What changes in the letters is the level of the officer writing as well as the authority they are addressed to. Some are written by Deputy Secretary, one is written by Join Secretary and some are written to the Registrar while some to the VC.

Another thing that changes is the subject line in some of them. It becomes “Antinational activities in Hyderabad Central University premises – Violent attack on Sri Nandanam Susheel Kumar, Ph.D. student and President of ABVP – reg.” This subject line is taken from the first letter written by Mr. Nandanam Dewakar to Mr. Dattatreya. But the request remains the same: examine, inform about the facts, so that a reply could be given to the MoS.

This is well known how the events turned. It is also clear that the first two letters (from Dewakar and Dattatreya) are (i) raising some concerns which are very important in their party line, (ii) want to help ABVP gain ground in the university, and (iii) oppose Dalit and radical students’ politics in the university. But they are politicians and as the ASA and left has their politics they have theirs. They want to push that politics by whatever means they have at their hands. At the least overtly the MHRD is keeping a very unbiased and fair line; all it does is wants to ascertain facts. What the MHRD would have done after the facts were ascertained is only a matter of guess work.

Now, I am not good in interpreting and reading ‘deeper mining’ in the texts. I stop where incontrovertibly drawn conclusions on the basis of reasonably certain premises stop. Looking for hidden meanings that require a host of unsustainable assumptions are unacceptable to me. Simply because there shall be no end to such interpretations; depending on what you want and how many unsustainable assumptions you can tolerate, one can prove anything through such methods. But I do not think that helps us understand the situation better. Therefore, I fail to understand what is wrong with these letters. If there are any other justifiable interpretations, I certainly would like to know.

*******


Questions for Gods that discriminate

April 19, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

  1. All gods, including those written with a capital G, are created by humans.
  2. Suppose a person has an identity X, that is X can be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Brahmin or a Jat or a Rajaput or an Ahir, or …..
  3. Suppose this person X (let’s call him Mr. X) is a narrow minded person who wants to discriminate against people of other identities, say identity Y. That is Y also could be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Brahmin or a Jat or a Rajaput or an Ahir, or …..
  4. Since Mr. X is narrow minded and wants to discriminate against all Ys; he can create a god Lord G that is discriminatory and discriminates against all Ys.
  5. Now suppose Lord G becomes famous in a 100 years or so.
  6. Now this famous Lord G does not want to allow any Y to see Him, and does not want to bless any Y, and does not want to allow any Y to worship Him.

The question One: what is logical for all Ys?

  1. To force Mr. X to refashion Lord G to be a non-discriminatory god? Or
  2. To say that Lord G is narrow minded and discriminatory imagination, therefore, I don’t want to worship him?
  • Should all Ys work to weaken the discriminatory Lord G or to strengthen Him by wanting to worship him?

Question two:

  1. Does the narrow minded Mr. X has a right to create a God he likes and worship Him the way he wants to?
  2. Do Ys have a right to force narrow minded Mr. X to change his concept of God?
  3. Would it curtail Mr. X’s liberty of faith and practice his faith?
  4. Can people create Gods which allow some to worship and do not allow others?
  5. Can people create clubs with controlled right to entry?
  6. If yes to (e) above why not yes to (d) as well?

*******


John Singh: Digantar’s founder president

April 16, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

I am writing this with a deeply felt loss that John Singh (Jitendra Pal Singh), our founder president is no more with us in his physical existence, he breathed his last on 13th April 2016 night. I hope we will be able to uphold his values, and be guided by his social concerns and practical wisdom.

John’s field of action, of course, was much larger than Digantar. As far as I understand Digantar was really a very small part of it. But I am neither closely acquainted with all his personal and social work nor am able to give a fuller account of his personality and social contribution. All I am trying here is expressing our indebtedness as an organization to our founder president.

I have not met anyone like John and Faith (John’s wife) who would value an educationists opinion enough to abandon search for a good school for their own children and will start one in which their children could study with the marginalized children from the locality where they lived. John and Faith could afford any school in India or actually in the world for their children. In spite of that when David Horsburgh suggested that in the same amount of money they will spend for education of their own two children, they can provide good education to 25 other children as well. They reposed faith not only in this idea of David but also in, first one and then two, young inexperienced teachers who were trained by David. And thus Digantar was born.

And this proved only to be a beginning. Digantar in its initial phases was more closely guided by Faith in the pedagogy and activities; but John’s vision of its place in human life and social concerns, in which Faith agreed with him, was also crucial in guiding Digantar’s growth. Their decision to put their own children in a school where all other children were from very poor families and much below their social and economic status, and never ever demanding any special treatment for them from two teachers who were rather fanatical regarding treating every child as equal is something rarely, if ever, seen in present-day Indian society.

John’s involvement with Digantar children in sports, taking them for picnic in his own jeep and engaging them in various activities is something that helped tremendously both the teachers and the children grow in understanding and practice of human values. I wonder how he suffered the antics of two dozen free spirited children, unpalatable food cooked by them on picnic, and ideologically rigid teachers.

Personally I feel indebted to John for my own growth as a human being and confidence in what I stand for. Running a school which is totally different from all others in that part of the world, needed confidence and commitment; which I personally was not equal to in those days, if John and Faith’s support would not have been there.

He and Faith supported the school for 10 years personally, with their own money; and when the Digantar Shiksha Evam Khelkud Samiti was founded he guided it for many years. When the school and organizational activities grew he constantly supported that growth, guided in managing that, and that completely without a trace of micromanagement; gave complete freedom to the teacher. I and Reena will always be grateful for his unflinching confidence in our abilities as well as our moral compass.

Being a bad manager and having a strong propensity to be carried away with pure beauty of rational ideas I often got Digantar in financial and organizational trouble. Now when I look back it seem to me I could do that because deep down in my heart I believed that there is a protector in John who would bail us out. And John always bailed us out, to substantial personal financial loss, as well as protecting from harsh criticism in the organizational meetings.

At one particularly difficult time we spent money sanctioned for another project to keep the schools alive. When the funder was informed they demanded the money back; which was absolutely fair. John simply looked at the accounts, convinced himself there was nothing personal or wrong ethically. Asked us the reasons why did we do that? When we explained the danger of discontinuing education of 500 children he immediately understood and took on himself to negotiate a re-payment schedule with the funder, and convincing the funder that the mistake is only technical; without any financial misappropriation. I believe the funders were convinced because of John’s personality and personal responsibility for Digantar. He also helped financially with large amount to continue the work and allowed us to meet the re-payment schedule agreed upon with the funder. When I remember this incident it’s his protective instinct for Digantar which comes to my mind first, all else is just a manifestation of that.

His balanced attitude in guiding the organizational matters and appreciation of the value of the work being done was almost instinctive for him; it seems to me that all else naturally flowed from his deep humanism. Digantar at this moment is going through a crisis and John again got into action as soon as he knew about a year back. The schools are now slowly moving towards safety, and all people in Digantar are helping in that. But John’s distinctive guidance, posing faith in inherent strength of the organization and confidence in Reena’s efforts when no glimmer of hope was visible is something only he could have done. Though the executive committee as a whole is behind the efforts to get past the present crisis, I personally still get a feeling that Digantar is orphaned in a very significant sense.

John’s pride in Digantar’s work was obvious. Whenever he came to know about some new venture and success, or heard good word from someone among his numerous contacts he always shared and encouraged us. A few times he mentioned hearing good things from people who did not know that John is the founder president of the organization they were talking about. He shared such anecdotes with us with a satisfaction which showed his attachment to Digantar.

John was deeply spiritual without being religious or dogmatic. I have no trace of spirituality in me; but wish that his faith in soul and its evolution is correct; and that his spirit will continue to protect and guide us.

We will miss you dearly John.

******


What should be the nature of campus politics?

April 9, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

One important, some would say the most important, aim of education is to be able to do right kind of politics, or to keep politics directed to greater common good. Therefore, separating political thinking and action from education, particularly higher education, would go against the educational purposes. If politics is accepted as part of education in this sense then one also has to think of its nature in the campuses. It could be seen as part of the overall campus environment and culture. The environment and culture in campuses, however, may have to conform to some criteria that are in alignment with the educational purposes. And that may have some implications for the politics in the campuses.

In order to investigate the issue let us start with the politics as it is played out in our country in general. Politics, as the oft repeated truism goes, is always to capture power. However every politician would claim that she/he or his/her party wants to capture power so that they can make people’s lives better; that they are not trying to capture power for any vainglorious reasons or for personal gains. They want to ‘serve the people’ as the adage goes. However, we also know that in their pursuit of power all parties and almost all politician use lies, twist truth, make false promises, deceive the public and their opponents, indulge in character assassination and personal attacks, create animosity between communities and often indulge in direct or indirect violence. In short, we can say that in the politics, as it is played out in India, the principles of truth and morality are conspicuous only by their absence.

The political parties and politicians indulge in untruth and immorality partly because they define their greater common good keeping in mind the vote-politics. For example, promising reservation for the caste X, may or may not be in the benefit of the society as a whole, it may even violate the basic principles of the constitution; but if it is likely to get votes then politicians will promise it, even when they know that they cannot fulfil the promise.

One can of course argue that when politicians are responding to the demand of caste X for reservation they are responding to aspirations of a section of population; and that is what democracy is all about. But public aspirations can be motivated by jealousy, selfishness, animosity to the others, and so on. They may be justified as per the constitution and morality, but may also be unjustified. When a politician looks only at the vote-catching potential of a policy and disregards legal and moral demands s/he is indulging in immoral politics.

Now the very idea of an educational institution like a university is based on setting time and place apart from the mundane routine of life. Here the students are not expected to either produce something nor are they expected to render any direct service to the society. The idea is that they are preparing themselves for producing goods and rendering services in future. By the time the students reach the university it is not the case that they cannot directly contribute to production and services; it is rather that they deepen their understanding and hone their skills to meet higher standards in whatever they produce and whatever services they render. Thus the idea of academic standards in knowledge and skills is the guiding factor in a university. Another aspect of education is directly related to the educatee’s own life: so that s/he can work out her own life goals and ways of achieving them. This, again, demands standards of knowledge and skill.

Contributing to the society as well as choosing one’s own life goals have a strong ethical dimension to it. They demand meeting some moral standards in one’s behaviour, actions and thinking. Educational campuses then demand certain standards of truth and morality. That raises the question of nature of politics in the campuses. Obviously, the nature of politics there in cannot be the same kind of politics which is done outside; simply because it violates the very principles of truth and morality; and university campuses are especially created to develop understanding of and commitment to these very principles.

This is not an argument to ban politics in the universities; neither is this an argument to tightly control and monitor university student politics. However, it certainly puts some responsibility on the university teachers and administration. One of these conditions is simply the quality of knowledge and pedagogical processes in the universities.

A university that fails in teaching standards of and commitment to truth is certainly not doing its job. It can fail in this venture in many ways: by providing partial information, by failing to teach rigour of reasoning, by failing to teach distinction between subjective emotional reaction and reasoned argument which can take others’ view point in account, and by indoctrination. It can also fail to create a commitment to truth: meaning commitment to seek evidence and argument for believing or disbelieving something. Or it can fail to develop moral commitment to truth: that what is true is true, even if it is inconvenient or even against my purposes.

The second part of the university teaching has to be the flourishing of people, well-being of all in the society to which a student is likely to contribute as well from which s/he is likely to draw her/his own purposes, joys, energy and fulfilment of life.

All this suggests that the campus politics has to set higher standards of fidelity to truth, to moral standards and to democratic norms. It has to be a politics of principles and not that of power. Otherwise it contributes nothing to the political scenario of the country and becomes simply a ploy for indoctrination into various hardened positions. Indoctrination is completely antithetical to academic standards.

We should realize that indoctrination is not a simple acceptance of a view on something, not a simple acceptance of a belief. It means installing a belief in one’s mind at such a deep level and with such complete blindness that one becomes incapable of examining the truth of that belief. It becomes an article of faith; it becomes a yardstick to measure other beliefs. An indoctrinated mind is necessarily a closed mind, and an indoctrinated person is nothing but a tool in the hands of those who indoctrinate him/her.

Recently an activist friend quoted another famous activist saying that ‘whenever there is complaint of sexual harassment I (the famous activist) can take only one stand: that the woman is right. Period.’ Now we all know that sexual harassment by men is rampant and women are most often the victims. But this refusal to check facts and being guided by the fixed principle that in such cases ‘woman is always right’ is indoctrination; it blinds the person completely. This person cannot entertain questions and cannot serve the truth. This is elevating a personal bias to the level of a religious dogma. This kind of dogmas can be of many hues and about many groups of population. A dalit or a higher caste person can be ‘always right’. A Hindu or a Muslim can be ‘always right’. A rich or a poor can be ‘always right’. Such dogmas give a lot of psychological solace to their believers, the decision for them becomes much easier and almost mechanical. Questioning them becomes psychologically disturbing. But they also make the world black-and-white, and the believer a mindless bigot.

In such a situation there can be no place for questions and demanding facts and justifications. Anyone who demands facts and sound arguments is name-called and derided. In general this is the politics RSS-group has been doing for long. The terms like “sicular”, “prestitute”, “AAPtard”, etc are product of this kind of mindless attack. The campus politics now is well advanced on this path. Watch the questions Kanhaiya asks of Makarand Paranjape after his lecture. None of his 5 questions has anything to do with the lecture. They all are about ‘what is your party?’ and whether ‘you condemn this or that?’. This is the student mind that the present day campus politics produces.

Ask JNU teachers and students (only those who are visible in in this supposed to be fight for democracy) whether there is a difference between ‘slogan shouting’ and ‘discussion’ on an issue? Ask them to substantiate the claim made by one of them that India illegally occupies Kashmir. Ask them to clarify whether they reject the Indian state? And if they do, what attitude Indian state should take towards them? All you will get is a tag of being with the ‘right wing’. No clarity, no answers.

Ask the Hyderabad protesters what does ‘institutional murder’ mean? Ask them to justify their claim that Hyderabad University wilfully murdered Rohith Vemula. Ask them whether it is justified to demand resignation of a VC solely on the basis of the charges you stick on him, without any enquiry? Ask them to explain the crossed text and other lines in Rohith Vemula’s suicide note; and all you will get is BJP did this or that, or you are an anti-dalit.

In these two cases the students are playing in the hands of a certain kind of politics. Then comes NIT Srinagar. There seems to be a deliberately created situation which pitches non-Kashmiri students against the Kashmiri students. Giving the signal that ‘if you can create a mountain out of a mole hill in JNU, we can do the same in NIT Srinagar’. If you can indoctrinate some students in ‘leftist’ politics we can indoctrinate some others in the ‘rightist’ politics. The casualty in the both cases are truth and ethics. We see the attack on the universities in terms of capturing them from outside, but we ignore the rot that is being set in them from inside. The rot which is the enemy of all that a university should stand for: rigorous commitment to truth and ethics, fair thinking, taking all facts into account and keeping our biases under check.

Biased and theoretically blinded teachers and students are a much bigger danger to the universities than anything else. International support created on the basis of personal connections cultivated over years does not necessarily serve the truth. Even Chomskys can be misled by their trusted colleagues.

******


A bigoted fight with unfair means

April 7, 2016

Rohit Dhankar

(1)

“There are three elements necessary to correct reasoning, first, the correctness of the facts or conclusions I start from, secondly, the completeness as well as accuracy of the data I start from, thirdly, the elimination of other possible or impossible conclusions from the same facts. The fallibility of the logical reason is due partly to avoidable negligence and looseness in securing these conditions, partly to the difficulty of getting all the facts correct, still more to the difficulty of getting all the facts complete, most of all, to the extreme difficulty of eliminating all possible conclusions except the one which happens to be right.”[1]

This is Aurobindo’s diagnosis of untenable conclusions. These untenable conclusions lead to unwarranted public posturing and action. We can add a fourth source of problem in correct reasoning which Aurobindo mentions in the same article, he says, “the mind must have some development of the faculty of dealing with words before it can deal successfully with ideas.” If we leave out the chronological part, that of order of acquiring facility in words and ideas, the claim that “words” (read language) plays the most fundamental part in reasoning can hardly be doubted.

Therefore, the education that wants to help people develop into independent minded citizens, so essential for a democracy, has to teach them to be respectful to: 1. Accuracy and clarity of language, 2. Correctness of facts, 3. Completeness of data (facts), 4. Logical correctness of conclusions, and 5. Elimination of other possible conclusions.

(2)

If one goes by Dewey all social groups want to continue their existence. In brief this continuation is in terms of shared meaning of experience and interaction of mutual interests. The conservative societies maintained this shared meaning of experience through the force of custom reinforced by some custodian class. But “social groups which are intentionally progressive, and which aim at a greater variety of mutually shared interests in distinction from those which aim simply at the preservation of established customs. Such societies were found to be democratic in quality, because of the greater freedom allowed the constituent members, and the conscious need of securing in individuals a consciously socialized interest, instead of trusting mainly to the force of customs operating under the control of superior class.”[2]

A democratic society, therefore, is vulnerable to fragmentation of meaning of experience if the mutual interests of its members do not interact on a fair and sympathetic manner. Indian society has been trying to format itself on the democratic lines in terms of creating shared meaning of experience and fair interaction of mutual interests for last at least 125 years. We have achieved a measure of success in this direction but we have also very disturbing and significant failures.

When the shared meaning gets fragmented in a society one has to go a level up in developing a social philosophy which accommodates all competing interests and recreates the shared meaning and shared commitment in all its members.

(3)

This is where the Aurobindo quote in the beginning of this article comes into play. The people engaged in highlighting the fragmented meaning of experience and unfair emphasis on interests of the some may take a position where their aim seems to be only pointing out the fragmentation and consequent injustice. Or, alternatively, they can take a position where highlighting the injustice and inequality is part of the project where the ultimate aims is to arrive at a more shared meaning, greater possibility of justice and equality. When one emphasises only the earlier one is aiding in making the problem more intractable; and finally pushing towards a breakdown of the social and political order. When one is also considering the latter without diluting the first one is striving to achieve a more just and equitable order. The so-called left intellectual at the moment are engaged in the first.

The other side of the coin is represented by the BJP-forces. They want to preserve the order through imposed traditional meaning, completely ignoring the fragmented meaning of the very symbols they want to use for this; Ex. Bharat Mata and cow. Their ideal is not freedom to each individual to create his/her own meaning which also aligns with the creation of shared interests taking into account all perceptions and aspirations. Their project seems to be to bulldoze everyone into an imagination of society and state which they have formed, based on particularly unpalatable aspects of a single culture.

Both are intent on their own little victories. In this process they are distorting the meaning of words (Exs. nationalism, patriotism, institutional murder, etc.). Both parties are suppressing, distorting, and manufacturing ‘facts’ (see the media reposts); jeopardising completeness and veracity of the facts. Both are using untenable logical inferences and indulging in fallacies. Both are picking up the kind of conclusions that suit their purposes and without properly eliminating the other possible conclusions. Thus, failing on all the criteria of sound reasoning listed by Aurobindo.

As result, the language has become ambiguous; the reliability of information providing systems (media) has plunged very low. The people are becoming more and more unsure of their own minds and are depending on chosen leaders for opinion.

This is very beneficial for both the warring formations. As the success of their purposes depends not on factually informed, capable in proper reasoning and fair minded public. It rather depends on feeding distorted information, blurred reasoning, and indoctrinated public. The numerous left formations of students and ABVP both are very good prototypes of uninformed, very zealous, indoctrinated brigades ready to attack whomsoever their masters command. In the process a whole generation of bigoted (be that to the right or to the left) population in capable of reasoned judgment.

In this little piece I have stated only the general argument and have not given expels to instantiate each conclusion in the chain. Partly because of lack of time and partly because examples are plenty in the media and will come to the minds of the readers automatically.

*******

[1] Aurobindo, A system of national education (page 408) in Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, (2003),

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry

[2] Dewey, (1916, 1948 reprint), Democracy and Education, pages 375-6, The Macmillan Company, New York.