Lathicharge on #OccupyUGC Student Protestors for WTO Subsidies
On October 28, 2015 a huge number of students sitting outside UGC office in Delhi, protesting against UGC’s decision to do away with non-NET fellowship were brutally lathicharged and detained, by a dictatorial force of Delhi Police, and CRPF. Around 15 students have been injured severely, including JNUSU’s president Kanhaiya Kumar. The torture did not stop there, but continued inside the bus, disobeying all custodian laws. Female students were beaten up by male police officials, and individually tortured inside the bus.
These students are protesting from the moment when UGC took the decision of discontinuing non-NET fellowship, have been doing campaigns throughout day and night in various campuses, and have also raised the demand of extending fellowship to all state universities. Instead of peacefully negotiating with the students, the administration and police resorted to such undemocratic measures for protesting students. While, on the other hand, MHRD minister, Smriti Irani, spared her not-so-precious time to meet BJP’s student wing, ABVP and ‘promised’ to withdraw the decision of doing away with fellowship. The lies and slanders of ABVP were exposed today when the administration sent the message in the form of CRPF and lathis to young researchers. Here, it must be noted that it is the second time in a row that students occupied UGC’s office and administration responded in this manner. The undemocratic, dictatorial, and fascist attitude of BJP has insulted the entire student community, and education, as a whole, when its student wing is busy celebrating the ‘resolution’ of the issue.
Education: A service or commodity?
The decision that UGC has taken is not a spontaneous one, rather it has a long history of commodification of education, behind it. In February, 2015 a committee was set up, owing to students’ demands of increasing the meagre amount of fellowship from 5k, 8k to 10k,15k respectively, named ‘Fellowship Enhancement Committee’. The decision that this committee took was “considered and resolved to discontinue”, as if it was mocking students’ demands and right to education.
This process of commercialization of education began with the trade regulations set up after World War II, when the world’s capitalists and politicians assembled in Bretten Woods to create two institutions: the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund. Although, the stated purpose was reconstruction of destroyed nations, but in reality it performed the role of deconstructing the economies in order to privatise all assets of the prey nation. This character of clearing the history of nation and rewriting it so as to make the ventures profitable for capitalists, is well exposed by brilliant work of Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine).
Many liquidations in trade barriers were brought, and indebted nations were forced to adopt structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), on the condition of opening the prey’s market to predators. It was during this period that WTO and GATS were founded in the famous Urugay Round of 1995. It was the first time that the term ‘service’ was used in international treaties which implied a flexible entry of foreign capital in the service sector, including education and health. The special clause of WTO-GATS include that the developing country will not ‘discriminate’ on any grounds, i.e. it will not discriminate between the indigenous firms and foreign firms in providing space to exercise control over the market. Interestingly, the firm that enters the nation is called ‘supplier’ in the WTO-GATS documents, which is actually like a parasite feeding upon valuable resources of the nation. Also, the upcoming session of WTO-GATS December, 2015 is all set to promote privatization of hitherto existing institutions and opening up new private universities in India.
BJP is playing the perfect role of an obedient, hungry dog of imperialism, of making service sectors the playground of multinationals, and sharing the profit they will earn from snatching the fruits of hard labour done by toiling masses. At the same time, it is well prepared with its plan of manufacturing consent against dissenting voices, either in the name of cow safety or that in love-jihad’s.
Voices of Dissent
The year began with a huge protest by FTII students against the communal recruitment of five FTII society members, and is still continuing. Simultaneously, a ban was imposed on Ambedkar-Periyar study circle in IIT, Madras on the charges of spreading anti-national thoughts. Both these were fascist attempts of sanskritization of education and criminalizing minority’s voice. When FTII students were protesting, on a dark night, a conspiracy was sketched and they were arrested. The state machinery entered in to help the sacred orders of their bosses. A similar tactic was used to crush the campaign of independent women students against gender discriminatory practices, whereby ABVP goons called up an activist, only to threaten her to withdraw the campaign. During the protest against UGC’s unfair move, ABVP is lying to distract students from reality and a bus carrying hundreds of ABVP members came in the JNU campus today, and took students to Israeli Music Concert, while protesting students were beaten up brutally by their party!
It is crystal clear that state machinery, including police, its goons, its bureaucracy/administration, have decided to criminalize all voices collectively, so as to satisfy their bosses in WTO. The development model that was projected in 1980s, and which is being projected now has only one difference, that this one will be more rigorous in opening shops of education.
Politics? Nah, that’s boring
Liberalization has not only brought drastic changes in the socio-economic lives of people, but has also affected their psychological mindsets dramatically. The independence movement, led primarily by two blocs, Congressian and Revolutionary, finally culminated into an agreement upon limitations on the use of India’s resources without much changes in the actual structure of society. But, the nation was so politicised that it soon started questioning the innumerable promises done by ruling parties. Naxalbari movement is a result of this political consciousness which challenged the Nehruvian state for its anti-people attitude. The following years saw Emergency, Telangana struggle, 1984 riots which were imposed on the masses to bury the criticism. But, the strategic burying started when the multinationals entered in India, and brought with them imperialist culture.
This culture spoke of Pepsi, Reebok, and Duke to mesmerize the nation by their beauty and perfection. The youth which had never seen something better than rubber sleepers, and kurtas were very much impressed by the Denims of global world. They soon started dancing to the tunes of Michael Jackson, Adele, and Eminem, only to forget about their people’s struggle. The kurta and bag, which used to be a symbol of gratitude among people, signifying comradeship became an insult, and they were replaced by colourful T-shirts and jeans. Those who talked about politics and harsh realities of life were laughed at, and tagged as ‘Negative’ individuals. Individualism was so much penetrated into lives of people that they thought reciting romantic verses at a hill station was far more cool than discussions on peasants’ struggle in a village.
This process has given rise to a new theory called Positivism, with writers like Chetan Bhagat, comedians like Kapil Sharma, and actors like Salman Khan as its advocates within the nation. It talks of late night parties, one night stands, four bottles whisky, and yet, loving and lovable people who help the needy. The coolness that it wishes to exhibit is exposed in the recent advertisement of Pepsi whereby striking students are mocked. This hegemonic culture is altering the atmosphere of educational campuses as well, which have either become centres of supplying machines to industry or that of isolated researches which have nothing to do with society. Researches in history are seen as something useless, and that on rats are considered valuable by the youth of this nation.
“However, they won’t say: the times were dark
Rather: why were their poets silent?”
These motivating lines of Bertolt Brecht are the ones we must treasure and respect today. Hundreds of protestors are still fighting for the only source of income for young researchers all over India. The demand is simple i.e. put an end to all attempts of commercializing education and provide scientific, equal education to all. We must oppose the conscious marginalization of workers-peasants who make this nation worth living and yet suffer the most. UGC must withdraw its anti-people decision, extend fellowship to state universities, and increase the fellowship from 5k, 8k to 10k, 15k for M.Phil and PhD students respectively.
It is high time that all progressive, democratic individuals and organizations come together to join hands with the Occupy UGC movement, and save education from becoming a privilege for a specific section. In an atmosphere where a man is murdered on a mere doubt of his having consumed beef, we certainly need fellowship to carry out researches in social psychology!
Nikita Azad is a student activist, gender rights activist, from Patiala, Punjab.