By Bikash Sarmah
The boiling cauldron that Delhi University (DU) campus degenerated into in the wake of an incident early this year, one would recall is a grim reminder of the often-misconstrued what a university should be like discourse, a discourse that has failed due primarily to facts intrinsic to the country’s university campus culture. It is a culture of nourishment of fledgling socio-economic-political ideas whose theatre has an array of students dressed up as smart and sensible political leaders of the future. Our own university for that matter, Gauhati University, the first university in the country’s northeastern region, is a classic example. Remember the six-year-long Assam Agitation? Remember how hostel boarders had graduated in campus politics with astonishingly flying colours by 1979 when the agitation was triggered – of course for a right cause even though as of now the cause has turned far more grave with the impending doom of Bangladesh-ization of Assam of the absolutist kind? And remember how Dispur happened to them and what followed?
But that is not the point here. What is, is what campuses like DU and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) are offering us. At JNU, it will be recalled, a similar outrage was witnessed last year over political aazaadi engineering vis-à-vis the Kashmir theatre of state and non-state violence in which the university, as a system of knowledge accumulation, research and implementation, does not and cannot have a stake as an aazaadi propaganda machine. It would, however, be a different matter if this university, otherwise hailed as prestigious, were to have intelligent students guided by intellectuals in its academia investing more time and energy in research in political engineering motivated by vested interests who are again mostly products of such discourses of the most unwanted and unnecessary kind. Hardly can research of the kind comparable with the best in the world be expected then. No wonder, the DU campus, following its JNU counterpart, has now the credit of it being a self-demonizing enterprise masquerading as intellectualism borne out of the lofty values of liberty of thought and freedom of expression.
Let it be clear that this piece may look like a Rightist discourse, given the fact that anything that leans towards tiolism based on what really constitutes the timeless and intertiolly acknowledged ethos of this ancient land of ours is branded ‘ultra’ and thus ‘fascist’, the zestful champion of this brand-giving community being the self-styled socialists in our Marxists. But what is often glossed over is whether liberty of thought and freedom of expression must stand as independent processes within the ambit of democracy as sanctioned by the Constitution of the country and whether freedom of expression is again a superset process of two independent set processes – private freedom of expression and public freedom of expression at a time when both mainstream and social media act as superb additiol trigger factors.
No sensible person in a democracy will have any issues with liberty of thought, because, at the psychological level, even in a dictatorship one does have that liberty. Is it not that a person bearing the brunt of authoritarianism is always free to think as he likes, is always free to channel his mind or thought processes as he likes, is always free to conduct thought experiments? He is definitely free. But turbulence sets in when the expression process suffers an engineering prompted by interests that go beyond the root cause of the thought processes. And it turns very grave when pseudo-intellectualism comes into play.
Secondly, when one is expressing himself privately, say in the confines of his dear and near ones or in a peer group, it is often an expression that has its genesis in his spontaneity without him bothering about what the Constitution decrees and what it does not, and how it builds up the idea of a state that is a political assimilation of diverse units of peoples quite distinct and with equally distinct causes and aspirations – such as a people in a remote village in galand and their Indian tion-state counterparts in a remote village in Tamil du. But when he operates in a public domain, his idea of a people within the integrated tion-state of which he is a citizen and who thereby enjoys a whole gamut of democratic privileges – no matter what and how the process of integration had taken place about seven decades back – ought not to run counter to the very idea of integration that forms the base of the democracy edifice that every Indian, if course this Indian is really an Indian in terms of mindset, is proud of.
So what this gentleman from the JNU campus, who was invited to speak at an event in DU’s Ramjaj College, was up to when he had the ‘democratic’ gumption to raise anti-India slogans at an event in his own campus last year and when to his succour a whole lot of ‘democratic secularists’ had rushed frenetically as if it were an election event based on a discourse of secularism versus commulism? This gentleman, in his lecture at the DU event as scheduled and cancelled later on, would surely not talk of the export of jihadi terror of the most savage kind exported by the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar from across our western border – with the ISI being a state within the failed state of Pakistan – to the Kashmir valley where again the anti-tiol breed of Hurriyat leaders, who very shamefully continue to enjoy all special Indian citizenship privileges including security and free travel, have gained wonderful expertise in provoking even minors to hit the streets to protest something that they do not know anything of at all and who must rather be in schools to secure their future.
It is rightly said that university campuses are the generators of profound knowledge that has its genesis not only in the accumulation of facts and figures and their storage in the tural memory chips that our brains are, but also, and more importantly, in the investigation into the veiled domains of knowledge where the seeds of epoch-making ideas and their implementation await fruition. The former function is in fact secondary. What a university should primarily be engaged in is research – investigation of the ingenious kind into a universe of ideas into which past and tested ideas could jell for their mutation into ideas that hold the promise of new ideas and a new trajectory of civilization. This, nonetheless, is an idealization. And this precisely is the tragedy in India, a very few exceptions apart – even these exceptions can be prefixed with so-called in the milieu of intertiol ranking.
It is not a debate of Left versus Right or secularism versus commulism or tolerance versus intolerance. It is debate of reason to be held in the faculty of mind. But when this faculty is corrupted by factors inimically extraneous to the domain of reason as prescribed by the sacred Constitution, all debates come to an end and violence begins. Both sad and shameful.
(Bikash Sarmah is a freelancer and may be reached at email@example.com)