Collective struggle strengthens autonomy: Saroj Giri

Guest post by SAROJ GIRI, continuing the discussion on roll-back of FYUP in Delhi University. 

Earlier posts on this issue are listed and linked to here.

Here is one way to make sense of the core issue at stake in Delhi University today – this piece by Nandini Sundar arguing that the UGC directive amounts to hampering institutional autonomy of DU.

But this is a flawed position in the present context. It conflates the autonomy of DU with the autonomy of the VC. It construes DU’s autonomy in narrow institutional terms, overlooking the larger movement of teachers and students which is also ‘DU’ and which has consistently opposed the FYUP.

Sundar suggests withdrawal of the UGC directive, the setting up of a DU committee to overhaul the programme, and deliberation in the Academic Council, this time taking proper heed of anti-FYUP views. But do we need a fresh round of discussion on the pros and cons of FYUP?

Absolutely not. For there have been tons of deliberations over the FYUP. Just go back to the minutes and records of the many different meetings and Committees, or recall the many demos and dharnas. There is ample evidence of deliberation where the members of the University have given sound reasons why the FYUP is bad.

Indeed, the picture presented that it is the Ministry or the UGC imposing its diktat from above is simply not true. It is not some committee in the UGC or Ministry which on their own have decided to stall the FYUP. For it is force of the movement against FYUP and the many, many voices active since the last few years who have prevailed now – it is this which is reflected in the UGC directive.

This directive is only formally from above – substantively, this is the voice of the movement. To overlook this is to indulge in narrow institutional fetishism.

If there had been no such movement or a broad coalition of forces against the FYUP, then I don’t think the UGC would have intervened – the so-called ‘loss of autonomy’ in this instance is in fact just the reverse. It is in fact the assertion of the autonomy, not just the narrow institutional autonomy of DU (which is what Sundar seems to work with) but the wider DU community now finding agency and able to influence policy and not just be kicked around by the VC’s tactics of intimidation and threats of ‘disciplinary action’ against any dissent.

We are faced with a terrific dictatorial power structure which has violated every ordinance and norm of democratic functioning in the university since the last few years and we have been unable to topple this structure. Now it looks like it can be toppled – so this structure must first go. And the movement is finding a concentrated voice in the UGC directive.

To ask for further discussion will be to give a breather, a handle, a stick to again reverse the recent gains and the momentum the progressive forces have got. This momentum, the movement of real people is what will help stall the RSS gameplan rather than any protection of some narrowly conceived institutional autonomy.

If for pure formal procedural reasons, some committee needs to sit – which I guess will be needed – then that can happen. But to suggest a fresh round of deliberation and again debate about the pros and cons of the FYUP will be to turn the wheel backwards or worse reinvent the wheel – and give the steering to the VC again. Right now, the movement as it exists has a good presence of progressive forces. To now restart another sequence would be very risky and the dangers about RSS Sundar talks about might then actually materialise.

The way to uphold the autonomy is not to shy away from now pushing this much-hated power bloc down the cliff. Instead, the way forward is by keeping the movement strong, so that tomorrow any bad decision by the UGC or the MHRD can be opposed – just the way in which the FYUP has been opposed and today the UGC and Ministry are having to sit up and notice.

When Modi came to power, somebody asked me what difference it will make to DU. Prompt was my reply: does not DU already have a Modi? In some senses, the present power bloc here is Modi, is the real RSS.

Lastly we have Nalin Kohli’s view that the FYUP is illegal. And Shashi Tharoor saying that it is not illegal. Tharoor writes that the FYUP had been ‘presented to and approved by the University’s Academic Council and its Executive Council, that too by lopsidedly overwhelming majorities’.

Neither knows the real dynamics of how it unfolded. It was legal in a very formal sense, but underneath it, underneath the seeming ‘overwhelming majorities’ was sinister arm-twisting, favoritist games and misuse of executive power by the University. Tharoor uses the argument of institutional autonomy to justify not intervening against the FYUP – that is an argument made in tremendous bad faith.

Which way institutional autonomy gets twisted and turned depends on the balance of forces – this is where we need a strong teachers-students-karamcharis movement. This is the moment to not just bring down the FYUP power structure but also assert the strength of collective struggle. After all, let us not forget the FYUP came laced with the intention of decimating any protest culture in the University.

One thought on “Collective struggle strengthens autonomy: Saroj Giri”

  1. This education system is totally hopeless and anti social, which produces parts of imperialist consumer machine without any sympathy with society. So any debate on these lines is fruitless.

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