I am writing to express my deep dismay at the recent incidents at the University College, and more importantly, at your near-total inexcusable and cowardly passivity that not only permitted the culture of violence to grow in this institution, but also allowed the situation to be such that the aggrieved young people continue to be ostracized and threatened by fellow-students. It escapes my reason why responsible authorities at University College cannot recognize a few basic facts about higher education in post-independence democratic India : (1) the fact that all students, irrespective of caste, class, gender, and other such considerations, have equal rights of access and equal mobility inside the campus, and of course, an equal right to justice, (2) that violence by any section of students against other students is not permissible and must invite prompt action by authorities, (3) that any section of students subjected to violence have full rights to complain and obtain redressal, (4) that the dignity of women students is protected by law and the institution is bound to take action against erring parties following the process laid down by the law.
I can continue adding to this list, but I want to raise something here which the newspapers and other media have relatively ignored: your silence and compllicity in enabling violence. I wish to stress this: blaming students who behave like criminals may be necessary, but worse is your abandonment of responsibility. These are mostly very young people, in their teens or barely out of it. If they seek to enforce violent control over others, especially over women, it speaks of your failure. What kind of citizens have you produced, collectively? As a citizen and a tax-payer who contributes to the fat salaries you take home, I have a right to ask: who paid you to turn young people into social menaces, who allowed you to let them deteriorate into misogynists and monsters?
The women students who complained about the aggressive and sadistic attacks of male gangs who bolster the SFI there continue to live in fear. They are being stalked by motorcycle gangs; they could enter the campus only with the support of their mothers who accompanied them. The authorities there (yes, not the students) behaved crudely to these parents. These young women’s experiences were trivialized and even the police have been shamefully lax. I am a historian and I do know that the University College has a very long history of confining women to a corner, evident from documents produced from there, including old college magazines. There could have been a small period of some change in between, but it appears that things have never been as bad as they are now. The fact that teachers were unable to reassure and protect the aggrieved students only reveals how puny you are as human beings.Investigate the charges against these young women filed afterward by all means – though I cannot see how they legitimise the use of force by the so-called activists of the SFI – but stop supporting the violent.
I know that there a few brave souls among the teachers there who have worked tirelessly, braving the violent minions of the SFI leader-gang, to democratize college life there. I salute them. My questions are not to them, but the passive, largely privileged, shameless remainder who lick the soles of the politically powerful and turn a blind eye to the evil perpetrated by their student-minions. I can imagine some if you smirk – those of you who wallow in social privilege, who think the fat UGC salaries are your birthright. All I say is, shame on you, because you are nothing but useless parasites on this society. I can see some others throw up their hands in exasperation, saying that resisting these barbarians would be fatal. My sympathies are with you, but the fact that you have not even tried to build collective resistance is inexcusable. To those of you who try to build up the place academically, organizing seminars and other events, in the hope that this will somehow compensate for the ugly lack of functioning democracy in the place, I really pity you, because your truly earnest labours are entirely fruitless. To parents, I have nothing to say – I cannot make sense of your blindness. You imagine that what goes on there will not affect your ward, and that is a blindness which implies that you really do not care for your children. It appalls me is that teachers do not see that higher education in general, and especially the Arts and Humanities, is essentially a preparation for full citizenship. It is incumbent on you to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the education you impart orients your students towards democracy.
I refused the invitation to speak on the idea of the public sphere at one of your departments tomorrow, simply because I cannot bear the irony. The Habermasian public sphere is an idea that excludes too many exclusions, but to discuss even that in a place run by spineless authorities, infested by reckless, small-minded, insecure, and violent men who claim to be students, with cowardly, cunning, or helpless teachers and foolish parents watching passively, is sheer self-torture for me.
Given that your true colours are now completely revealed, I am boycotting your institution academically, until the day you abandon your passivity and complicity to render justice to the aggrieved young women. Why throw pearls before the totally unworthy?