Statement of Jadavpur University Alumni Against University Decision to Scrap Entrance Examinations

Following is a statement of Jadavpur University alumni on the current controversy around the scrapping of the entrance examination by the university authorities. 

There is also a Change.org petition that has been put up for those wanting to sign. Over 5075 people have signed the petition at last count.

Thos who who wish to sign in solidarity with Jadavpur University teachers, students and staff can do so here.

We, the alumni of Jadavpur University, unequivocally condemn the decision of the authorities to not conduct entrance examinations for admission to the university’s Bachelor of Arts programme.

Several departments of the Jadavpur Arts Faculty annually conduct their own entrance examinations. For the last forty years, teachers have carefully prepared question papers and rigorously evaluated the answers in order to admit the candidates that they deem fit. The tradition of the entrance examination, in which thousands of students participate every year, has ensured that the Faculty of Arts continues its legacy of academic excellence. No weightage is given to Board examination marks because the Boards’ prescribed methods of arts education and evaluation simply do not match those of tertiary education in the humanities. The entrance examinations test students for their interest in literature, history, philosophy and arts, their ability to think independently about texts, and their commitment to understanding the world around them using the skills of reasoning and speculation, the theoretical and methodological capital furnished by the humanities.

The entrance examination has enabled these departments to gain talented students year after year. Many of us would have never made it to the top-ranked Arts departments in the country had we been judged solely on the basis of our marks in school-leaving examinations. Admissions based on Board exam scores would have never enabled students from varied cultural, class and economic backgrounds to be trained in the humanities by the best minds in the country. The rich and diverse professional accomplishments of Jadavpur University alumni – in art, academia, film, entrepreneurship, publishing, writing, advertising and many other fields – constitute a further testament to the success of these departments in scouting and honing talent. First-person accounts of how the erstwhile admissions process created equality of opportunity and access for students from across a range of social and educational backgrounds have poured in from Jadavpur alumni since yesterday (3/7/2018). (To read personal testimonials and opinion pieces from faculty, alumni, staff and current students regarding the significance of the admission process, visit https://juforadmissiontest.wordpress.com/)

The admission test is a time-tested process which has ensured academic excellence in the Faculty of Arts and brought glory to the university. To tamper with this process is to threaten the very core of the humanities – to attack free thinking, liberty, and equality of opportunity. It directly undermines the dreams and hopes of the 17,000-odd students who have applied to Jadavpur University this year. Among these 17,000, there must be brilliant young minds that couldn’t obtain 90% or more in the Board examinations. Their merit cannot be reliably boxed into multiple-choice questions. There must be, in those 17,000, young people who do not seek conventional careers, or if they do, wish to combine them with independent thinking, exploring and lifelong learning.

To stop the admission test is to kill the dreams of anyone who does not participate in the mad rat race of public examinations. It is an attack on the community of scholars, researchers, teachers, alumni, students, and staff who have carefully built up the university and its reputation over the years. To stop the admission test is to tear into the very fabric of the university – its tradition and its history. We must recall that Jadavpur University was set up as an alternative to the education imparted by the erstwhile rulers of India, the British. It has always been home to those who dare to defy norms.

The larger implications of this administrative decision concern the scope and function of higher education in this country. Do we, as a nation, wish to create a more homogenised and technocratic culture that rewards learning by rote, or do we wish to invest in greater autonomy for centres of excellence? Difference and dissent are what all democracies should aspire to; they are the touchstones of any free and open society, and any administration that encourages these tendencies signals its confidence in itself and hope for the future. What we are seeing here is, accidentally or not, congruent with a larger attempt to fundamentally redefine the idea of higher education, to increase administrative interference in universities large and small, more and less prominent (similar conflicts are playing out in JNU, to cite just one example) and to condemn generations of young people to the backwaters of real learning, thought and creativity.

As concerned alumni, we strongly condemn the decision of the authorities to take away independent admission tests from the Faculty of Arts. We demand an immediate revocation of this order, which irrationally, pointlessly, and appallingly undertakes to disrupt a fair and successful admission process. This disruption will impact the futures of countless students, and reduce the entry-point of tertiary education in the humanities to a lottery.

We stand in solidarity with the protesting teachers, students and staff of Jadavpur University. Continue reading “Statement of Jadavpur University Alumni Against University Decision to Scrap Entrance Examinations”

Great Dance of Return in Gaza – Performing Palestinian Dabke in the Midst of Zionazi Attacks

This dance – the Palestinian Dabka – was performed amidst firing by Israeli Zionazis  on the 30th of June 2018. Remember the cowards stepped up their attack on Gaza as the holy month of Ramzan began. This video has all the ambient noises – of the firing of bullets and other war sounds and is therefore worth listening to. It has also gives you a sense of the extremely tense situation at the border.

To listen to the cleaner version, where you can hear the sound of the music more clearly, click here and listen to the second video.

 

Citizens’ Solidarity with Voices of Democracy – Against the Arrest of Five HR Activists

[This is a statement of solidarity endorsed and signed by over 200 intellectuals, artists, academicians, lawyers, journalists, and students in support of the five arrested in connection with Bhima-Koregaon case. In the 43rd year after Emergency was declared in this country, this statement was issued on June 25th 2018 condemning the arrest of such voices of democracy and demanding their immediate and unconditional release.]

We condemn the arrest of five human rights activists, professors and lawyers in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon clashes early this year. The alarming arrest of Advocate and General Secretary of Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL) Surendra Gadling, Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) Public Relations Secretary Rona Wilson, Head of English Department Professor Shoma Sen of Nagpur University and member of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), cultural activist and founder of Republican Panthers Jaatiya Antachi Chalwal Sudhir Dhawale and anti-displacement activist and Prime Ministers Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF) Mahesh Raut is a clear manifestation of state terror to crush the voices of dissent in this country.

The intemperate use of sections of the IPC and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on all five reveals legal over-reach and exposes the desperation to foist extraordinary and excessive charges on all five to ensure they remain in the clutches of the Fadnavis-Maharashtra government. All the arrested have consistently worked for the assertion of oppressed and marginalised communities against majoritarian forces, spoken out against Brahmanical patriarchy, upheld peoples’ rights to land, life and dignity, and have strived for the release of political prisoners.

Continue reading “Citizens’ Solidarity with Voices of Democracy – Against the Arrest of Five HR Activists”

Thoothukudi Massacre – When State becomes Predator: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

Thoothukudi protests – Image courtesy LiveMint

On 22nd May 2018, in what cannot be imagined even in a dictatorial regime, the police in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu – a South Indian state opened fire to kill, on a group of peaceful protesters marching towards the district administration office demanding denial of permission for expansion and closure of the existing copper smelting plant of Sterlite. Sterlite is a subsidiary of the London based corporation Vedanta, which has been dumping toxic waste all over this town since 1998 resulting in widespread health hazards including increase in reports of cancer. This massacre is unimaginable even in the worst dictatorial regimes, because not only were known national and international legal norms and protocols in crowd/riot control violated, but also because the video clippings that have surfaced after the massacre seem to indicate sufficient premeditation – with a plainclothes sniper on the top of a van being ordered to kill at least one person. Continue reading “Thoothukudi Massacre – When State becomes Predator: Bobby Kunhu”

The Karnataka Moment and the Search for a ‘Bonapartist’ Figure – Looking at 2019

There are enough reasons for for the upbeat and celebratory mood in the anti-BJP-RSS camp following the resignation of BS Yeddyurappa even before the floor test. After all, for once, the game plan of the Modi-Shah duo fell flat, thanks in no small measure, to the Supreme Court’s intervention in directing that the floor test be done by 19 May, knocking down the (RSS) Governor’s initial provision of 15 days to the government to prove its majority. In a manner of speaking, we escaped just by the skin of our teeth.

Both the parties concerned – the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) – were on tenterhooks throughout and the surreal accounts of the high drama of the past three days read like they could be about the nether worlds of crime and mafias. Offers to buy off MLAs with money ranging from Rs 5 crores and a ministry to Rs 100 crores have openly been alleged but these were the relatively minor matters. Congress and JD (S) MLAs were not allowed to leave Bengaluru as their chartered flights were ‘denied permission’. [An MLA, in fact told the Times of India, in the same report linked here that by manipulating resources, the BJP had ‘caged us’ in the state]. Their security cover was withdrawn. The management of the resort in Kochi (another state, not even ruled by the BJP) they had booked into by the Central leadership, actually backed out stating that they were under tremendous pressure. Then began the trip by road to Hyderabad, where eventually, it was the Telengana police that ensured their safety. Stories of individual MLAs, either being offered with withdrawal of pending cases or being threatened with harassment with new ones have also been doing the rounds. And for those who have been following what has been happening to the AAP MLAs in Delhi, nothing of this should be unbelievable.

Continue reading “The Karnataka Moment and the Search for a ‘Bonapartist’ Figure – Looking at 2019”

How the Supreme Court gave up on Democracy in Karnataka: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

There is all around jubilation in the anti-BJP, particularly the Congress camp that the Supreme Court has cut short the time given to Yediyurappa by the Governor to prove his majority from 15 days to 24 hours. This jubilation is extremely myopic and self serving and is in no way rooted in the tall claims that the Congress has been making about trying to save the Constitution. All the Supreme Court order does is reduce the window of opportunity for the BJP to indulge in horse trading and increase the chances of the Congress-JDS combine to keep their flock together and win the assembly – and also substantially reduce the resort costs.

Continue reading “How the Supreme Court gave up on Democracy in Karnataka: Bobby Kunhu”

Open letter to the Prime Minister of India on the Kathua and Unnao Rape Cases – The Full Text

To,

The Prime Minister of India,

Prime Minister’s Office, South Block,

Raisina Hill, New Delhi 110 001.

21 April 2018

Mr Prime Minister,

We are academics and independent scholars from India and abroad, writing to express solidarity with, and to endorse the sentiments expressed by, forty-nine retired civil servants in their open letter to you of April 16th 2018 (https://thewire.in/politics/narendra-modi-open-letter-kathua-unnao).

Along with these civil servants and countless other citizens of India and the world at large, we wish to express our deep anger and anguish over the events in Kathua and Unnao and the aftermath of these events; over the efforts, in both cases, of those administering the relevant States to protect the alleged perpetrators of these monstrous crimes; over the subsequent profoundly distasteful efforts of rationalisation, deflection and diversion that have been so much in evidence in the reactions of your party’s spokespersons in the media; and finally over your own prolonged (and by now familiar) silence that was broken only recently with wholly inadequate, platitudinous, and  non-specific assurances of justice for the victims. Continue reading “Open letter to the Prime Minister of India on the Kathua and Unnao Rape Cases – The Full Text”