International Mother Language Day: Ayesha Kidwai

Guest post by AYESHA KIDWAI

Happy International Mother Language Day. This day, declared by UNESCO, is straight up South Asia’s alley as it celebrates linguistic diversity and multilingualism. In other words, it celebrates each Indian.

Here’s what you can do from now on to celebrate it:
1. Resist Hindi imposition. An official language is not the national language. Persian was the language of administration for close to three hundred years, Sanskrit has been the language of knowledge for close to two thousand years, but neither were the only languages in the room. And we know what happened to those languages over time.

2. Defend diversity: Understand that, as in nature, numerical strength is not might (e.g., there may be more cockroaches in the world than humans), so if you belong to a large group of people, then this doesn’t mean that your language is better and more representative of the ‘heart and soul’ of ‘Indianness’. In India, literally hundreds of languages with populations ranging between 500 to 10,000 have flourished (many reported over all the Census) because

(a) mothers and fathers speak the language to their children in their homes beyond their school years, and Continue reading “International Mother Language Day: Ayesha Kidwai”

The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds

SEE UPDATE AT END OF POST, ADDED ON FEBRUARY 20, 2018

Student poster displaying a clear understanding of Foucault and surveillance. Compulsory attendance is really not needed at JNU!

Let us begin with a basic fact. The diktat on compulsory attendance in JNU is only a symptom of the larger, continuing crisis created by the utterly dictatorial style of functioning of this Vice Chancellor.

Professor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar has, since his taking over in January 2016:

  • openly flouted every statute and regulation of the university
  • shut down admissions almost entirely for the 2017 academic year
  • violated the law of the land, that is, constitutional provision for reservations
  • failed to implement JNU’s Deprivation Point system that attempts to bring about representation for students from a diversity of class, regional and caste backgrounds
  • shut down the country’s oldest functioning Committee on Sexual Harassment (GSCASH)
  • brazenly cooked up and manipulated Minutes of meeting after meeting of the Academic Council and
  • treated faculty and students of JNU as his enemies to be defeated by the naked use of authoritarian power.

Continue reading “The Vice Chancellor of JNU has lost all moral authority: A dossier of misdeeds”

His Smile Matters Too: Vikas Bajpai

Guest Post by VIKAS BAJPAI


Ram Teke Bhoi, rickshaw puller from Puri, Odisha

My search for Mr Bhoi, whose sketch I present above, had started on the 1st of January 2017. It culminated sometime around the middle of May 2017 in Puri while on my sojourn to the state of Odisha for conduct of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s entrance exam. Between these two points in time I shall try to weave a tiny story, albeit a true one, of the hundreds of millions of our country’s women and men who live by the sweat of their brow but are expected to remain content with the brow beatings they get in return. Mr Bhoi to me emerges as emblematic of this goings on.

In the last week of December 2016 our ‘twosome awesome’ daughters – Moozna and Amaira, my wife and I had been on a vacation to Meghalaya. On our return back home we decided to have a teat-a-tea with the rhinos at the Kaziranga National Park. Kaziranga in itself was a tame affair and is not relevant to the narrative I attempt to weave here. Rather your attention is solicited for something that transpired on our way back to Guwahati from Kaziranga.

Continue reading “His Smile Matters Too: Vikas Bajpai”

Development Outcomes And Politics in Gujarat: Atul Sood

Guest Post by ATUL SOOD

Development is back in focus after the endless noise about cow protection, nationalism, Hindu-Muslim, janeus, Shiv Bhakti, Gorakhpur governance, casteism, love jihad, enemy nation and the rest. Why this talk about development now? Perhaps the dissent and protests on the ground by various sections in Gujarat in the last few years have compelled even the diehards to acknowledge (Mr. Amit Shah recently said ‘It is not my point that the issues raised in those agitations are not an issue’), that something is deeply problematic about the “Gujarat Model of Development”. The ASHA workers have taken to the streets demanding a living wage, regularized working hours and social security; dalits are no longer silent about the violence, indignity and intimidation heaped upon them; displaced families from Sardar Sarovar Dams have occupied streets seeking rehabilitation; farmers are demanding reprieve from a crisis to which they have had no hand in creating; tribals and evicted farmers are protesting against showpiece infrastructure projects which have meant their displacement and destruction of human habitations; and the youth from cultivating castes are seeking guarantee for jobs.  The list is continuing.  

Continue reading “Development Outcomes And Politics in Gujarat: Atul Sood”

Was the ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjodaro actually a warrior?

NAMAN AHUJA, art historian, asks an exciting question that reminds us that the interpretation of artefacts, indeed, interpretation as such, is inevitably framed by the context of the viewer, and therefore always open to rethinking.

The image below is one that we are all familiar with, the exquisite sculpture of the ‘Dancing Girl’ found at Mohenjodaro.

Naman Ahuja, speaking to Anindita Ghose, suggests that the reading of this image as a dancing girl can be attributed to a perspective arising from the normalizing of patriarchal values prevalent in contemporary society. Ahuja offers an alternative reading that is much more persuasive:

The figure has bangles all the way up her left arm but her right arm is bare, as any working person would have it. A decorated left arm and a bare right arm free for labour…or for war? If she was a dancing girl by profession, surely it would have been relevant to keep both arms decorated? Look at the way she is standing. Look at her confidence. One arm on hip. Head thrown back. The way her hand is sculpted, there might have been a spear in her hand. Is she a warrior figure? Could she be a soldier rather than a dancing girl?

I can’t wait for this exhibition, India And The World: A History In Nine Stories,  to come to Delhi!

Nightmarish Visions – Indian government proposal for ‘Institutions of Eminence’: JNUTA

Statement by JNU Teachers’ Association

In early November, the JNU administration forwarded to all Centres/Special Centres/Schools, the Government of India proposal to establish twenty “Institutions of Eminence” to achieve world class status, from amongst the existing Government/Private institutions and new institutions from the private sector. It conveyed its intentions to submit an application to the UGC under the scheme and has asked Centres/Special Centres/Schools to provide comments on Part-1 – III [Vision for Institute of Eminence], Part-1 – IV [proposed fifteen year strategic plan], and Part-1 – VI [Proposed five years implementation plan] of the attached proforma.

This note from JNUTA is first to direct colleagues’ attention to the serious debate that this GoI plan has occasioned, in a country where higher education has simply failed to deliver in terms of access, quality, and justice — with a Gross Enrolment Ratio of just 20.4, as per the All India Survey of Higher Education (2013), it is the responsibility of educationists to query whether an outlay of Rs. 10,000 crore on ten institutions is warranted in the first place. (Please see the following pieces in favour of the proposal, and against it, in particular). Given that the goal of this whole initiative is a limited one of achieving a breakthrough into the world top 100 rankings, the teaching community must thoroughly discuss what rankings are good for anyway, and what significance the term ‘world class’ truly signifies, if the goals of education are essentially humanist and necessarily inclusive in character.

Continue reading “Nightmarish Visions – Indian government proposal for ‘Institutions of Eminence’: JNUTA”

Statement by concerned citizens on the continued incarceration of Hadiya

We, the undersigned concerned citizens, are greatly disturbed by news reports of the NCW in-charge, Rekha Sharma’s visit to meet Hadiya at the home of her father, Mr. Asokan, where she continues to be incarcerated. These reports raise more fears than they allay.

Ms Hadiya has been reported by Ms Sharma to be ‘healthy and happy’. However, Ms. Sharma goes on to state, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that while there is no ‘love jihad’ in Kerala, there are forced conversions.

It bears reiteration that Ms. Hadiya is a twenty four year old adult woman, who took a decision to convert to Islam, and then to marry a Muslim man. For this exercise of self determination, Ms. Hadiya has been placed under house arrest in her parents’ control, and this shocking violation of Ms. Hadiya’s personal liberty and her right to take decisions about her own life, has been endorsed by the legal system.

Continue reading “Statement by concerned citizens on the continued incarceration of Hadiya”