Category Archives: Education

Against Aachaaram: A Dossier from Malayalam – Announcement

This is to announce a new series of postings I will be doing, relating to aachaaram in Kerala.

Aachaaram is loosely translated as ‘customary practices’ or ‘customary rituals’, but in 19th century Malayali society, it referred to a massive, inter-connected, all-pervading web of practices, rituals, and ideas which bolstered the domination of the upper-castes — in Kerala’s context, this meant the Brahmin-sudra nexus — over the lower castes. It touched the most intimate and personal aspects of a person’s life; through it,  the allegiances and the labour of lower caste communities were extracted to benefit the upper castes. The lower-caste assertions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries here, through which modern democracy became a possibility at all, were directed against this web. Aachaaram, however, survived this phase through shrinking its spatial presence to savarna homes and temples; later, after the re-consolidation of brahmin-sudra power, towards the end of the 20th century, the rise of spiritual capitalism had led to aacharam’s resurrection as the vehicle of gendered savarna power — and as the provider of opening gambits for the Hindu fundamentalists — in Kerala .

In this series, I will post translations of selections/excerpts from the writings of the critics of aachaaram from early 20th century Kerala, with short reflections on each for the present. The many different readings of Hinduism that arose in that period when the Brahmin-sudra nexus was thrown into confusion, as well as the many different dreams of social liberation from different parts of the world that entered Malayali society then — from C Krishnan’s Buddhism to Marxism — produced powerful critical exposures that revealed aachaaram to be nothing but a vehicle and instrument of the power of certain groups over others. The effort made by these voices to point to the danger that it posed to a dream of a just society was largely ignored by the mainstream, especially the mainstream left.

The first of these is an excerpt from a conversation between the well-known social revolutionary, the avarna-born seer, spiritual leader, and philosopher, Srinarayana Guru and his disciples in which the annual pilgrimage to Sivagiri was planned, which I will post separately.

 

Statement of Academics on Rabindra Bharati University Incident of Harassment

Dear Friends,

As some of you might be aware, our friend and colleague, Dr. Saraswati Kerketta (Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, Rabindra Bharati University), has recently been a victim of caste-based attack in the university. We write this statement to unequivocally condemn the attack.

We, the concerned faculty members/research scholars across institutions in India and abroad, are deeply disturbed by this incident of caste-based attack on Dr. Kerketta. Dr. Kerketta is a young faculty member from a Scheduled Tribe background, and the sole faculty member appointed in a substantive position in her department, thereby taking on the tremendous task of running the department on her young shoulders. This brazen instance of caste-based harassment meted out to her by a group of students who claim to be affiliated to a political party has hurt and disturbed us immensely as citizens of India. The nature of attack meted out to her – for instance she has been followed by the students up till home after the incident – also showcases the gendered nature of her vulnerability. The incident has been followed by mass resignation on the part of other faculty members from various positions in the university, thereby showing indirect proof of the same.

Continue reading Statement of Academics on Rabindra Bharati University Incident of Harassment

Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens

Recommendations on Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) by a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education.

We, a collective of women’s groups, queer groups, NGOs, students, and academics working in the field of gender, sexuality and education, across India strongly recommend and reiterate that for all the recommendations given here, the policy and thereafter, the Government of India and State Governments must ensure that there is a proactive strengthening of democracy within educational institutions. The right to expression, liberty, equality and diversity are rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. We welcome that the DNEP 2019 as it states that it will promote constitutional values in education. However, for the implementation of this objective, changes in the content of the curriculum will not suffice. Constitutional values must be protected in the processes and institutional structures of schools and higher education bodies.

We commend the policy for introducing the following provisions:

  1. DNEP 2019 addresses the issue of early childhood education, especially the timely recommendation of making Years 3 to 8 as a foundational stage. This becomes critical as early education and experiences are the most formative in a child’s life, and a holistic pre-school education continues well beyond traditional schooling years.
  2. It is the first policy to uphold the Honourable Supreme Court’s 2014 directives around transgender inclusion in education.
  3. The policy has taken cognizance of many children who continue to dropout at different levels, and the even more serious problem of enrolled children not attending school regularly.
  4. It seeks to strengthen departments/ centres of education at universities.

Having said this, the subsequent list of recommendations is laid down to strengthen the DNEP 2019 from the lens of gender and sexuality, especially for the most marginalised communities. We feel that gender and sexuality related rights could only be ensured if there is a larger enabling environment, in which diversity of thought and practices are respected. These, we feel, would be critical in developing a robust educational policy for the country, which would address the fundamental intersectionalities that individuals and communities face in their lives. Continue reading Draft New Education Policy 2019 through a Gender and Sexuality Lens

Draft New Education Policy 2019 – Mass Feedback Campaign: Better Universities

In support of the campaign launched by BETTER UNIVERSITIES.

The Government of India has finally unveiled the much-awaited draft of the National Educational Policy (NEP) 2019, and with that, has come a host of new issues to address and engage with.

To access a copy of the draft, please click here.

Here is the full point by point critique made of the Draft NEP by Better Universities, that anybody concerned about education in India should read very carefully.

At the end you will find the link that will take you the campaign for mass feedback on the NEP.

Response to the Draft National Education Policy 2019

Most significant point in my opinion:

What is even more damning is that the appointments to all statutory bodies in the higher education sector will have to be made by the RSA – and must, by default, await the nod of the Prime Minister. It is unambiguously stated that appointees to the NHERA, HEGC, NRF, NAAC and all other standard-setting bodies must report to the RSA and thus be beholden to the infirmities of political will and favour. Needless to say, this amounts to the NEP’s unashamed surrender to ruling party intervention and an effective imagining of higher education as subservient to political interests. Autonomy is shown the door, both structurally and ideologically – despite the Draft making a shrill pitch for it through the previous chapters.

Introduction

While the former HRD minister’s message (included in the Draft policy) congratulates the exercise as evolving “path breaking reforms” based on the “foundational pillars of Access, Equity, Quality, Affordability and Accountability”, the higher education sector is instead coming under greater political control and contributing to wider inequities with respect to institutional inputs and outcomes. Even the employment goals envisioned by the curricular reforms proposed in the Draft policy might produce greater job insecurities among students coming into higher education from across different social and economic backgrounds. Continue reading Draft New Education Policy 2019 – Mass Feedback Campaign: Better Universities

A Case of Harassment of Dalit Student in Jadavpur University: Srijan Dutta

Guest post by SRIJAN DUTTA

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility.

The line quoted above is from Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s ‘last’ letter, discovered after he was found hanging in his hostel room in January 2016. The letter had exposed how caste-based discrimination is used as a medium of oppression against Dalits and other minorities. Casteism serves both as an ideology and as a means for exploitation by the upper castes and upper classes of the Indian society.

Recently, a complaint has been made by a second year Masters student of the Department of Library and Information Science in one of the hotbeds of Bengal student politics, Jadavpur University. Jadavpur Uiversity is also a premier institution of higher learning, with a well deserved reputation.  Raja Manna, a student belonging to the ‘Scheduled Caste’ category, has revealed that he has been facing a lot of harassment and discrimination at the hands of his dissertation guide, Prof. Udayan Bhattacharya, an upper caste Brahmin.

Continue reading A Case of Harassment of Dalit Student in Jadavpur University: Srijan Dutta

The Saderla story – courage in the face of violent prejudice: Manindra Agrawal

This is a guest post by MANINDRA AGRAWAL

This is the story of a young man who made it to the premier institution of IIT Kanpur against heavy odds, but was then let down by the system and people at the institute. Yet, he showed exemplary courage and stood up for his rights firmly but gently. The story also highlights the frailties of human nature and the vindictiveness that can mar human actions. It is a story that needs to be told.

Prologue

IIT Kanpur, like all other IITs, has very few faculty from reserved categories.​ ​An initiative was taken in August 2017 with an exclusive advertisement for faculty under various reserved categories. The applications received were sent to the respective departments for evaluation, and the shortlisted candidates were called for seminars. The protagonist of this story, Dr SS (I am using initials for the key players for convenience, all names are in the public domain), who is from a scheduled caste of Andhra Pradesh, was shortlisted in the Aerospace Engineering department. He did both his M.Tech and Ph.D from IIT Kanpur under Professor AKG, who happened to be the head of the department at the time. Continue reading The Saderla story – courage in the face of violent prejudice: Manindra Agrawal

And Somewhere There are Engineers …

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A conversation with youngsters – who are by nature bubbling with energy , fired with idealism and suffused with innumerable questions – is a thing which everyone with grey hair looks forward to.

For someone like me it is an added gift this morning that after exactly a gap of forty years this writer is with students of engineering helping him rekindle memories of his own days of engineering in the city of Varanasi. A really exciting period when few of us had come together to do something for society as well. A period worth remembering when we were engaged in running evening classes for deprived sections in neighbouring villages, learning from their life experiences and in spare time reading good literature, tracking trajectories of different revolutions, debating, discussing, brainstorming what else can be done to awaken the society around. Continue reading And Somewhere There are Engineers …