Category Archives: Language

Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

Under the condition of lockdown while we are confronted with images and accounts of the suffering of the labouring poor, and all around us there appears to be a pervasive social chaos, in our universities students and teachers are supposed to return to an atomized life condition, and essentially pursue academic work as if all is normal. Teachers and students are expected to simply ignore wider public responsibilities and recoil to their private window to online teaching-learning. The diktats of university bureaucracies that have been issued in the midst of tremendous socio-economic crisis reduce teachers to a role akin to those of musicians who continued to entertain on the sinking Titanic. Now, after the formalities of so-called online education have been fulfilled, a specter of online examinations haunts the wider student community.

Disappearance of education in the online mode

The pronouncements of Delhi University (DU) regarding online examinations for its final year students of undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters) courses, have added to the anxieties of large number of students and teachers, who have been grappling with a disrupted semester in the wake of the lockdown, and the stupendous challenges of online teaching-learning. More or less, institutions of higher education across the country are facing this predicament. The grim situation warrants a close scrutiny of the concerns of teachers and students about e-learning and online examinations.

Continue reading Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John

Public Statement on Alternate Cures

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, several statements have been propagated about “immunity boosting” substances such as mustard oil, hydroxychloroquine and tea; alternative remedies claiming to provide either immunity or cure; and remedial effects of cow urine or even taweez. Some of these assertions were also supported by a few government functionaries at the centre and in various states. We, the undersigned, wish to put the following scientific facts in the public domain.

–> As of now, no scientific studies show that any substance boosts the immune system specifically against COVID-19, be it modern medicines like hydroxychloroquine or homeopathic solutions like Arsenicum Album D30 or Ayurvedic preparations.

–> Scientific evidence for the efficacy of any of these substances can only be obtained by rigorous testing through randomized clinical trials with COVID-19 patients, and additional laboratory analyses. Anecdotes of cure or temporary relief from symptoms or usefulness against similar diseases are not scientific proof of efficacy against COVID-19.

–> Specific immunity against a bacterium or a virus can only arise in two ways. Either we were infected and recovered from the illness, or we are vaccinated; in either case we develop antibodies that can target the specific virus or bacterium.

Continue reading Public Statement on Alternate Cures

NLU Jodhpur alumni and students protest homophobic teaching materials

Current VI semester undergraduate students of the University pursuing the ‘Sociology – III Law and Society’ course, at the National Law University Jodhpur were sent outright homophobic content purportedly as essential reading (details of the readings are in the letter below). The material presented outdated notions of homosexuality. When the faculty member was challenged via email by a student, she said she had shared it to encourage debate and present one side of the prevailing views on homosexuality. However, the material was sent without providing any such context. The faculty committed that she would be sending updated material presenting sociological developments on the subject in the coming few days. However, instead of doing so, she delegated her responsibility to the student who had written to her, a move that can only be interpreted as reprisal.

The interim student body wrote to the Vice Chancellor on the issue. 150 alumni members also wrote to the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and General Council of NLU-J asking for disciplinary action against the faculty member, an external resource person to teach the subject, and review of the course curriculum.

This is the letter

Dear Dr. Saxena and Members of the General Council,

We, the undersigned alumni of National Law University, Jodhpur, much to our consternation, have learnt that current VI semester undergraduate students of the University pursuing the ‘Sociology – III Law and Society’ course were sent outright homophobic content purportedly as essential reading by Dr. Asha Bhandari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Member, Academic Council, on April 11, 2020. On a perusal of the content, it is evident that the material sent by Dr. Bhandari is unscientific, uncritical, based on outdated notions of homosexuality, perpetuates dangerous stereotypes, and legitimizes prejudice against the LGBTIQ community. As you would all agree, this is unacceptable in any institute of learning, much less in one that prides itself on being a premier national law school.

Continue reading NLU Jodhpur alumni and students protest homophobic teaching materials

10,000 Academics, Students, Teachers and Civil Society Against Police Brutality at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University

We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms the police brutality in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and the ongoing illegal siege and curfew imposed on Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. On 15th December 2019 Delhi police in riot-gear illegally entered the Jamia Millia campus and attacked students who are peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Act bars Muslims from India’s neighboring countries from the acquisition of Indian citizenship. It contravenes the right to equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution.

On the 15th at JMIU, police fired tear gas shells, entered hostels and attacked students studying in the library and praying in the mosque. Over 200 students have been severely injured, many who are in critical condition. Because of the blanket curfew and internet blockage imposed at AMU, we fear a similar situation of violence is unfolding, without any recourse to the press or public. The peaceful demonstration and gathering of citizens does not constitute criminal conduct. The police action in the Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU campuses is blatantly illegal under the constitution of India.

We stand in unconditional solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, and express our horror at this violent police and state action. With them, we affirm the right of citizens to peaceful protest and the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression. The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society.

As teachers, students, scholars and members of civil society across the world, we are watching with extreme concern the situation unfolding at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. We refuse to remain silent at the violence unleashed on our colleagues (students, staff, and faculty) peacefully protesting the imposition of a discriminatory and unjust law.

This statement with a full list of signatories is available here and here Jamia Millia and AMU solidarity statement.

Talking Faiz: ‘In This Hour of Madness’

( Note : To be published in the Annual Number of ‘Mainstream’)

In this conversation academician, writer and social activist Zaheer Ali talks about his latest book ‘Romancing With Revolution : Life and Works of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ (Aakar Books, Delhi, 2019) and why Faiz is ‘ extremely relevant in today’s India’

This is the hour of madness, this too the hour of chain and noose You may hold the cage in your control, but you don’t command The bright season when a flower blooms in the garden. So, what if we didn’t see it? For others after us will see The garden’s brightness, will hear the nightingale sing

(This Hour of Chain and Noose (Faiz, Tauq o dar ka Mausam, 1951)

Continue reading Talking Faiz: ‘In This Hour of Madness’

Picking Humanity Over Religion: A Small but Critical Step

The idea of education being imparted without any compulsion to declare one’s religion is definitely a welcome thing

Bethune_College_Kolkata

Principal’s office of Bethune College, Kolkata, which included Humanity as an option under the religion category. Image Courtesy: college dunia

 

A college admission form introducing new options under ‘religion’? Talking about humanity, secular, non-religious, atheism!

Well, in an ambience loaded with religiosity and its increasing conflation with the State, it is rather difficult to believe that some colleges may take such a creative step to convey how they see what is happening around them? No doubt this is a small step but, as noted by analysts, this is an attempt to break/challenge the ‘construction of identity, thought and social and political space, indirectly conveying the vision of a secular and diverse India.’

The significance of this little step can be better understood if one looks into the fact that the elections held to the 17th Lok Sabha — which has returned the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power — have demonstrated that BJP is ‘the most preferred party of young India’. It drew support cutting across caste as well as class lines. This is the same BJP which, along with its ‘Parivar’ siblings, has consciously tried to conflate religion with exercise of power and has been successful in collapsing the majority faith into rabid nationalism that targets differences and dissent and other specific groups, as the ‘other’ according to its worldview.

( Read the full article here : https://www.newsclick.in/Religion-Humanity-College-Admissions-BJP-School-Education)