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”

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”

Civil Disobedience under Democracy: The Case of Boycott of Centralised Compulsory Attendance in JNU: Tejal Khanna

Guest post by TEJAL KHANNA

It is often advised that civil disobedience in the form of breaking a law must not be practiced under a democracy. It is because democracy by giving the space for open discussion prevents a situation wherein people are compelled to think of civil disobedience. Moreover, if citizens develop faith in civil disobedience then that only undermines the rule of law. Such an act doesn’t strengthen democracy but rather helps in diminishing its ethos. People must be discouraged to break laws because in a democracy, it is they who elect their representatives through free and fair elections. These representatives then make laws to which open disobedience must not be practiced. Citizens can also vote for change of leadership in the subsequent election cycle, if they feel their representatives have been incompetent. However, while these provisions fulfil the conditions of a well functioning procedural democracy, what recourse do citizens have, when their representatives don’t act in the interest of the governed continuously but function in an autocratic manner? What if laws are made without following the spirit of democracy? Does that really result in making a substantive democracy?

Continue reading “Civil Disobedience under Democracy: The Case of Boycott of Centralised Compulsory Attendance in JNU: Tejal Khanna”

The Crisis in JNU – Calling out the Administration : Parnal Chirmuley

Guest Post by Parnal Chirmuley

This is the complete version of the edited text published as “Learning Without Regimentation: On Compulsory Attendance” published in The Hindu on February 19, 2018

It may, at first glance, seem odd that students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, are pouring out in the thousands in angry protest against the administration’s move to enforce compuslory attendance. A leading national daily even misrepresents the boycott of this move by students and faculty as a struggle for the ‘right to not attend classes’, suggesting that they are angry over a triviality, which it is not. It is yet another assault by the present University admnistration against proven academic practices that choose not to infantilise students, and rely more on active learning and participation than on mere physical presence. It has been one among other important practices that has set this university apart. The nuances, therefore, of the anger among the students and faculty of JNU need to be fleshed out.

Continue reading “The Crisis in JNU – Calling out the Administration : Parnal Chirmuley”

The Festering Sore of the Caste-Wall at Vadayambady: T T Sreekumar

T T Sreekumar, an important commentator on contemporary politics in Kerala — a public intellectual who now qualifies to be an irritant in the eyes of the Kerala police, now that he has openly declared his allegiance to the dalit people fighting injustice and Vadayambady and inaugurated a protest-event there — writes about the issue and its historical origins:

When I visited Vadayambady the other day to express my solidarity with the cause of the agitation, what I witnessed there was an atmosphere of utmost fear and police terror. A big task force of police was stationed at the location. The team that included the special branch officers, had created a situation of terror at the peaceful site. Activists mentioned that a particular police officer continuously hurled abuses, including caste abuses, at the protesters that included Dalit women and children. When the protest began to draw national attention, the ruling dispensation of CPIM that had hitherto remained unconcerned has started to take up some damage control measures. However, when they finally arrived at the site of the agitation almost after a year since the agitation began, the CPIM leaders allegedly refused to address the caste question involved. Dalit activists, including women activists, surrounded them and raised several objections to this attitude pointing to their sheer hypocrisy and lack of integrity.

Read more at:

https://countercurrents.org/2018/02/02/fighting-peripheralization-dalit-movement-hindu-caste-wall-kerala/

 

A Revolution Called Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ – the Republic on Trial

देख ज़िन्दां के परे, रंग-ए-चमन, जोश-ए-बहार

रक्स करना है तो पॉंव की ज़ंजीर न देख – मजरूह सुल्तानपुरी

Look –  beyond the the prison walls, the brilliance of flowers, the vitality of spring

If you must dance, ignore the chains that bind your feet – Majrooh Sultanpuri

Today, the scared Republic that has imprisoned its young idealistic fighter son, Chandrashekhar, is on trial. The Republic, scared of its own offspring, stands in the dock. This Republic Day, we must all answer how it came to pass that a gang of adventurers and marauders simply took it over, submitted it to their command, while all the elderly, wise men and women, watched. Today, when the Republic bondage we must seek answers from all those who watched helplessly – or self-righteously – as marauders took it over.

It is official now. A radiogram from the Deputy Secretary, Home, Govt of Uttar Pradesh to the Superintendent, Saharanpur District Jail, dated 23 January 2018, confirms the slapping of charges under the National Security Act, on Bhim Army founder, Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’. Pradeep Narwal, Coordinator, Committee for the Defence of Bhim Army, who met Chandrashekhar in jail yesterday, underlined how the Karni Sena activists attacking school buses and vandalizing schools were being allowed the freedom to do so while Chandrashekhar, responsible for setting up and running of schools (see the video below), is being held in jail for months and has now been slapped with charges under NSA. “Karni Sena are apparently deshbhakts and Shekher bhai and Bhim Army are ‘terrorists’ in the perverted logic of this government,” he said.

 

In conversations with friends and sympathizers who have been meeting him over the past months, including Pradeep Narwal, Chandrashekhar ‘Ravan’ has been expressing a fear that many of us have also had, independently, for some time now: that the government wants to actually get rid of him – just as judge Loya was, it now transpires. Continue reading “A Revolution Called Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’ – the Republic on Trial”

Statement about the attacks on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon & the Subsequent developments in Maharashtra : Umar Khalid

Guest Post by Umar Khalid

I went to Maharashtra as I along with other activists and intellectuals were invited to come there. I along with others was a guest there. And I would remember fondly the love and support that I received in Pune and Mumbai. I would remember the resilience and enthusiasm of the people I met and their resoluteness to fight Manuvaad and centuries old casteist tyranny. I would remember the immense inspiration that I felt, when we paid homage to Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule in Phule-wada, Pune. And, No I will not let two days of media trials by a few TV anchors, who are more of professional howlers, spoil these wonderful memories. I will not let their criminal cacophony and mindless vilification of me, Jignesh & others shadow my beautiful memories of Maharashtra.

The state of Maharashtra as well as the rest of the country is at a critical juncture today. On the one hand are forces in power who want to push our country back to many centuries and on the other are people who are resisting this Neo-Peshwahi, the casteist-communal-fascist regime of BJP-RSS. In my speech at Elgar Parishaad on 31st December 2017, I had said that the year 2018 is going to be a very challenging one. The last 3 and half years of the Modi Sarkar has exposed the BJP’s jumlas of Ache Din and Vikas as hollow, bitter and brutal lies.

As the General Elections of 2019 approach, BJP/RSS will now resort to creating civil strife amongst the people, polarising them on the basis of caste and religion and unleashing attacks on muslims and Dalits. The developments over the last few days vindicate me, a little too soon. Several regions of Maharashtra are in the midst of an acute agrarian distress. Both Marathas and Dalits are victims of this agrarian crisis that has been precipitated by the policies of both Modi and Fadnavis. The BJP/RSS regime has no resolution to offer to the farmers of Maharashtra. Therefore, unleashing attacks on Dalits through their hoodlums and portraying it as a caste clash between Dalits & Marathas will remain their only strategy. Continue reading “Statement about the attacks on Dalits in Bhima Koregaon & the Subsequent developments in Maharashtra : Umar Khalid”