Hail the Students’ Struggle for its Victory in the Battle against Corporate Publishers : New Socialist Initiative

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative (Delhi Chapter)

On 9 March 2017 three well-established academic corporate publishing houses, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis withdrew their copyright suit filed in the High Court against Delhi University and Rameshwari Photocopy Shop, a shop stationed at the Delhi School of Economics campus in Delhi University licensed by the University to carry out photocopying work. The suit that was filed in August 2012 on the grounds that photocopying material from books published by the above three publishers by university students, particularly in the compilation of coursepacks, constituted copyright infringement and revenue loss to the publishers. Right from the beginning it was clear this case was treated as a test case to instate a licensing regime, much like one that exists in the US and other First World countries.
Being the absolute primary constituency to be impacted by such a case and its possible outcomes, students of Delhi University were amongst the first to take up the battle against some of the most powerful publishing houses in academia. The ‘Campaign to Save D.School Photocopy Shop’ soon became the ‘Association of Students for Equitable Access to Knowledge’ (ASEAK), reflecting the growing politicisation of the student community on the issue of the knowledge commons in order to resist an increasing attempt across the world to create a market out of it where it didn’t as yet exist. This can be seen in the case of Costa Rica as well where there was an attempt to make photocopying illegal, a move that was successfully opposed on a massive scale by students.
The students of Delhi University, organised as ASEAK, opposed the move through a range of mechanisms, mobilising students from class to class, organising public meetings, taking out protest rallies, campaigning against these publishers at the annual World Book Fair held in New Delhi, influencing public opinion through writing in newspapers, and last but not the least, taking up the legal battle in the courts. NSI hails the struggle of the students that brought to the centre of the debate questions of equity and justice within the arena of production and distribution of knowledge resources, challenging the private property regime sought to be implemented in the sphere of knowledge production by these big academic corporate publishing houses. 
For the last few years the primary site of the battle has been in the High Court at New Delhi. The publishers have received repeated blow after blow in this process as well, leading to their final withdrawal of the suit altogether. The win is a big victory and testament to the struggle of the students, backed by a legal team that has been seminal to the victory, along with support from the academic community. The case, that attempted to strike a ‘balance’ between private profits of the publishers and the rights of students to access materials in the pursuit of their education, has dealt a blow to precisely such a misconception that the two ‘interests’ are in fact of equal concern.
Along with students, who assert their right over the materials they access as part of their fundamental right to education, scholars, often the authors of these materials, have equally come out to state that there is no better reward for their work as intellectuals, as to be read by as many students as can get hold of their work, photocopied or otherwise. The emphasis of the corporate publishers in asserting absolute ownership over the works they publish, in a rare instance where the labour of writing a book is provided at no cost to the publishers, borne by universities, students’ fees and taxpayers’ money instead, is shameful and needs to be rejected at all cost.
NSI congratulates the students, lawyers, academics and concerned citizens who persisted in their resistance against the bullying tactics of big academic corporate publishing houses and calls on the academic community to engage with new ways of producing and sharing knowledge so as to create equitable, just and democratic structures of knowledge production.
EDUCATION OVER COPYRIGHT! KNOWLEDGE OVER PROFIT!

Deendayal in Government Schools : Neglecting Education, Indoctrinating Exclusion

चित्र परिणाम

(Photo courtesy : livehindustan.com, From left to right – Golwalkar, Deendayal Upadhyay and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, . Photo taken in Mathura during Goraksha/Cow Protection movement, 1965)

“DEENDAYAL UPADHYAYA is to the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was to Congress” opined R. Balashankar, former editor of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s (RSS) organ Organiser and now a member of the BJP’s central committee, on Prasikhshan Maha Abhiyan

(The Indian Express,; September 24, 2016).

Cows inhale, exhale oxygen, says Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani

(http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/cows-inhale-exhale-oxygen-says-rajasthan-education-minister-vasudev-devnani/articleshow/56612529.cms)

Rajaram (name changed) Principal of a school near Jaipur, Rajasthan is a worried man.

An honest teacher all his life, is not able to comprehend the rationale behind the recent order by the state education ministry asking every secondary and senior secondary school to purchase collected works of Deendayal Upadhyay Continue reading “Deendayal in Government Schools : Neglecting Education, Indoctrinating Exclusion”

Looking ‘Right’, Talking ‘Liberal’ – The Twists and Turns of Makarand Paranjape: Anirban Bhattacharya

Guest Post by ANIRBAN BHATTACHARYA

[This missive to Makarand Paranjape, who is a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, comes in response to his recent op-ed piece in the Indian Express where he comments on the events at Ramjas College, Delhi University on the 21st of February and in their wake, in Delhi University, on the 22nd of February]

Mr. Makarand Paranjape. In your analysis of the post-Ramjas fallout in Delhi University in Indian Express on the 4th of March, one can see that you have donned a “liberal” cloak. But there were way too many holes in that cloak to go without a counter and hence this response.

Continue reading “Looking ‘Right’, Talking ‘Liberal’ – The Twists and Turns of Makarand Paranjape: Anirban Bhattacharya”

Statements of Solidarity for Ramjas and DU: A Collation

Please find below a collation of statements of solidarity received by Kafila over the past fortnight since the shameful incidents of violence by the ABVP occurred on the 21st and 22nd of February 2017. These are from: Ramjas Alumna, Ambedkar University Delhi Faculty Association, O.P Jindal Teachers: Students and Durham University Politics and International Relations Society, U.S.A; and students and faculty at the University of Minnesota, U.S.A.

UMN STANDS WITH DU
University of Minnesota Students and Faculty

The statements are preceded by a short write-up on what Ramjas College has meant to its alumna, by ANUBHAV PRADHAN.

Nostalgia is made of more than just happiness. It is sulphurous too.

To many who spent three or more years of their life in Ramjas College, visuals of violence in and around it on 21 and 22 February 2017 have been a source of deep, personal shock. The footpath and the areas adjoining the college gate were often sites of lingering conversations between friends, offering moments of respite from studies, tensions accruing from impending exams, or relief to those who had just accomplished a hectic ECA festival and were there catching up their breath or exhaling smoke.

The ABVP struck twice, once attacking the college Seminar Room and then coming back the second day to attack students. In the hundredth year of Ramjas’ establishment, a college founded at a time when protest was an active ideal for most Indians, this singular episode of planned, institutional violence against students and teachers is a grim reminder of the brute silencing of interrogation, peaceful protest, dialogue and dissent being normalised across our colleges and universities, and in our society at large. The audacity with which these perpetrators and their ideologues brand entire institutions and diverse communities of students and academics as anti-national—and therefore fit recipients for their brute censure—also gives the lie to the intellectual and affective bankruptcy of a rapidly emergent cultural orientation premised on simplistic binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, national and anti-national. In a society—and nation—whose ideals are peace, dialogue, and inclusion, these attacks on students and teachers point to the deep ideological rot in the perpetrators’ conception of nation, nationality and nationalism.

As an alumnus of Ramjas College, I cherish the right to self-determination and open debate. I feel outraged that the students’ and faculties’ right to decide what discussion to hold and whom to invite for it within college premises was usurped in this manner. It is disturbing that this violence rippled across the campus as it were, with students being followed, identified and harassed in their personal spaces for having asserted their right to listen to discussions on Bastar and for not bowing down to bodily attacks perpetrated through stones and fisticuffs by members of the ABVP and their affiliates.

Most alumni like me are invested in our respective professions, but the foundations of study and work were laid for us by Ramjas’ teachers and the college’s vibrant culture of extra-curricular instruction. This experience has proved fundamental to our engagement with our immediate workspaces, surroundings, power structures, and our nation. Denying current and future students their right to freely and openly debate issues of their choice in fora of their choice is tantamount to denial of a basic academic right. Threatening and manhandling academicians guided by the spirit of enquiry towards generation of dialogue will prove detrimental to the quality of collegiate education in our nation. We collectively issue the following statement of solidarity with Ramjas’ students and teachers in this moment of crisis:

Statement by Ramjas Alumna

Continue reading “Statements of Solidarity for Ramjas and DU: A Collation”

“Karenge politics, karenge pyar” – New slogan and new politics: Baidik Bhattacharya

Guest post by BAIDIK BHATTACHARYA

[While the media worked overtime to present the developments in Ramjas College and Delhi University as a clash between two student organizations and two political formations, Baidik Bhattacharya here reflects on the new kinds of politics, rooted in the everyday and in love, that found expression in the University.- AN]

On 28 February, 2017, thousands of students and teachers of Delhi University and other academic institutions of the NCR region marched across the North Campus, protesting against the recent acts of vandalism and violence at Ramjas College. As the march progressed through the winding roads, touching various colleges and departments of the university, feisty students raised several slogans to oppose the perpetrators of such violence, the student organization of the RSS—the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP. Some of these slogans were well-known, some predictable, but some were really creative. I want to briefly discuss one such creative slogan, and its implications: “Karenge politics karenge pyar, ABVP hoshiyar.” Chanted primarily by groups of women and queer activists, this innovative rendering of one’s rights across the university campuses captured some of the pressing issues that have surfaced in the last couple of years in student politics.

Continue reading ““Karenge politics, karenge pyar” – New slogan and new politics: Baidik Bhattacharya”

Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala

Kozhikode, Hotel Alakapuri, 4-5 March, 2017.

Kozhikode has always upturned my feelings about the male gaze. It is of course a cheerful, bustling, place, full of fabulously good-looking people of all genders. The cheeriness has a certain effortlessly defiant quality – already evident when you look out of the window as the train from the south pulls into the railway station, and see bright, healthy, merrily-swaying wild flowers raise their heads undefeated by the ferocious summer sun– wild sunflowers in hundreds, magnificent vines of kulamariyan flowers ( literally, ‘over-the-top’ flowers, but known here also, interestingly enough, as Antigone vines), creepers happily, constantly, and untiringly winding over  little piles of rubbish and covering them with short-lived if emphatic trumpets of mauve, lavender, red, yellow, and white.  You pass this eternal artwork-in-progress of the flowers and vines and city trash and enter Kozhikode, but realise that it actually tells you a bit about the men there only when you meet them. Continue reading “Longing for the Future – Two Days with Penkoottu and AMTU at Kozhikode, Kerala”

A Tale of Two and a Half Marches – Two for Azadi and a Half for Ghulami.

[Videos of song by Shehla Rashid and of speeches by Nivedita Menon, Kavita Krishnan, Umar Khalid and Jignesh Mevani, courtesy, Samim Asgor Ali]

February gives way to March and spring returns to Delhi. And what a spring it is. The right wing thugs of the ABVP choose the wrong time to attack, once again. They must really get themselves a better astrologer, or at least a better class of charlatan who can tell them if there ever is a right time to stage their goon show. I suspect there isn’t.

Spring in DU - Fight Back DU
Spring in DU – Fight Back DU

Continue reading “A Tale of Two and a Half Marches – Two for Azadi and a Half for Ghulami.”