God in the Classroom!

Unfolding Debate about Secularising Education

( To be published in ‘Indian Journal of Secularism)

“There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.”
-Victor Hugo

Introduction
“Keep the words God, Jesus and the devil out of the classroom.”

A school teacher’s message on the first day of the school for first-grade students had caused tremendous consternation among a section of the parents.

She had a simple rationale to present her proposal. With their being a public school with children coming from different religions and beliefs joining it, she did not “[w]ant to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” In her letter she had also advised them to talk to the children when they go to the church/temple/synagogue – whatever might be the case – or discuss the issue at home at an appropriate time and place of talking about it.” (https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2017/08/30/teacher-tells-first-graders-dont-talk-god-classroom/612118001/)

Well, instead of the discussion getting fixed on the slow imposition of the concept of God or closing of child’s minds it turned into a debate on students’ free speech rights. It did not take much time for the management of the school to rescind this proposal.

There is nothing new about this dilemma faced by a teacher who has welfare of students at the center of her/his concerns. Continue reading God in the Classroom!

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

हमदर्दी और हमशहरीयत: ट्विंकल, टप्पल और भारत

( सत्य हिंदी.कॉम पर 10 जून,2019 को सहनागरिकता का भाव विकसित करना ज़रूरी शीर्षक से प्रकाशित टिप्पणी https://www.satyahindi.com/waqt-bewaqt/twinkle-sharma-murder-case-aligarh-102906.html का परिवर्द्धित रूप)

अलीगढ़ के क़रीब टप्पल में दो साल की ट्विंकल की हत्या के बाद सिर्फ़ अलीगढ़ नहीं, देश के कोने कोने से बच्ची के लिए इंसाफ़ की माँग की जा रही है। हत्या पर अफ़सोस, शर्म और नाराज़गी का इजहार किया जा रहा है।

दो साल की बच्ची को आपसी रंजिश के चलते ही क्यों नहीं, मार डालना परले दर्जे की विकृति है और उसका कोई मनोवैज्ञानिक औचित्य नहीं दिया जा सकता। यह तथ्य कि अभियुक्त पहले से ही ऐसा था, कि उसपर अपनी बच्ची के साथ बलात्कार का आरोप था, मारी गई बच्ची के परिजनों को कोई राहत नहीं पहुँचाता।दो साल की बच्ची की हत्या इसलिए भी अधिक क्रूर है कि वह किसी भी तरह अपनी रक्षा नहीं कर सकती थी।

शायद ट्विंकल बच जाती अगर पुलिस ने पहले ही परिवार की गुहार सुन ली होती। इसलिए ज़िम्मेवार पुलिसकर्मियों को सज़ा भी ज़रूरी है।

Continue reading हमदर्दी और हमशहरीयत: ट्विंकल, टप्पल और भारत

The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission

Caution: Long read!

This is the elephant in the room, is it not? Was this “massive mandate” of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the result of a free and fair election? Should we continue to discuss this outcome – the scale of the BJP victory, the numbers of seats, the margins by which seats were won – through political analysis alone?

Rather, has not political analysis of the election become inevitably deeply influenced by these margins and these numbers of seats, by the scale of the sweep?  In other words, the analysis is of necessity post facto, assuming that these seats have actually been won fairly, and therefore represent the views of the electorate.

I found very revealing a story by two Reuters journalists who covered rural North India extensively.  Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav ruminate on how they could have gone so wrong in assessing the mood of the electorate. Although they say they never thought Modi would lose this election, it looked certain that he would return with a reduced majority. There was nothing  they heard and observed on the ground that suggested the actual outcome. They conclude that next time they will travel even more, push their respondents harder, “be more aware of our limitations.”

Many seasoned journalists have the same sense of shock. But what if they were not wrong after all?

Continue reading The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission

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)

Arming Children, Securing a Future?

By distributing knives to meritorious children, organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha, are trying to give religious legitimacy to what is essentially a political use of faith.

Hindu Mahasabha distributing knives to children

Image courtesy: Twitter

What does an organisation do when it wants to congratulate meritorious students who have excelled in exams?

Reward them with some gifts, say, books, and (if finances allow) give them scholarships or laptops to facilitate their further studies. Definitely not gift them knives.

Well, Pooja Shakuni Pandey, the national secretary of Hindu Mahasabha, who had been making news for controversial reasons for more than a year, exactly did this on Savarkar Jayanti. This mathematics professor made it clear that she was not much interested in how they study further or what they wanted to become. With this knife distribution programme, along with a copy of Bhagwad Gita, she wanted to ‘create Hindu soldiers out of these children’ and it was basically a “[s]tep to motivate Hindus and empower them, especially the younger generation, with knives to protect themselves.”

( Read the complete text here : https://www.newsclick.in/Hindu-Mahasabha-Distributing-Knives-Meritorious-Children-Political-Use-of-Religion)

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