Tag Archives: Central University of Haryana

The RSS war on thought and ABVP as foot soldiers

Ever since the present Modi government came to power, there appears to have been a clear set of orders issued from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters to its student organization, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), to go on the rampage in university campuses all over India. From getting specific parts of syllabuses changed under threat of violence, disrupting events by other student organizations on campuses, to forcing university administrations to intervene to curb freedom of expression, to filing police complaints against dissenters, they seem to have been acting according to a well rehearsed script, subverting democratic processes on campuses. After its recent electoral defeats in JNU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU), however, the ABVP’s role seems to have acquired an even more virulent feature. The game plan appears to be to provoke violence wherever possible so that rather than any kind of debate, however contentious, on issues such as nationalism, minority rights and caste injustice, what we are increasingly likely to see are violent standoffs between student groups, which have to be controlled by the police. These are often represented in the media as brawls between students, as if there were no ideology or political content involved, just two groups of students “clashing.” But of course, in each case ABVP is involved, and in some kinds of reporting it can even be made to appear that ABVP was somehow the victim.

This is the moment at which teachers need to finally accept that ABVP is not just another student organization. We have tended to take the position in our universities that we must not condemn or directly address ABVP, since we must not directly involve ourselves in student politics. Teachers must talk to administration, be publicly critical of its lapses, take all measures necessary to display and enact our solidarity with students under attack by this regime. While students take their own decisions on modes of struggle and so on, teachers see our role as supportive but with a critical distance.

However, now we may need to start thinking of ways in which we  recognize the organization of the ABVP as a serious threat to Indian democracy. I don’t mean individual students, who would also be in our class-rooms, and with whom it may still be possible to continue a conversation, and whose examinations we will continue to grade with utmost probity. as we have always done.

But the ABVP as an organization has a specific role to play, as storm-troopers in the project of Hindu nationalism, and we cannot afford any longer not to face up to this fact frontally.

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Academics’ Letter to the VC, Central University of Haryana Regarding the ‘Draupadi’ Affair

Following is the text of a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Central University of Haryana, sent by some academics protesting the attacks on Dr Snehsata Manav and Dr Manoj Kumar regarding the students’ production of the play ‘Draupadi’:
To the Vice Chancellor,
Central University of Haryana
Dear Vice Chancellor:
We write in support of Dr. Snehsata Manav and Dr. Manoj Kumar of the Department of English and Foreign Languages who have recently come under attack for their sponsorship of a student production on your campus of the play “Draupadi” based on a story by Mahasweta Devi who, as you know, is universally recognized as a towering figure in contemporary Indian literature. Her writings, translated into most Indian languages, have highlighted the struggles of oppressed and marginalized women and men. Her story “Draupadi”, whose dramatized version has been highly acclaimed and performed all over India, deals with the sensitive but enormously important question of the ethics of deploying the armed forces in dealing with civil disturbances within the country. This question, along with specific instances of rapes committed by army personnel in different parts of India, continues to be debated in the Indian public media and has engaged the attention of political leaders as well as the courts.
We strongly believe that it is both unjust and unwise to accuse intellectually responsible teachers of hurting the sentiments of some sections of opinion. The recent demise of Mahasweta Devi was a perfect occasion to engage university students in a serious discussion on why some of the greatest writers and artists of India have been concerned about the excesses of state violence carried out at the behest of those in power, no matter what their party or ideology.
We hope you will convey our views to those who have accused Dr. Manav and Dr. Kumar of being hurtful and unpatriotic. The university campus needs to be fostered as a place where difficult questions can be debated in a spirit of intellectual openness and without fear of censure.
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, University Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University, New York
Akeel Bilgrami, Stanley Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, New York
Gauri Viswanathan, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, New York
Partha Chatterjee, Professor of anthropology, Columbia University, New York
Romila Thapar, Professor Emeritus in History, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ramachandra Guha, author, Bengaluru

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International Scholars Condemn the Attack on Faculty and Students of Central University of Haryana

Over 70 UK and Europe-based scholars concerned with South Asia have written a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Haryana. They have condemned the September 21, 2016 attack on a group of staff and students of CUH who were involved in putting together a performance based on the award-winning writer Mahasweta Devi’s acclaimed short story “Draupadi”. The attack and threats of charges of sedition against those involved in the performance were instigated by the BJP-affiliated student group ABVP as well as by the local press, which has falsely and maliciously spread the view that the play is anti-national and represented an attack on Indian soldiers. The letter appeals to the Vice Chancellor of CUH to protect the freedom of expression of the university’s staff and students, and to encourage the democratic exchange of ideas through means of debate and discussion.


Dear Vice-Chancellor Mahendra Pal Singh,

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the attack on faculty members and students of the Department of English and Foreign Literatures at your university by members of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) for the performance of a play on 21 September 2016. The play was based on a short story by the eminent Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi. We understand that the staff and students involved in the performance had sought and received all necessary permissions for the event, which was organized to commemorate the literary achievements of Mahasweta Devi, the recipient of some of the most prestigious Indian and international awards.

We write to express our serious concern over this attack on the freedom of academic expression of the staff and students at your university. Mahasweta Devi’s story “Draupadi” was written in 1971 and represents her creative expression of the exploitation of India’s tribals.  It is regularly taught as part of course syllabi all over India and the world, including at the universities of some of the signatories to this letter. The claim by the ABVP and the local press that the play is an attack on Indian soldiers is manifestly fabricated. As one of the faculty members involved in the production, Dr Snehsata, has explained, students and teachers saw the programme as an academic and creative pursuit and their intention was certainly not to hurt the sentiments of soldiers as the ABVP has claimed: “In this event, I read the epilogue of the play recounting the data about atrocities on tribal people, especially sexual crimes against women by the Indian army. How ordinary soldiers are used by the state as a tool against its own people and how the body, especially the female body, becomes the site of revenge in the hands of Indian soldiers by the same state. All the teachers and students who were present there came up and congratulated us.”

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