Public discourse on Delhi University’s staging of student union elections typically picks the ubiquitary narratives of money, muscle power and its floutings of Lyngdoh guidelines, year after clamorous year. College campuses, arterial roads and their flooding by posters, both in excess of their expenditure limit (Rs 5000 per candidate) and their prescribed nature (printed, as against handmade), as also the prohibited yet brazen processioneering of SUV armies, are experiences annually played out in tedious familiarity. Mainly configured as a contest between the NSUI and the ABVP (even as the AISA has in its recent resurgence, negotiated a space for Left politics beyond the two party dominance), the Presidential wins and panel sweeps are usually congruent with the dips and surges experienced by their parent political party on the national stage. Continue reading Delhi University’s Students Union Elections and the Discreet Charm of Exceptionalism: Rina Ramdev→
We are a tired party after two days quick hike up to the base of IndraharPass in the Dhauladhar range. Half of the students are visually challenged, the other half have been painstakingly guiding them over tricky stretches of the trail. The bus for Delhi is three hours late. We are stretched over our carry mats, reclining on backpacks, on the pavement behind a row of buses at Dharamshala bus stand. The issue under discussion is Atheism. It hasn’t taken long for visually challenged students to split into firm believers who pray regularly, occasional/opportunist believers, agnostics and atheists. Arguments are both experiential and theoretical. During one particularly intense exchange an occasional believer asks a firm believer, “If there really is a God who is omnipotent, good and takes care of every one, then tell me why has he made us so that we can not see?” It is an old normative argument against the conception of God. Presumably Darwin turned atheist arguing similarly with himself after witnessing the pain of his infant daughter due to an incurable illness. Closer home, revolutionary Bhagat Singh gives a liberal juridical version of the argument in ‘Why Am I an Atheist?’ Believer’s reply is spontaneous, in a matter of fact way. “You know what, I find myself really fortunate in being visually challenged. Due to this I got a chance to study. Had it not been for this, I would have been selling sweets from my father’s push cart in our small town.”
Realities of life in a country like India have to be piercingly brutal for a talented young man to think that it is mainly through his physical disability that he got access to a decent education and moving out of a life of poverty. This note is intended to bring some consequences of such reality to the recent discussions on Kafila regarding education at Stephen’s College.
Good on you for writing that piece. It raised lots of questions about our education system, and I agree with a lot of what you wrote (and share the same dismay at the dictation sessions from one particular professor you referred to).
There’s just a few things that I’d like to say, but before I say them let me say that none of this comes from being ‘nationalist’ or ‘patriotic’ in the slightest – just as you spent three years studying, working and paying taxes in India, I spent five studying, working and paying taxes in the UK, and I would like to believe that doing so has given me a bit of a world view of these things. Moreover, my area of interest is education economics, which is what my research focused on. Continue reading On higher education in India: Saattvic responds to Thane Richard→
This is a guest post by ARITRA CHATTERJEE: In his response to the article by some students of St. Stephen’s College, Thane Richard has raised a set of questions about the college, about the students participating in the present movement, about education in India and students’ voice in shaping education. He is critical about what he calls the lack of quality education, of a system where education is primarily about rote learning and conformity to structures of authority; in such a situation the promise of a good liberal arts education remains a mere promise and students migrate to the West in search of it. He also rues the lack of students’ voice in the education system, rhetorically asking, “Do students have any right?” He welcomes the students’ fight against the oppressive regime at St. Stephen’s College but views it as a movement that istoo little too late and even that in “the wrong direction”. I shall respond to his views at two levels – at the level of education in the country as a whole, and that of the present movement at St. Stephen’s College. Continue reading Of Angry Young Students and Education in India – A Response to Thane Richard: Aritra Chatterjee→
I recently read an article in Kafila – more like an angry, reflective rant – written by some students from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. To quickly summarize, the piece criticized the draconian views of the Principal of St. Stephen’s College regarding curfews on women’s dormitories and his stymying of his students’ democratic ideals of discussion, protest, and open criticism. More broadly, though, the article’s writers seemed to be speaking about the larger stagnant institution of Indian higher education, overseen by a class of rigid administrators represented by this sexist and bigoted Principal, as described by the students. The students’ frustration was palpable in the text and their story felt to me like a perfect example of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Except Indian students are not an unstoppable force. Not even close. Continue reading Academic Excellence and St. Stephen’s College: A response by Thane Richard→
This is a guest post by some STUDENTS OF ST. STEPHEN’S COLLEGE, Delhi
Over the past one year Delhi University has been subjected to significant changes in the name of academic excellence, and many more changes are in the offing, like an un-thought-out introduction of the four-year undergraduate course. Teachers and students who have voiced concerns (and protested) have been harassed and not paid any heed to. One can witness a general shrinking of democratic space, and the space for dissent within the university. It is almost as if democratic decision making is an enemy of academic excellence, and thus needs to be curbed! A sharp contradiction between campus democracy and a vaguely defined academic excellence has come up recently in some issues pertaining to St. Stephen’s College. In this article, we – some students of the college would like to draw attention to the injuries inflicted on campus democracy, and the questions thrown up about the very meaning of academic excellence in the process. Continue reading Of campus democracy and academic excellence: Students of St. Stephen’s College→
Reading Saba Dewan’s post, on patriarchy and St Stephen’s, was a release. For years, I had struggled to make sense of two contradictory things—my years at college were some of the happiest of my life, but the institution that was held up to us as one of the best in India was also built on a flawed and deeply discriminatory set of beliefs.
(It’s hard to write about this in part because it always felt like complaining about what was, in essence, a very privileged life–those of us who went to St Stephen’s were by definition lucky, in our acquisition of English, in our officially liberal families, in our assumption of a secure place in the hierarchies of power in India.) Continue reading What I learned from “The Patriarchy”: Nilanjana S. Roy→
(For Vrinda, Uma, Sukhpreet, Dipta and all of us who found strength in each other to raise our voices in protest…)
A few months back I visited St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University for a screening organized by the students there of my film, ‘The Other Song.’ It was my first visit after 26 years when I had been an undergraduate student here from 1982 – ‘85. I confess I have never felt any urge to go back nor have I suffered nostalgia about the three years I spent in St. Stephen’s College although I have carried vivid memories of that time. Sharp, brittle memories that defined many of the choices I have made in life over the years; the most important being of believing in and hopefully practicing a feminist politics based on equality and respect for all. Feminism truly has been a legacy that St. Stephen’s College inadvertently bequeathed to many of its women students of my generation. Continue reading Of chick charts, hen charts and other such women’s stories: Saba Dewan→