A large number of students sitting outside the UGC office, protesting against the decision to scrap the non-NET fellowship were brutally lathi charged and detained on 27th October, 2015, by a dictatorial force of the Delhi Police and CRPF. Around 15 students were injured severely, including JNUSU’s president Kanhaiya Kumar. The torture did not stop there itself, but continued inside the bus harbouring protesting students, disobeying all custodian laws. Women students were beaten up by male police officials, and individually tortured inside the bus.
These students are protesting from because UGC took the decision of discontinuing the non-NET fellowship. They have been campaigning day and night on various campuses, and have also raised the demand for extending the fellowship to all state universities. Instead of peacefully negotiating with the students, the administration and police resorted to such undemocratic measures towards protesting students. While, on the other hand, Smriti Irani, Minister of Human Resource Development, spared her not-so-precious time to meet BJP’s student wing, ABVP and ‘promised’ to withdraw the decision of doing away with the fellowship, the lies and slanders of ABVP were exposed when the administration sent the message in the form of CRPF and lathis to young researchers. Here, it must be noted that this is the second time in a row that students occupied UGC’s office and the administration responded in this manner. The undemocratic, dictatorial, and fascist attitude of BJP has insulted the entire student community, and education as a whole, whereas its student wing is busy celebrating the ‘resolution’ of the issue.
Education: A Service Or A Commodity?
The decision that UGC has taken is not a spontaneous one, rather it has a long history of the commodification of education behind it. In February 2015, a committee was set up owing to students’ demands of increasing the meagre amount of the non-NET fellowship from 5k and 8k to 10k and 15k respectively, named ‘Fellowship Enhancement Committee’. The decision that this committee took was, “considered and resolved to discontinue”, as if it was mocking students’ demands and right to education.
This process of commercialization of education began with the trade regulations set up after World War II, when the world’s capitalists and politicians assembled in Bretten Woods to create two institutions: the World Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Although, the stated purpose was reconstruction of destroyed nations, in reality it performed the role of de-constructing the economies in order to privatise all assets of the prey nation. This character of clearing the history of a nation and rewriting it so to make the ventures profitable for capitalists, is well exposed by the brilliant work of Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.
Many liquidations in trade barriers were brought, and indebted nations were forced to adopt structural adjustment programmes (SAPs), on the condition of opening the prey’s market to predators. It was during this period that WTO and GATS were founded in the famous Uruguay Round of 1995. It was also the first time that the term ‘service’ was used in international treaties which implied a flexible entry of foreign capital in the service sector, including education and health. The special clause of WTO-GATS states that the developing country will not ‘discriminate’ on any grounds, i.e. it will not discriminate between the indigenous firms and foreign firms in providing space to exercise control over the market. Interestingly, the firm that enters the nation is called ‘supplier’ in the WTO-GATS documents, which is actually like a parasite feeding upon valuable resources of the nation. Also, the upcoming session of WTO-GATS December, 2015 is all set to promote privatization of hitherto existing institutions and opening up new private universities in India.
BJP is playing the perfect role of an obedient, hungry dog of imperialism, of making service sectors the playground of multinationals, and sharing the profit they will earn from snatching the fruits of hard labour done by toiling masses. At the same time, it is well prepared with its plan of manufacturing consent against dissenting voices, either in the name of cow safety or that in love-jihads.
Voices Of Dissent
The year began with a huge protest by FTII students against the communal recruitment of five FTII society members, and is still continuing. Simultaneously, a ban was imposed on the Ambedkar-Periyar study circle in IIT Madras on the charges of it spreading anti-national thoughts. Both these were fascist attempts of sanskritization of education and criminalizing the minority’s voice. When FTII students were protesting, on a dark night, a conspiracy was sketched and they were arrested. The state machinery entered in to help the sacred orders of their bosses. A similar tactic was used to try and crush the Pinjra Tod campaign of independent women students against gender discriminatory practices, whereby ABVP goons called up an activist, only to threaten her to withdraw the campaign. During the protest against UGC’s unfair move, ABVP is lying to distract students from reality and a bus carrying hundreds of ABVP members came into the JNU campus on 27th October, to take students for an Israeli Music Concert, while on the other hand protesting students at UGC were beaten up brutally by their party!
It is crystal clear that state machinery, including police, its goons, its bureaucracy/administration, have decided to criminalize all voices collectively, so as to satisfy their bosses in the WTO. The development model that was projected in 1980s, and which is being projected now has only one difference, that this one will be more rigorous in opening shops of education.
Liberalization has not only brought drastic changes in the socio-economic lives of people, but has also affected their psychological mindsets dramatically. The Independence movement, led primarily by two blocs, Congressian and Revolutionary, finally culminated into an agreement upon limitations on the use of India’s resources without much changes in the actual structure of society. But, the nation was so politicised that it soon started questioning the innumerable promises done by ruling parties. Naxalbari movement is a result of this political consciousness which challenged the Nehruvian state for its anti-people attitude. The following years saw the Emergency, Telangana struggle which were imposed on the masses to bury the criticism. But strategic burying started when the multinationals entered in India, and brought with them an imperialist culture. This culture spoke of Pepsi, Reebok, and Nike to mesmerise the nation in their beauty and perfection. The youth which had never seen something better than khadi were much impressed by the denims of the global world. They soon started dancing to the tunes of Michael Jackson, Adele, and Eminem, only to forget everything about the people’s struggle. Khadi, which used to be a symbol of gratitude among people, signifying comradeship, became an insult, and was replaced by colourful t-shirts and jeans. Those who talked about politics and harsh realities of life were laughed at, and tagged as ‘negative’ individuals.
This process has given rise to a new theory, called positivism, with writers like Chetan Bhagat, comedians like Kapil Sharma, and actors like Salman Khan as its advocates within the nation. The coolness it wishes to exhibit was exposed in the recent advertisement of Pepsi whereby striking students are mocked. This hegemonic culture is altering the atmosphere of educational campuses also, which have either become centres of supplying machines to industry or that of isolated researches which have nothing to do with society. Researches in history are seen as something useless.
Hundreds of protesters are still fighting for the only source of income for young researchers all over India. The demand is simple, i.e. put an end to all attempts of commercializing education and provide scientific, equal education for all. We must oppose the conscious marginalization of workers-peasants who make this nation worth living and yet suffer the most. UGC must withdraw its anti-people decision, extend fellowship to state universities, and increase the fellowship from 5k, 8k to 10k, 15k for M.Phil and PhD students respectively.
It is high time that all progressive, democratic individuals and organizations come together to join hands with the #OccupyUGC movement, and save education from becoming a privilege for a specific section.
Featured Image Credit: IndiaResists.com