Ever since its’ inception, the Modi Government has been ceaselessly scheming to demolish the premier institutes of higher education in the country – from JNU to DU, HCU to TISS. Last few months have seen intensified offensives by the BJP – RSS in this dangerous agenda. This is a clear cut ploy to close the door of higher education for the marginalized sections of the country as these institutions are the last few remaining centres of affordable and quality higher education. The Government is also desperately attempting to wipe out these universities as they are the centres for critical thinking and dissenting worldviews – challenging again and again the anti-student and anti-people policies of the ruling regime.
JNU – Assaults and Fightback
The assaults on JNU by BJP – RSS and their appointee VC, which started almost two years back, continues even toady with renewed venomousness. We have seen massive seat cut in M.Phil – PhD courses and decimation of reservation, brazen imposition of arbitrary and undemocratic policy of so-called “autonomy” and “compulsory attendance”, absurd hostel fee hike and shameless administrative shielding of Sanghi faculty member with grievous charges of sexual harassment. Along with massive seat cut, only 20.75% of total number of seats (in place of constitutionally mandated 50% reservation) was offered for reserved category students in 2017 – 18 research admissions. As a final blow to affordable higher education, the BJP Government has recently imposed its ridiculous “autonomy” model on leading universities like JNU which will result into reckless fee hike and self-financing courses, shrinking opportunities of admission and faculty recruitments for Indian students and scholars and total decimation of reservation and social justice.
But the JNU student community and AISA led student union have courageously fought back all these assaults braving police brutality, administrative crackdown, legal intimidations and FIRs. JNU has seen historic “Boycott Attendance” movement – which has clearly said that students not only attend but over attend classes in JNU, but we are against any kind of farcical regimentation. Absurd fines, punishments and contempt charges were leveled against union members and students for the “crime” of speaking against imposition of compulsory signing of attendance sheets. On 23rd March, the “Long March” of JNU students and teachers, from the campus to the Parliament street, demanding suspension of the faculty member charged with serial sexual harassments, was met with water cannon, brutal lathicharge and the spectacle of uniformed police personnel tearing women students’ clothes off and molesting them. But all these have miserably failed to dampen the fighting spirit of JNU, as the struggle for a gender just, democratic and inclusive campus continues with renewed vigor.
TISS – Victory of Protracted Students’ Movement
The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) administration, in the month of February, arbitrarily imposed massive fund cut for students belonging to the marginalized sections. A two month long students’ protest forced a committee, formed to look into this issue, to recommend reverting back to the older model of scholarship disbursal.
The Grand Scheme of Destroy Higher Education and Fights from Campuses
JNU and TISS are no aberration – the Modi Government is hell bent to destroy the higher education, end all financial support and kill every provision of social justice in our educational institutions. In 2015, the Government declared to stop Non-NET fellowship, but was exposed and forced to backtrack after a huge students’ movement. Since 2016, the funding for UGC has been slashed by 50% and M.Phil/ PhD seats have been drastically cut in the name of 5th May 2016 UGC Notification. The Government also deviously tried to scuttle the biannual UGC NET-JRF exam to once a year. Recently, several universities were instructed to generate 30% of its funds from its own, which will only result into fee hike and opening flood gate for self-financing courses.
When the Government is unleashing destructive policies one after another to demolish higher education, the silver lining in the dark times comes from the courage and determination of the common students of the country to fight back and defend our campuses. Last month, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Mohali witnessed massive protests against fee hike and illogical increase in the eligibility criteria to access scholarships. Uttarakhand has seen massive students’ uproar as a Medical college announced whooping 300% fee hike. Throughout this semester, DU students and faculty members were on streets demanding the reversal of the anti-student, anti-education 30% formula.
Students across the country are not only fighting for accessible and inclusive higher education, but also against the Modi Government’s anti – democracy, anti – women designs. In the wake of horrific rapes of Kathua and Unnao, student-youths have given a loud and clear message that this country will resist every anti-woman, anti-people move of this government. The student – youths are rising up against the dictatorial design of the Modi regime; let us intensify this countrywide resistance!