By Zahid Mushtaq
The students at the public universities come from different socio-economic backgrounds. If this equity is taken away, actually a greater potential for political conflict will incubate, which already has taken form and is evident in various public universities in India; this is much more than student politics and difference in ideologies.
Universal, university education, it must be remembered is a historically recent phenomenon. Education can’t be gained at a university alone. It is possible to go to the best university and remain uneducated and equally possible to be knowledgeable and wise without stepping foot inside a university. . At the same time, we also know that not having a degree, even when having the knowledge, can hamper careers in a million different ways. We all need to speak up for more spaces in public education, for more spaces across universities and rise in employment rather than reduction, in short, making space for more students and teachers to enter public universities rather than be shunted to private ones because of the prevailing trend of labeling.
Thus, a university is not just for knowledge through academics only; it is a world in itself where learning is through activities, discussions, debates in the informal democratic spaces of the campus. A university stands to challenge the set narratives of the society, state and academia through proper channelization, shape the share of public opinion. Individuals in a university join to form an indispensable force to create true opposition to every injustice and where individuals learn to stand in solidarity with each other for the persecuted against the persecutors in an unbiased manner.
A university should drive change rather than stagnate. Unfortunately, over a period of few years, a narrative has been build that a lot of people believe: all academics are brainwashed anti-nationals who later become Secret spies and join extremist ranks. This narrative is not about ideological issues; it is sheer anti intellectualism which doesn’t distinguish between universities and disciplines.
In recent years, there have been various attempts of tarnishing the images of various public sector universities, JNU, AMU, HCU, to name a few. A strategy is being worked out to use the AMU, amongst other minority institutions, as a launch pad for the 2019 communal flame. Whether over the portrait of Jinnah, in the universities Students Union hall, the sedition charges against two of its students or the baseless news of unavailability of food for non Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, the university has been a soft target for the current majoritarian regime. The latest attempts include Republic TV’s project of” University of Terrorism” which is aimed to force the communal narrative through mass media.
Historically, AMU has been a scapegoat for these jingoistic and exclusionary ‘nationalists’. AMU would emerge as a winner if their agenda is challenged intelligently and the communal card rips apart. It needs wit on the part of the AMU fraternity and not emotions. The AMU has always stood for the injustice but it is necessary that the students that make up the university see through the agenda of hostile channels and curb their efforts of provocation. This would be the greatest frustration for the absolutist forces.
The author is a Student Of English Literature at Aligarh Muslim University and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org .