The State run universities in India have created a major crisis in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) rule and their ideological apparatus. On the one hand the present right wing regime which believes in traditional Vernadharma parmapara centered education cannot accept the present reservation system, which they opposed from the days of Ambedkar-Gandhi Poona Pact. Even as late as 1990 Mandal movement they opposed reservation system as a whole. Narendra Modi, who was one of the young drivers of the RSS/BJP agenda during the anti-Mandal- Kamandal movement in the L.K Advani’s team along with strong anti-reservation Pramod Mahajan is now forced to affirm reservation for the sake of votes and power. He himself played the card of Other Backward Caste (OBC) as that was the best card to harvest the national OBC dream of seeing their own Prime Minister at Delhi.
The Congress which was also not so very comfortable with the OBC reservation, as it never recognized that category within the party was caught unawares when RSS/BJP accepted Modi’s candidature as a certified OBC to be the PM candidate in 2014.
In the national central universities and major institutions like IITs, IIMs the liberal, left and the free thinking senior faculty had no different stand than RSS/BJP on the question of implementing OBC/Dalit/Adivasi reservation in those structures. Their pet theory was merit, and they had lot of respect for foreign degrees, as many of them possess one. Many of them, who critique the colonial Raj were lovers of Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia or any other foreign university degree by the time the BJP came to power. Their own children were sent to UK or USA to get a degree. During in 2007 second Mandal discourse many of them opposed implementation of OBC reservations. Even now IITs and IIMs are asking for exemption from reservation. But the BJP, at least, the Modi team realized that if they go against OBC reservation they will not win the elections.
From 2008 onwards reservation posts of OBC category and backlog posts of the SC/ST category began to be filled in the central universities like JNU,Delhi University, Hyderabad University, Jamia Millia and Aligarh Muslim University Banaras Hindu University and all IITs and IIMs. The liberal, left and free-thinking professors refused to fill the vacancies, showing OBC/SC/ST candidates not suitable,even though they were qualified and some times more qualified with a Ph.D degree, which is not essential for an Assistant Professor post. According to many selection committees their standards do not suit their departments/centres, defining standards with their own yardstick.
It was an existential reality that hardly any OBC/SC/ST students could go abroad and get degrees as going to JNU or Delhi University or Jamia Millia or IIT Delhi was more difficult for them than the upper caste rich going to US or UK for higher education. The first generation educated lack good English language communication skills, even though they know the subject well. Many of us were like that when we entered into the teaching profession in the universities. But we picked up in the course of our career. But the left/liberal professors were not convinced.
Even many Jats, Gujjars, Marathas, Patels Shudras of Bengal and so on did not have foreign academic degrees. Hence they too are hardly found on the teaching faculty in these high end universities or institutions. They have become bastions of Brahmin/Bania foreign degree holders or of those who were educated in JNU or Delhi University, IIT,IIMs with good connections.
The RSS/BJP academic connection is through the Akhila Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Even liberals or serious free thinkers were not accepted by the RSS/ABVP networks. There are not many foreign degree holders in this network even from upper castes–leave alone OBC/SC/STs. Because the RSS/BJP considered Harvard,Cambridge or Oxford kind of university education as Christian or left/liberal. But the left/liberal intellectual families of the metropolitan cities were so conscious of foreign degrees, they had no problem with Christian/Left/liberal notions, as they know that all the top universities in West were started as Christian universities but they became very secular and liberal/left now. RSS/BJP forces were also very uncomfortable with secular education of the West as they have strong Indian traditional Sanskritic educational agenda.
Now the RSS/BJP regime is forced to fill the backlog OBC/SC/ST vacancies, lest they lose power. There is a dilemma within its Brahmin/Banaia cadre that what they were against are made to accept now because the PM himself is said to be an OBC. Many Vice-Chancellors having come from the dwija community background are forced to adjust with reservation ideology. Because the reservation legitimacy has settled down even among the rural OBC/SC/STs through Panchayat elections. There is a new consciousness among OBC/SC/ST families in villages that reservation is their constitutional right. Dr.B.R. Ambedkar is very popular in the villages because of reservations. RSS/BJP realized this, hence is made to grudgingly adjust with the issue of reservation. Every family now knows where that family locates in terms of reservation in the villages.
The problem is that the BJP Government is filling these vacancies with their ideological forces adopting to their own standard criteria. In this regime candidates with minimum qualification from OBC/SC/STs get posted more quickly than what during the UPA time academics were doing. During the UPA regime the professors–who were experts in selection committees– were very powerful. But now the recruitment is Government driven with their own ideology, and selection committees are nominal. The Vice-Chancellors do the selection based on the directions from above.
Those OBC/SC/ST students who survived with a feeling of totally undeserving to be a central university teacher but somehow managed to get basic qualification of MA/MSc/M.Tech with net, and worked around RSS/ABVP networks by attending shakhas and other activities are becoming associate professors in all central universities and institutes. Even in non-teaching positions, vacancies are being filled with their ideological Shakha trained candidates. RSS/BJP cadres think that for seventy years the liberals and left did not allow them to enter these educational institutes. Now it is their tern to fill every vacancy with a Shakha member who has the basic qualification. The backlog vacancies, left unfilled by the liberal/left and free thinking academia has become boon for the RSS/BJP cadres. If pure caste and individual subjectivity decided earlier what should be the standard in universities and central institutions now loyalty to RSS decides the standard.
But those who got supervised around the left/liberal or free thinking upper caste professors, with lot of struggle, who also carried the left, liberal or free thinking ideology with better academic standards, of course Indian degrees, are not at all favoured even from OBC/SC/STs by the present regime. Even though some of them want to shift to shakha training for the sake of job, the RSS is not trusting them as they get such long term cosy jobs which are of life time with huge benefits. They need well trained loyal cadre on the campuses. And all such candidates are getting teaching positions. The idea of ‘University’ is now being transformed to ‘’Nationsity’’. The new recruits, as the new administration is, are well versed in the education of mythology, parampara and mathrubhoomi. All subjects are compressed into these three ideological Nationsity courses–particularly in social sciences and languages. All their research should be around the modern Golden Age that began in 2014.
There is no doubt that RSS/ABVP trained qualified candidates immediately cannot handle classes in serious universities and institutes. But they do more of organizational work. Even within Indian university education the RSS/ABVP trained academics are not methodologically rigorous as the left liberals are, who have huge or some influence of Euro-American methodological rigor. According to the present regime methodological rigor is anti-national.
Any writing of RSS/BJP/ABVP intellectuals will show that fundamentally they are untrained without any rigor in methodology. From Hedgewar, Golwalkar to present they do not believe in academic rigor and modern methodology. Anything Western is an anathema to them. Their student intellectuals also follow the same model. They do not believe in reading books written by foreign authors , unless they are Hindu like Fancoisgautier. They mainly read mythology books, which are more poetic in form. There is no notion of theory among the RSS/ABVP trained intellectuals. Theory in their view is a Western left/liberal nonsense.
Even among the OBC/SC/ST scholars with a left liberal bent there is seriousness and are of better standards from the point of view of university education. But most of them remain unemployed because they did not get selected by the earlier regime. Now the left/liberal professors lost power even though many of them are still in service in many central universities and institutes. They are now upset, angry and are also part of the agitations standing by the students demanding for autonomy. But RSS/BJP will not give that kind of autonomy because that will come in their way of transforming universities into Nationsities. Like in Middle Eastern Islamic countries they hate secular education system as that does not allow the Bharatiya parampara imparted at all levels in its total Varnadharma form. That is the only way to fulfill Savarkar, Golwalkar and Deendayal Uphadhyaya’s Hindutva parampara philosophical dream. Their dream is totally opposed to Hegelian ideas of Spirit, Geist and Dialectics. They have a goal to abolish the notion of Dialectics form Indian social science discourses.
However, the Indian left/liberal and free thinking intellectuals hate the right-wing low standard teachers of all castes who are better trained in their shakha ideology (as they did in JNU recently) than teaching, writing and debating. The RSS/ABVP recruits cannot survive in those structures of serious reading and writing without changing the earlier culture of reading, writing global knowledge and debate. At best they can debate on mythology issues of India in the class rooms but cannot teach the existing syllabus seriously. Hence they need to change the basic structure of central universities–particularly that of social science education.
The RSS/BJP cannot afford to give autonomy because their academic pool is limited and mostly incompetent by left/liberal–that too foreign trained– standards and also as I said goes against their ultimate goal of reverse transformation.
The JNU crisis is only an expression of this dilemma of RSS/BJP higher education. They opposed reservation but now adjusted to that policy for votes and power. They also supported privatization of higher education. But there is catch there too. If it is pure science or medicine or engineering they have not much problem in private sector. But in social sciences those institutions also ape the West. RSS/BJP mythology centred social science finds no buyers in private universities because they have to pay and study. This is another dilemma.
However, the fear of left, liberal and free thinking merit loving professors is that they have to now live with colleagues who came from the opposite camp with no love of education at all–Indian or foreign– or else they will have to leave for private universities or foreign universities. The RSS/BJP will fill both non-reserved and reserved positions without leaving backlogs because the newly recruited teachers would be their future intellectuals of their own ideology, whatever could be their standards. They define standard in their own terms. They have clarity of their own ideological goal. Indian universities are in reverse march and that is what RSS/BJP want. But the process the whole education system will collapse.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author of many books, the latest being From Shepherd Boy to an Intellectual—My Memoirs