One nugget of information fortuitously unearthed on the eve of US President George Bushâ€™s visit to the subcontinent (which has given the communist and left political parties an occasion to display their ignorance of bourgeois good manners), is that prime minister Manmohan Singhâ€™s daughter Amrit is a long time immigrant of Godâ€™s Own Country. Over there she is in an unsparing critic of American â€” specifically the Bush administrationâ€™s â€” human rights abuses in Iraq and the American base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
While itâ€™s arguable that US human rights abuses in Iraq and Cuba pale into insignificance when compared with India and especially Saddamâ€™s pre-liberation Iraq, Amritâ€™s emigration to the US highlights a peculiar tendency of prominent Indian politicians â€” quite a few of them foaming anti-US lefties â€” to move heaven and earth to bag Green Cards (which grant permanent residency in the US) for their near and dears. One would have thought the natural inclination would be to retain children close to home and hearth. Moreover surely the flight of privileged children of the high and mighty is tantamount to a vote of no-confidence in the lattersâ€™ socio-economic development policies?
Among prominent politicians whose children have voted with their feet: former presidents Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, R. Venkatraman and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, to name a few. Indeed until the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991, there was so little faith in the Soviet-inspired inorganic economic policies of the political elite (i.e the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty), that the first priority of every prominent citizen was to wangle a Green Card for at least one child, with lefties in the forefront of the exodus.
If the children of the high and mightiest who have all the connections and privileges scramble to get out â€” and stay out â€” of the country, itâ€™s a phenomenon that needs interpretation. Go figure!
Campus capersUnder the indulgent dispensation of the socialist Samajwadi party led by former wrestler turned chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, academics and associated campus discipline are the lowest priorities in Lucknow University. This was very evident at the universityâ€™s convocation on February 6.
First, LUSU (Lucknow University Students Union) president Bajrangi (â€˜Bajjuâ€™) Singh compelled the administration to confer him an award for â€˜best social serviceâ€™ by threatening disruption of ceremonies, if denied the honour. Singhâ€™s logic was that since his predecessor had been given this award, he too was entitled to it. The varsity administration relented by stamping a special medal for him.
But even this appeasement didnâ€™t translate into a smooth convocation ceremony. As soon as chief guest Union human resource development minister Arjun Singh took the mike, student members of the BJP-affiliated Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) started a chorus for his return to Delhi. The black flag waving students were protesting the ministryâ€™s campaign to de-saffronise history textbooks.
Although police personnel managed to eject the protestors, the incident boiled into a major controversy when vice chancellor R.P. Singh, following what he claimed was normal procedure, sent a report to the state governmentâ€™s home ministry charging some teachers, students and employees with promoting lawlessness on the campus.
This prompted the Lucknow University Employees Union to stage a mock funeral of the vice chancellor and tonsure their heads in protest. Moreover some students expressed their protest by raining stones on the vice chancellorâ€™s residence, while demanding the VCâ€™s resignation inter alia for alleged financial impropriety. Although the state government has promptly conceded an official enquiry into the allegations levelled against Singh, the protestors have been unrelenting.
Unsurprisingly the recently honoured Bajju, has been leading the studentsâ€™ agitation.
Higher education infiltrationFollowing the Rajasthan governmentâ€™s decision to permit the promotion of private universities in the state, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) â€” the militant ideological parent organisation of the BJP and the sangh parivar â€” is all set to promote its first ever university on the outskirts of Jaipur.
The independent or self-financing varsity christened Keshav Vidyapeeth Vidayalaya (KVV) â€” has already been dedicated to the nation by RSS supremo K.S. Sudarshan. Conceptualised on a grand scale, it will affiliate 16 colleges, two of which will be exclusively for women students.
Although this is the first higher education venture of the RSS, the sangh together with its subsidiaries and affiliates in this BJP ruled state is well versed in the art of infiltrating its Hindu rashtra propaganda into young minds, given that they run 4,500 schools in the state. And despite the RSS star having dimmed following the ouster of the BJP-led NDA coalition government at the Centre last summer, there are plenty of takers for its "nationalism through a novel approach" brand of higher education. More than 3,500 students have enrolled for KVVâ€™s first academic year. This number is projected to rise to 20,000 within five years.
Belated awarenessItâ€™s been a long time coming, but finally leaders of the countryâ€™s historically depressed Dalit (scheduled castes and tribes) community seem to have cottoned on that state level politicianâ€™s antipathy to teaching English in government primary schools may well be a grand design to keep the Dalit community in its place at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, in perpetuity.
Speaking at a seminar â€˜Education and social justiceâ€™ in Bangalore (February 15) the state president of the Dalit Sangharsha Samithi, N. Murthy charged the "affluent classes" of deliberately denying Dalits access to English language learning. In his opinion, the insistence of Kannada language chauvinists upon prohibiting the teaching of English until class V â€” the current policy of the Karnataka government â€” is a latter day extension of the ancient Brahmanical ban on lower castes learning Sanskrit.
Better late than never!