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The State, Goons, Spectators and a Rebel

The ongoing stand-off in Lucknow University between the vice-chancellor on one side, and the students, staff and the state government on the other raises larger issues of academic governance.

The State, Goons, Spectators and a Rebel

The ongoing stand-off in Lucknow University between the vice-chancellor on one side, and the students, staff and the state government on the other raises larger issues of

academic governance.

PRASHANT KUMAR

O
ur cultural and political institutions have not only rendered violence sexy and rewarding, they have also made anarchy seem like a normal pattern of life. It, therefore, needs tremendous courage to stand firm against the current. The ones who do so are destined to face opposition not only from the ruling class, which has collectively chosen to fill the ideological chasm between socialism and fascism, but also from some of the more popular “social activists” and dreamers of a “better society” who would never fail to issue “radical” statements on all issues in fashion.

The anarchic behaviour of the criminals masquerading as students of Lucknow University (LU), the closure of the university for nearly a month by a combative vice-chancellor, the felon-friendly Samajwadi Party (SP) government’s refusal to release sanctioned financial assistance to the university, the Mulayammotivated administrative inquiry into the functioning of the institution, the demolition by LU authorities of the encroachments on the campus and expose of the rackets run by the encroachers and their godfathers, the abusive behaviour of some leaders of the nonteaching staff towards the authorities, the expulsion of dozens of ruffians, and their ‘dadagiri’ laced with the now fashionable ‘Gandhigiri’ were in focus during much of December.

Much concern was expressed by the SP government, state police, opposition leaders like Pramod Tiwari of the Congress and Lalji Tandon of the Bharatiya Janata Party over the threat to the “democratic” set-up within the university and the “autocratic” behaviour of the vice-chancellor, R P Singh. The politicians who have reduced democracy to a farce in Uttar Pradesh spoke with passionate eloquence on the issue of the expelled students’ “fundamental rights”.

Deterioration of an Institution

A former vice-chancellor of the LU, Rooprekha Verma claimed that the university had not been closed for a day during her tenure and everything had gone on peacefully. What great achievement is that? Peace reigns supreme when the established models of crime, corruption and incompetence remain intact either in a society or on a university campus. Arguing against the sine die closure of the university, Verma, who happens to be an activist herself, opined that the prime objective of a university was teaching and learning [and research, let us add] and nothing should have been done at the cost of this objective.1 The whole country knows what kind of teaching and research have been going on in this university and its affiliated colleges.

Trainloads of the brightest students from Lucknow migrate to reputed institutions in Delhi and other parts of the country after finishing school because they see no future in the degrees awarded by this university. To study outstation is not an easy choice to make because most of these students come from the middle class and it is difficult for their parents to afford living expenses in bigger cities. Many promising students have been forced to stay behind due to this very reason and not because the university’s erstwhile “peaceful” campus had something great to offer them.

In the past three to four decades, the LU students union has broken all records of lawlessness on the campus where political parties have deliberately propped up thugs with awesome criminal antecedents. Some of the university teachers have earned the dubious distinction of being housegrabbers and/or academic pirates. Sometimes this university has even passed a student in MA-II who had failed in MA-I the previous year. Fake mark sheets can be obtained without much effort. Political and pecuniary pressures have resulted in appointments and promotions of goons and buffoons in all faculties. The LU Teachers Association, which has never in its history campaigned for a better academic standard, now takes pride in disrupting classes to assert their “right” to longer vacations. Those who wished to remain sincere could never command a domineering position under any dispensation.

A good number of the university employees look upon their jobs as a parttime vacation and conduct other business during office hours. Many others are involved in various irregularities and suppliers and contractors complain that they cannot receive any payment without greasing palms. Unpretentious teachers whose projects have been sanctioned by the University Grants Commission have to train themselves to be able to face humiliation at the hands of the accounts clerks. The administrative inquiry ordered by the state government is not directed against such elements who have wasted no time in uniting against the incumbent vice-chancellor and his colleagues. The motivation behind the inquiry is an attempt to harass those very people who seem determined to reform the campus.

Steps in the Right Direction

The expulsion of some of the most notorious bandits from the campus has brought immediate relief not only to the university but also to the shopkeepers and local residents, who have been victims of regular vandalism. When an ill-famed government decides to back the goons up to the hilt and a castrated and dehumanised police force dances to the political master’s mace like mammals in a circus, R P Singh’s major attempt to get the campus cleaned up needs all the support a conscientious citizenry can mobilise, particularly when he receives constant threats from the government as well as the goons.

In a social climate where complacency is a settled way of life and “social work” an attractive business proposition, anyone taking a bold stand for genuine change – that goes beyond executing projects for imperial agencies and/or issuing readymade statements to the media – often discomforts even those who may not be responsible for committing any offences

Economic and Political Weekly January 27, 2007 themselves but choose to remain mute spectators to obnoxious “norms” despite being in positions of power. Not surprisingly, the opposition to R P Singh’s deviation from the standard pattern of a vice-chancellor’s behaviour is coming from more than one quarter. It is, however, heartening to note that the chancellor, T V Rajeswar, has defended the move to conduct the forthcoming students’ union elections in accordance with the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Commission. Singh is also receiving support from the media, the judiciary and an international community of scholars besides large sections of teachers, students and their families.

One hopes that the LU vice-chancellor’s clean-up operation does not remain confined to expelling criminals and removing encroachments. Erring teachers and employees must also not be spared. Regular teaching and restoration of an oft-derailed academic session is important too but the most urgent need is to improve the standards of teaching and research to check the migration of the best minds. All said and done, a university meets its objective only if it develops, in the words of Noam Chomsky, as “a centre for radical social inquiry… and it should provide a home for the free intellectual, for the social critic, for the irreverent and radical thinking that is desperately needed if we are to escape from the dismal reality that threatens to overwhelm us.”2

EPW

Email: dastavez@rediffmail.com

Notes

1 ‘V-C Ke Dhulmul Ravaiyye Se Bigari Sthiti’,

Dainik Jagran, Lucknow, December 24, 2006,

p 6. 2 ‘The Function of the University in a Time of

Crisis’, The Great Ideas Today 1969,

Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, p 61.

Economic and Political Weekly January 27, 2007

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