On 15 November 2022, the University Grants Commission sent a letter to 45 Central and 45 Deemed to be universities, to hold lectures on India: Mother of Democracy in order to celebrate Constitution Day on 26 November 2022. The letter directs all Universities to hold lectures on the ancient origins of Indian Democracy apart from reading the Preamble and the Chapter on Fundamental Duties. The UGC appears to have circulated a concept note on this subject which identifies 15 themes. Though the note has not been made public, several media reports and the statements of the UGC Chairperson suggest that the themes include the glorification of anti-women ancient texts and traditions. The themes of the lectures include Khap Panchayats, feudal and dictatorial monarchies and anti-women customs that follow the Manusmruti. It is also ironical that the UGC has asked Universities to celebrate Constitution Day in a manner that fundamentally ignores the rights of women to a decent and dignified life. While it asks people to read the preamble, it promotes ideas and texts that have laid the foundation of the oppression of women since ancient times.
The UGC has been attempting to push courses of Vedic culture and alter the academic syllabus to suit the patriarchal Hindutva brigade. By issuing this letter, it has shown that it is not an autonomous agency which is wedded to the ideals of modern education, but that it is becoming a hand-maiden of the Hindutva brigade. It is directly following the direction of the Prime Minister Modi, who has been selling the idea of Vedic democracy as an ideal political system. This idea is fundamentally against the spirit of the Constitution and furthers the regressive and anti-women content of the NEP, 2020. The NEP, 2020 lays the foundation of the promotion of Hindutva morality in universities and opens the window for the glorification of patriarchal traditions. The UGC Chairperson’s latest comments, also provide a justification for legitimizing illegal and conservative social institutions like the Khap Panchayats, against whom the AIDWA has waged a long campaign.
The AIDWA calls upon the UGC to exercise its constitutionally mandated role of promoting modern education that is based on the Constitutional Values. It appeals to all members of the University to oppose attempts which will alter the character of UGC and make it an instrument of conservative Hindutva politics.
Malini Bhattacharya Mariam Dhawale
President General Secretary