Dear comrades, friends and well-wishers,
There is a saying in English that Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Such is the idleness that has befallen the Chairman of the University Grants Commission in this country. Under the Modi regime, the UGC has lost both its power and whatever autonomy it had possessed. Disbursement of government funds for the development of university education and research across the country has itself come to a virtual standstill. The UGC has also lost its financial authority and all that was left for Chairman Jagadhish Kumar was to sit in his office and twiddle his thumbs. But no, he cannot bear to be inactive.
No one could have blamed him for being inactive even in his JNU days. He was rather a powerhouse of mischief destroying day by day an academic and administrative system put in place through years of committed efforts of the University community which had made JNU an example of scholarly excellence. Being now at the head of the UGC he has assumed the moral authority to decide how universities across the country should observe Constitution Day.
In its recently issued directive from the heights, UGC has reportedly sent the message to Central universities, deemed universities and to Governors in the states, many of them also chancellors of the state universities, that it would sponsor a series of academic events to be organized by these academic institutions on the theme ‘India, the Mother of Democracy’ to celebrate the occasion.
One may recall that the phrase was actually mouthed by the Prime Minister himself from the Red Fort on our Independence Day; the UGC Chairman has picked it up deliberately not as a tribute to the dreams of those who had shed their blood in the Freedom Struggle, nor as a reference to the founders of our Constitution who had wanted India to be re-invented as a secular democratic nation. In fact, we suspect that it is with the intention of turning the whole history of India on its head to glorify the RSS concept of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ that the step has been taken. It has also been reported that the Indian Council of Historical Research, another government-funded autonomous body, is itself busy putting together a book in Hindi titled ‘Bharat: Loktantra ki Janani’.
It is for historians to rebut or corroborate claims made in the reported UGC directive on behalf of the thesis of democracy having originated in ancient India in Vedic times. There has been enough painstaking research in our universities on the so-called ‘ganarajyas’ and the evolution of the notion of kingship. The scheme to hide all such evidence culled by historians of caste, class and gender hierarchies in ancient India so that a model of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in its pristine innocence may be offered is familiar and can be dealt with adequately only by historians on the battlefield.
As a women’s organization we may merely ask whether in the ancient ‘ganarajya’ of Vaishali, it was perceived as a matter of her own choice for a talented woman like Ambapali to become a courtesan or whether it was the decree of the heads of the city-state? Was the subservience of the woman and the ‘shudra’ not necessary for such a state? Is such subservience in consonance with what we understand by democracy? It is precisely such subservience that BJP-RSS is desperate to enforce through its continuous abuse of history.
The stranglehold of caste and patriarchy, the tyranny of the family and the community in khap panchayats is the other model of ‘democracy’ for them closer to our times; this is the reason why they wish to uphold it on Constitution Day obliterating the fact that our Constitution sets us the task of breaking all such hierarchies meant to enslave women economically, socially and ideologically. As a women’s organization this breaking of social boundaries has always been our primary task and the Constitution is not just our shield but our sword in this struggle. There can be no compromise for us with RSS’ attempts to obfuscate the history of this struggle.
We are moving now towards our 13th Conference to be held in Thiruvananthapuram from 6th to 9th January, 2023. The new committee emerging from the Conference shall take further in more effective ways this task which we have been seeking to facilitate through this Newsletter. We must succeed in this!
President, All India Democratic Women’s Association