Ramjas College row: Gurmehar Kaur's foolhardy activism shows erosion of idealism in education

Nothing is richer than the spectacle of the vast array of discredited, compromised, career-wrecked former TV anchors and pun-challenged journalists lending faux solidarity to a 20-year old student, who in a way is symbolic of everything wrong with the Indian educational system.

Add to this list lyricists and socialist screenplay writers who should have either retired with dignity or maintained their pursuits to remain relevant in that extended cesspool called Bollywood. Indeed, we can also include similar eminences drawn from various other fields, but the aforementioned are illuminative, representative samples.

Not too long ago, some among them reported what is politely known as the Adarsh Housing Scam, but what in truth was the shameless plunder of land allotted to the real martyrs of the Kargil war: The soldiers who died defending India. But back then, we didn't witness the same sort of shrillery as we did with the Gurmehar episode now.

 Ramjas College row: Gurmehar Kaurs foolhardy activism shows erosion of idealism in education

Protestors gather for speeches following a march held on Delhi University campus. Reuters

To put the Gurmehar Kaur episode in perspective, it's just the latest avatar of the same bankruptcy that gave rise to the narrative surrounding Rohit Vemula, the FTII fracas, the award-wapsi, the intolerance debate, Kanhaiya Kumar, and stories of death due to demonetisation. And the aforementioned class of overnight warriors have expressed their valour by firing from the shoulders of this young lady.

Even granting, for example, that their support for Vemula was genuine, how many of these worthies have actually followed up and done something about the plight of his hapless mother? Indeed, the dramatis personae of Gurmehar's celebrity supporters include such suave eminences as Shashi Tharoor among others. But the most ironic of them all should be Sitaram Yechury, whose party's ongoing record of killing RSS and BJP workers in Kerala is well-known.

But to state the obvious in each of the aforementioned cases, the support is neither for Kanhaiya Kumar nor Gurmehar as representatives of some lofty ideal or cause: They are merely newer and newer human fronts to attack Prime Minister Narendra Modi relentlessly. This attack is obviously the continuation of the same vicious script that unleashed the decade-long witch hunt against him over the Gujarat riots, when he was chief minister.

But more fundamentally, the Gurmehar episode is neither about free speech nor ABVP nor the other student bodies. It's about the near-total erosion of idealism in education. It's astonishing why this fundamental question isn't asked in any of the narratives surrounding such issues: Why do students even need to agitate on college and university campuses instead of sincerely doing what they are there for: Studying, getting educated, and emerging as productive contributors to the Indian society? Or to put it bluntly, what sort of teachers or citizens would the "Bharat tere tukde tukde honge" types become tomorrow?

Gurmehar Kaur's slogan about war is actually a dangerous portent of sustained propaganda-esque public discourse; what it means is that people like her have lost even the ability to recognise that Pakistan is an enemy nation.

It's not far from the truth to say that the Marxist dominance over the Humanities has led us to this pass. Indeed, when was the last time we saw the JNU and the Ramjas-type ugliness emanating from the science departments of our academia?

Frankly, I think it's pointless to blame Gurmehar Kaur because she's simply both the consequence and the logical creation of her syllabus. As this detailed deconstruction of her utterings shows, they are the result of a toxic combination of misplaced notions of world peace, immaturity, half-baked knowledge, and the product of an impressionable age which wants to right all the wrongs in the world.

Equally, Gurmehar's bravado emanates from the high-profile and shrill support from the cynical Lutyens elite. While the prospect of getting branded as a victim who took on the mighty establishment is truly seductive and heady, it's also momentary but destructive in the long run.

On the point of idealism in education, why is the notion that student unions must exist on college and university campuses taken as an article of faith instead of it being critically examined? This is astonishing because almost since the beginning, student unions have invariably become political battlegrounds with perhaps insignificant amount of good coming out of them but the negatives have been overwhelming.

But for the existence of student unions, Communist propaganda factories like the JNU wouldn't have become fertile grounds providing an ample supply for Maoist-terror recruitment.

The Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Nagpur Range, Ravindra Kadam, has told Mail Today that a few students of the university had joined the underground Maoist cadre at the behest of arrested Delhi University (DU) professor GN Saibaba, currently lodged in Nagpur jail.

The Maharashtra police have also said those students who joined the Maoists in their anti-state struggle were members of the Democratic Students' Union (DSU), the same students' body Umar Khalid — one of the organisers of the event to commemorate Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

The same Umar Khalid of the "Bharat tere tukde tukde honge" fame, who also in a way germinated the Gurmehar incident. In a sickening repeat of the practiced modus operandi, back then, the same Umar Khalid — branded merely as a "JNU research scholar and activist", was heavily patronised by the same Lutyens media studios. One can cite numerous such instances, but this should suffice for now.

Indeed, had idealism in education prevailed, eminences like Shashi Tharoor would have ideally counselled Gurmehar Kaur to focus on studies instead of sloganeering. But the path they've chosen instead is a reflection of their cynical political agendas which sees nothing wrong in using twenty-year olds as political pawns. This state of affairs will persist as long as teachers behave like indoctrinators instead of moral and spiritual guides.

This isn't to absolve Gurmehar's foolhardy activism but to shine the spotlight on people like Tharoor who, we assumed, knew better but intentionally chose to travel the ignoble road.

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 15:54:31 IST