FYUP: Fast at Rajghat
Note for the press
4 June 2013
Delhi University FYUP : Fast at Rajghat
Coming from the rural outskirts of Delhi during the early 70’s, I had joined Delhi University as a Hindi literature student. I had felt completely awed by the ambience, the intellectual and the creative warmth prevailing in the campus. Alongside the broad lanes and the shady trees on the ridge, one had experienced the power of the J.P. Movement, the trauma of the Emergency, the horrific killing of Mrs. Gandhi and the shame of communal riots. There were no grilled enclosures in the campus then, to shut out the pulse of the nation and such ‘out side’ concerns and influences. They were a part of the unwritten curriculum integral to the students’ learning process.
One has seen much water, waste and wishes flow down the Yamuna these forty years, first as a student of the DU and then as a teacher. DU still stirs up a certain eagerness and expectations while interacting with new students and their tentative dreams. There can be no greater joy than to see the new order take over the old, better still, if it is in a direction different from the past, and in accordance with the present reality, needs and circumstances of the new world.
The DU has been a place where major social, academic and even political changes have been contemplated and debated upon. Despite the several disagreements, the DU fraternity has always respected the constitutional right to speak our minds and encourage healthy debate. In this sense, it has been a centre of values that have instilled a democratic mindset into its students’ psyche. While stating so today, I am visited by a genuine anxiety that many of colleagues might share with me. I am stuck by the irreverent, intimidating and anti-democratic wind blowing across the university. I do not wish to enter into the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the FYUP, but would like to make two submissions in this connection.
The first is that many of our students come from families who cannot afford to send their wards to private, expensive colleges. These are the first generation learners who come to broaden their mental and material horizons. Within their limited time and resources at hand, they seek to work for the DU degree, not a diploma. The second point is that the actual and practical implementation of the citizens’ constitutional and fundamental rights to speak and to be heard should happen at the university campus. Whatever the out come, whatever the ultimate decision, the first lesson and the first ‘foundation course’ that our students need to believe in is that they are born into a free and constitutionally governed country.
I would like to appeal to the government, the university and the law to let good sense prevail and to ensure that the Delhi University continues to retain its reputation as a centre of democratic values and academic excellence. Mahatma Gandhi’s concern for equal, inexpensive, accessible and quality education should not be forgotten. In humble remembrance and tribute to my alma mater, the Delhi University, and to Mahatma Gandhi, I have planned to observe a three day (5 June – 7 June 2013) fast at Rajghat with the hope that wider implications of education, which is the mark and the strength of a democratic country like India, continues to flourish to serve Gandhi’s last man in the row.
(Former fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla; former member, Academic Council, DU)
Department of Hindi
University of Delhi