ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Life and Death of Public Universities

The government is abdicating its constitutional responsibilities by attacking public universities.

Medieval chronicler Minhaj-i-Siraj records how Bakhtiyar Khilji, who had conquered parts of eastern India at the fag end of the 12th century, attacked a fortress in Bihar. Having captured the fort, the story goes, he found that it was inhabited by a large number of Brahmins and contained a great number of books. It was then that the conqueror realised that what he had captured was not a mere fort, but a university.

Right-wing ideologues love to misread this passage from Tabaqat-i-Nasiri as an authoritative account of the destruction of the ancient university of Nalanda by Muslim invaders. The story, however, captures the predicament of our current government and its supporters, who see universities not as centres of knowledge production but as enemy forts—as “bastions” of sedition and “anti-nationalism.” For example, during the Kargil War “celebrations” last year at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), retired army officer G D Bakshi had thundered that having captured JNU, the government must proceed to destroy the “fortresses” of Hyderabad Central University and Jadavpur University. Last week, the government has proved its intentions once again by its actions, brutally attacking students, teachers, and journalists protesting against destructive government interventions and shameless sheltering of alleged sexual harassers. While the Indian university system has not been immune to government interference, never in the past has it encountered the kind of relentless attack it is facing today.

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Updated On : 31st Mar, 2018

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