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For higher educational institutes, it’s fair to say ‘bure din aa gaye hain’


IIT Bombay faculty have issued a letter criticising the targeting of JNU and arrest of its students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, pointing to the “general atmosphere of fear and intimidation“ created through such actions.

The statement also expresses anguish at government overreach that has “undermined the autonomy of institutions of higher education“. This indicates disquiet across the board at the government’s handling of higher education, not confined to “leftist bastions“ such as JNU.

The Smriti Irani-led HRD ministry has acted in ways inimical to the interests of higher education, the country’s youth and ultimately of BJP itself.

According to Times of India blog Irani’s tenure at HRD’s helm has been marked by a string of fiascos ­ from the disruption of Delhi University over its four year programme (since rescinded) to multiple assaults on the autonomy of IITs and IIMs (they exist as islands of excellence precisely because they have been exempt so far from stifling government controls), to Rohith Vemula’s suicide under duress at the University of Hyderabad.

With the Kanhaiya Kumar case, meddling in campuses is no longer confined to HRD alone. Forensic experts have indicated that the video purporting to show Kumar shouting “anti-national“ slogans ­ the main piece of evidence for hauling him in on the grave charge of sedition ­ could have been doctored.

Police exhibited similar Keystone Cops-like reflexes as lawyers rioted repeatedly in Delhi’s Patiala House courts complex. In this case the home ministry has covered itself in disgrace ­ just as for the HRD ministry , it’s difficult to say where its incompetence ends and partisanship begins. Unless things change soon, and fairly drastically at that ­ the IIT Bombay faculty letter offers clues about where to start ­ it’s fair to say that for our universities and beyond, bure din aa gaye hain.

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