The wolf and the lamb

Social injustice and the fate of the university

Saitya Brata Das | August 4, 2017


#discrimination   #dalits   #JNU   #education   #society  
(Photo: Arun Kumar)
(Photo: Arun Kumar)

At no other moment in the history of Indian national life after Independence the dalits are as oppressed as this moment: dalits are set ablaze, slaughtered like animals on the slaughtering bench of history, and humiliated like slaves in the marketplace in full daylight. When the social hierarchy is interiorised and reduplicated within the institutionalised life of higher education like the university, it assumes the name ‘meritocracy’.

The idea of merit that is based upon the neoliberal logic of quantification, classification and control, through which the capital recharges itself, is now combined with the millennium-long social injustice based upon caste discrimination. This is how in today’s world of extreme capitalism, where only the fittest survives in the life-and-death struggle – and where the idea of  merit serves as the paradigm of exclusion and elimination – the social injustice is intellectualised. The neoliberal world of extreme capitalism, thus, has not eliminated social injustice – for example, the caste hierarchy in India – but rather perpetuates it in ever new forms, of which the idea of merit is its latest avatar.
 
The reduction of knowledge to commodity production, like any other commodities that bear economic values in the world market, is blind and deaf to the burning – and the absolute – question of social justice. It reduces the question of social justice to an issue belonging to the field of conditioned negotiations in the realm of practical politics, while on the other hand, it upholds the idea of merit as a politically neutral one that serves the interest of any and each individual, provided that one has the merit and proves it. This supposed equality, which is actually a homogenisation of singularities into quantitative entities, is, at the same instance – and this is its blind sport – perpetuation of social inequality.
 
This is, as it has always been, also the truth of the space called ‘university life’: the social injustice is being constantly subsumed and kept hidden – and thus perpetuated – under the supposedly neutral concept of ‘merit’, but the truth is precisely the opposite: the top of the hierarchy will almost always be occupied by not just the economically dominant class but the socially dominant caste. Through the mechanism of merit, the hegemonic apparatus subtly, in the most refined manner possible, keeps the lower castes at the lowest level possible, subjugating them in the most repressive manner, though in the light of the day it does not appear so coercive. 
 
Even in a university like Jawaharlal Nehru University, especially under the current establishment, the work of reduplicating the social hierarchy into the interiorised idea of merit is visible in the most glaring manner, and when this institutionally legitimated idea of merit does not work – when a faculty or a student, for example, is even better than other colleagues even in accordance to the paradigm of merit – coercive force is used by the legitimate authority in the most brutal and corrupt and rotten manner possible. 
 
To give an example: in my own case of promotion, through ‘Career Advancement Scheme’ at JNU from ‘associate professor’ to ‘professor’, the present legitimate authority (who functions like a dictator) used his authority, in the most brutal manner possible, to stop my promotion even though I have fulfilled all academic qualifications. He invoked a criterion of promotion (that only he who has research scholars awarded PhD under his supervision will be promoted) which exists neither in UGC rules nor in JNU rules. At the same time, he has misused his authority to promote another colleague who does not even have PhD scholars working with him.
 
 
It is a blatant example of caste discrimination that is possible even in a university like JNU. It only reminds us of the story of the wolf: when it no longer could argue with the little lamb who is drinking spring water the downhill, the wolf argued that even if the little lamb did not pollute the water, his ancestors had done so. The wolf thereby took the liberty to punish the little lamb: it jumped on him and crushed him to death. 
 
The caste discrimination, thus, takes an infinite number of forms, gestures, nuances and shades possible: when arguments work, then it’s fine; when arguments do not work, then force and violence is to be used; in any case, social injustice has to be perpetuated, hegemonic domination has to be reproduced, for reproduction of the condition of production – as the philosopher Louis Althusser insightfully explains – is the very logic of hegemonic domination. The caste question as part of university curriculum, within the closed doors of the classroom, is all that is fine, but the instance it breaks out and wants to transform the social situation, and puts into question unspeakable and barbaric violence of hegemonic forces, then every weapon must be used to stop it. 
 
It is extremely difficult for a dalit to be professor where the caste discrimination rules in such a manner, even though the dalit faculty member has achieved excellence, in so many different ways, in his academic works. The logic of merit is used precisely to stop any dalit colleagues to rise in the professional space, and when even this does not work, then the most corrupt ways will be used to stop the dalits. Here, as elsewhere, the brahminical order is governed by what Friedrich Nietzsche calls ‘resentment’: the illogical logic through which social injustice and social inequality is legitimated and justified is the logic that the wolf gives. And the wolf is full of resentment.
 
The question of social justice is the absolute and unconditional question. It concerns the very foundation of the historical existence of the Indian nation. No one can evade it by reducing it to a conditioned fulfilment through practical politics. It demands the complete revolutionizing of the Indian society at large. 
 
 
feedback@governancenow.com

(The article appears in the August 1-15, 2017 issue of Governance Now)
 
 

Comments

 

Other News

Ashish Shelar of BJP says, “We are very confident…”

Ashish Shelar, 47, is the president of the Mumbai city unit of the BJP. He is also the minister of school education, sports and youth welfare in the Maharashta government. He has represented the Vandre West constituency in the state assembly and seeking re-election. In a chat with Geetanjali Mi

Nobel for economics goes to `global fight against poverty`

The Nobel Prize in economics for 2019 goes to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty." The prize, known as “The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel”, was announc

Modi-Xi script a new chapter in bilateral relations

Prime minister Narendra Modi has accepted president Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit China in 2020 for their third informal summit after Wuhan and Mamallapuram, indicating both sides’ realization of the importance of the mechanism which gives the two leaders of the Asian giants an opportunity t

Dharma as the original Idea of India

Dharma: Hinduism and Religions in India By Chaturvedi Badrinath Edited by Tulsi Badrinath Penguin, 194+ xiii pages, Rs 499 How to live: That is the most fundamental question of human existence.

Prakash Ambedkar on why he wants other parties to mention the candidates’ community

Prakash Ambedkar, grandson of Dr BR Ambedkar and popularly known as Balasaheb Ambedkar, heads the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA). The three-time MP founded this new political party last year with a vision of Ambedkarism, secularism, socialism and progressivism. The VBA, registered this year before the Lo

Maharashtra, Haryana polls: parties spent Rs 280.72 crore on publicity

Political parties that contested the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections in 2014 spent the largest part of their expenses, Rs 280.72 crore (77.35 percent), on publicity, shows an analysis by the National Election Watch (NEW). This was followed by Rs 41.40 crore on travel expenses, Rs 22.59 crore on



Current Issue

Current Issue

Video

CM Nitish’s convoy attacked in Buxar

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter