A revolution apart

Other than the uprising, 1857 also marked a lesser known revolution in India. It was the year, the Calcutta, Bombay and Madras universities were established. ‘Revolution’ may be equated with violent and rapid change, but this was ‘the revolution‘ that was proactive, the changes which they unleashed were slow and incremental, but forward-looking.

These universities produced the generation of men and women who led and staffed India’s freedom struggle, and later fuelled both liberation movements and democracy in India. Now, the times have changed. Unfortunately, increasing number of bright, young students study abroad. Earlier, in the social sciences, the major debates about Indian society and history were fueled by Indians. The best works of Western specialists was also published in Indian journals. Such is not the case anymore. Times have changed, indeed!

This tactonic shift is both the cause and consequence of the decline of academic research in Indian universities. Once research declines, so does the quality of teaching. Once, our universities made a fundamental contribution to the opening of the Indian mind. Now, they act as a constraint to the further economic and social development of India.

A major reason for this decline is narrow-mindedness. This narrow-mindedness is not just linguistic or regional; it is also ideological. In Calcutta, leftism has destroyed the pluralism of ideas in the university. Those who question Marxism on intellectual grounds cannot hope to enjoy positions of authority and respect in Calcutta University. How little they understand Marxism, which itself asks for debates! Mumbai University is hijacked by Shiv Sena goons. Same is the case with Right wing politics and Delhi University. Remember the Ramayana fiasco? This narrow-mindedness has ensured that these world-class universities have shrunk themselves to become regional colleges.

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