Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mukul Mangalik on DUTA Admissions Boycott

Admissions Boycott 2016?
Surely, we can’t let our struggles be diminished….

It is truly remarkable that a teachers’ rebellion, unequivocally singular in scale and intensity, has arisen, this summer of 2016, like a Phoenix, from the dust that Delhi University (DU) was being systematically reduced to over the last many years. Fighting for bread, but fighting for Roses too, thousands of teachers, young and old, infuriated, distressed and tired of being excluded, abandoned, unequal and enslaved, have thronged Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) General Body Meetings (GBMs) and the streets of Delhi in mass displays of elemental spontaneity, exuding conviction in the legitimacy of their revolt and huge confidence in each other.

Foregrounding issues that have been hollowing out our existence and burning a black hole into the core of DU, this outpouring of mass refusal and affirmation, through steadfastly democratic and creative modes of protest, has already achieved what, until recently, appeared impossible to attain. It has shattered the seemingly permanent pall of fear and gloom that had come to settle over DU, broken through the siege that was relentlessly tightening its grip over our university and crafted a space for us to breathe freely once again and fight fearlessly for democracy and all the things that matter to us as teachers.

This is no mean achievement. Yet, even as we acknowledge that this is a victory that nobody can snatch from us, let us also remember, as each DUTA GBM ceaselessly reminds us, that this victory in turn demands that our struggle over each of the concrete issues highlighted in resolution after DUTA resolution must carry on with redoubled vigour, while retaining the capacity to make principled shifts in modes of campaigning and fighting.  

As long as there is a standing resolution of the DUTA GBM asking teachers to boycott the Admissions process 2016, I would of course, urge colleagues to stand by this decision, but I would simultaneously urge all concerned to reconsider this decision itself. Even if this boycott were to be completely honoured by teachers across colleges—which apparently is not likely to be the case for a variety of reasons—it is, I think, a bad idea, especially at this moment in our struggle.

Six weeks into our fight, when, what we desperately need is an understanding of, and empathy with our legitimate concerns by society at large, when students, at their most vulnerable need us the most, and when the gaze of the country’s citizens is trained on us, we, instead of remaining in the saddle and simultaneously wearing black bands, holding dharnas and arguing our case vigorously with admission seekers, their families and friends, are opting out of being in harness; opting out of standing by and helping ease admission crises and admission related blues; opting out of providing the assurances and decisive inputs that only we can provide at an irrevocably critical juncture in students’ lives, particularly to students who are economically and socially disadvantaged.

I am unable to understand how this can build on the gains of the teachers’ movement thus far, broaden the base of our support, strengthen us politically and augment our capacity to fight for our rights and demands in the future. I can only see it damaging and weakening rather than enriching the phenomenal Phoenix moment of the DU Teachers’ Movement, the genuine attempts to reach out to students and parents notwithstanding.

It is bad enough that we’re living in ungenerous times. Surely, we can’t let our struggles be diminished and let them in turn ‘make us ungenerous’. We have made an honourable exception in the case of evaluation for the current third year batch so that no irrevocable harm is caused to the most vulnerable students. We have made an equally honourable exception regarding teachers’ participation in timetable and workload committees so that no irrevocable harm is caused to the most vulnerable among our colleagues. In keeping with the spirit of this principle, and while participating wholeheartedly in all the other action programs chalked out by the DUTA, we might, for now, just like to reconsider our decision to boycott admissions 2016 so that we can lend a helping hand to students at one of the most critical and vulnerable moments of their lives.

Of course, should the DUTA GBM continue to stand by its resolution to boycott admissions, I’d like to reiterate that I too would stand by it even if I continue to disagree with this decision.

Mukul Mangalik

Ramjas College, July 1, 2016

NB: As an old DUTA activist, I must record my view here, that it would be improper, unethical and unwise to boycott admissions. Admissions are a crucial event in the academic calendar and college education is not comparable to a capitalist production process, even though the authorities wish to reduce it to exactly that.  If senior teachers in leading positions are arguing for such a boycott I can only conclude that they are doing so as part of a political strategem - DS