The roots of problem in Gujarat do not just lie in the present economic situation, but also in the politics of Mr Narendra Modi and his admirers. One of the smartest manipulators of media, Mr Modi knows that he will get admiration even if he is demonized by media and his detractors and so he uses his media generated persona to float ` airs' of various sorts. Swarnim Gujarat is one such brain child. Swarnim Gujarat or Golden Gujarat has succeeded in creating a belief that all is well in the state of Gujarat and not just that this is the Golden Period.
Gullibility is one fundamental trait on which politics all over the world survives and thrives. Gujarat is no exception. Teachers and intellectuals probably are the most gullible people in the country today. Family members of the people who died drinking illicit liquor in Ahmedabad and the family members of children killed by Tantriks in the Asharam Bapu Ashram know that there is no such thing like Swarnim Gujarat . Neither do the family members of people killed in the Post Godhra riots and various minorities buy the idea of Golden Gujarat. It is not just that insignificant and ideologically impotent political party called ` Congress' which dislikes the state under Mr Modi, it is also a fairly large number of people in the BJP who hate Modi and his coterie. With the present decision of the Govt, Mr Modi might probably lose many of his admirers among teachers and he doesn't care about it. For, as long as you have the media,you don't need any other propaganda machinery.
The best part of this crisis is it provides the much needed ` reality check' to those who live out-of-sync with present times. Teachers and academic institutions are reputed for completely being out of touch with the actual world outside and these kinds of blows bring them back to normal.
The title of this entry ` The End of Higher Education' is deliberately ambiguous. For the ` the End' can mean the final collapse and it can also mean ` the ultimate purpose' behind Higher education. This is for the second or third time I am participating in teachers agitating against the govt in my short career of 13 years. The question is, why does the society and its representatives think that higher education is dispensable and insignificant ? Why is it that if the teachers go on strike for routine administrative things like the implementation of pay commissions are not seen as creating any serious problems for society? Teachers not going to work is no big deal for society. One needs to ask why. I have seen many highly reputed educational institutions, like other institutions of the society, completely shattered and biting the dust. Most of them have become ` by the mediocre, of the mediocre and for the mediocre', where loyalty to the authorities has actually become ` merit'. Probably this is because of the large scale upheaval caused by the forces of globalization and economic liberalization which went on a rampage after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The present economic recession has brought this bull-in-the china shop machine of globalization to a grinding halt.
This moment of crisis is indeed a moment of agitation and resistance to contemporary fascism bred on omnipresent media but it is also the moment of introspection: we have to find out what is the ultimate purpose and function of higher education in very specific and concrete terms and then restructure our institutions on its basis. This is the quest for ` the true end' of Higher Education in Gujarat and probably in India too. The post-Cold war ideological vacuum, which resulted in the disappearance of critical discourses from public life, was filled up with regionalism and fanaticisms of all kinds in the past two or three decades. One of the most important functions of higher education in India today is to promote a critical form of cosmopolitanism which resists fanaticisms of Modi-Raj Thakeray and so many others politicians world over, by restoring critical spirit to its public domain. It would mean moving out of the walls of colleges and universities directly into public spaces. And given the possibilities of new medias like the internet with its social networking sites, blogs and other platforms, I think the teachers of today need to do their critical ` extension' activities on such platforms. This might mean , apart from the usual academic seminar- research publications, the teachers would do well to reach out to the places where young people really are, apart from classrooms- that is in the space opened up by the internet.
The post-colonial thinking looked at how the idea of nation was `imagined' and `constructed' in the times of print media. The post global contemporary culture has created newer ways of creating communities with the help of social networking and blogging and hence a newer way of `imagining' nation which is NOT primarily based on regional and local cultures. Globalization which people once thought would bring about the end of nation has actually resulted in newer ways of inventing nation and hence newer nations. It is in the context of this newer ways of imagining nation and culture that higher education in India and elsewhere will have to find out its true ` end'.