Press Release and appeal to stop FYUP in Delhi University

June 16, 2013

Indoctrination in the Name of “Integration”: An Appeal to Stop FYUP

received from For Alliance for Social Justice

Leading academics, alumni, teachers, students, SC/ST/OBC activists and leaders belonging to various party affiliations have already highlighted many problems concerning the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) that is going to replace the fully functional three-year Honours Programme at the University of Delhi from July 2013. Many of them have also appealed to the President of India, the Prime Minister, the UPA Chairperson, the Minister of HRD, the UGC, and the Vice-Chancellor to either scrap FYUP or at least to defer it.

The current intervention is triggered by the shocking revelation of the syllabus of one of the compulsory (non-credit) courses in the curriculum, the course titled “Integrating Mind, Body and Heart” (IMBH). The objective of IMBH is “[t]o instill the principles of non-violence and truth in each student through creating awareness about Mahatma Gandhi’s practice of these beliefs in his own life.” This is claimed to be “practice-oriented course” that aims to “kindle a value oriented and holistic thought process in the consciousness of the student that will lead her to a better realization and appreciation of the fact that there should be harmony between what one thinks, what one feels and what one creates or presents externally.” The course claims to be an attempt at imparting value education through the figure of Gandhi, whose life will provide a kind of template with which the students then have to build their own holistic consciousness. The students are expected to make use of Gandhi’s life to understand their own lives and they are even instructed to keep a journal to record this process.

It is outrageous that a University offering higher education has taken upon itself to impose such a compulsory module on all the students enrolling for the undergraduate programme. The course write up (which is available on the University website) offers no explanation of what exactly is meant by “mind” and “heart” and what the urgency or need is, to integrate whatever they might be, with the body. There seems to be no room for critical thinking, questioning, or problematizing givens like “truth”, “non-violence”, “value”, “holistic thought”, and such other concepts. What is even more problematic and questionable is the way the course attempts to interfere with the values of the students. One wonders how such an understanding of mind, body and heart (as expressed in the course description) can help deal with the complexities of the minds and bodies of the students in a contemporary classroom, who hail from diverse cultural, regional, religious, and social backgrounds.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no official information about which department designed this course and which department will teach it. Apart from the pedagogic issues related to teaching and learning that it raises, the manner in which this course may be handled by teachers who are neither qualified nor may have the “expertise” to teach such a course could give rise to a situation where such teachers may bring in their own “subjective” experiences, stereotypical notions, and prejudices to the classroom. This may lead to the further alienation of students from minorities and marginalized communities.

Gandhian thought can perhaps be categorized as a set of teachable concepts that can be critically engaged with. However, IMBH, instead of offering a critical examination of Gandhian thought, imposes it in a compulsory manner on the student. In fact, the students are presented with Gandhi’s life and ideas as a pre-given way of achieving the proposed holistic integration of heart, body and mind. They are asked to:

seek incidents and episodes in her own life and world that resemble these incidents and episodes from Gandhi’s life and she will have to study her own responses (or the responses and actions of the personages involved) in comparison with the responses of Gandhi to the extent possible. The students will additionally be asked to maintain a diary which shall record any episodes that happen in her life and which bear some resemblance to the chosen episodes from Gandhi’s life for a comparative study.

This not only imposes Gandhi on the student as a legitimate path towards her holistic development, but also forces her to fully and deeply identify with him. She now will have to think and feel like Gandhi and reflect upon her own life through the means and ways that Gandhi adopted to view the world.

Reading about a few incidents in the life of a nationalist leader’s life and comparing it with one’s own is a highly vacuous activity, and one cannot predict or evaluate the consequences of such an arbitrary process. In fact, a contemporary student might find nothing relevant to her, given the fact that Gandhi’s life was historically structured by other social and political concerns. Positing a nationalist figure like Gandhi as the guaranteed route to Mind, Body and Heart integration and asking students to filter their lives through his actions and beliefs is nothing short of indoctrination. What is threatened here is the “freedom of conscience” guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India.

Moreover, IMBH seems to be hardly informed by the various interrogations of Gandhi by many intellectuals and thinkers as well as in the more recent times by various social and religious communities and the Dalitbahujans. It is being increasingly recognized that Gandhi (according to his own writings) was a supporter of the caste system, and he never ever denounced it. Ambedkar has made a powerful critique of Gandhi, his ideology and methods in his What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables, and many today locate Gandhi as someone who stood against the Dalit community in their attempt to empower themselves politically through separate electorates. Similarly, Gandhi’s views on the black community, on women, on war, and on other social institutions and his economic vision have also been questioned at different times.

In the light of the above, we appeal to the UGC, MHRD and the Visitor of the University to undertake a serious reassessment of the FYUP, which is highly problematic and is against the ethos of marginalized communities in this country, and to immediately stop the implementation of the FYUP.

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Press Release :: 11 June 2013

On Today’s Demonstration at MHRD Against FYUP of DU

Today, a number of students and teachers of the University of Delhi staged a protest demonstration in front of Ministry of Human Resources Development at Shastri Bhawan. A meeting of the Standing Committee of National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities was in session at that time. The teachers and students demanded that the Standing Committee should place the question of Four Year Undergraduate Programme of Delhi University on the agenda of National Monitoring Committee as it adversely affects the students coming from the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, and Persons with Disabilities.

The protestors raised the slogans against MHRD and UGC for not stopping the FYUP even after eminent academicians of the country presented them with the major flaws the FYUP to be launched by DU in July 2013.

The demonstration continued till the representatives of various teacher and student organisations were given an opportunity to present before the Standing Committee about how FYUP adversely affects the SC, ST and Disabled students.

A delegation of three teachers were invited to the Standing Committee meeting at around 12.30 pm and given time to make a brief presentation. Professor Thorat was in chair. The Committee listened carefully to the presentations of major issues with FYUP.

The delegates presented the plight of SC, ST and OBC students and teachers at Delhi University. They also presented how FYUP flushes out students coming from all marginalised communities. The representatives urged the Committee to place the FYUP as part of the National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities. They also requested the members of the Standing Committee to deliberate on FYUP and stop its implementation at least for a year to study its ramifications by expert academicians. They also explained the Committee how the lack of preparation of study material of the new course in accessible formats for the visually challenged teachers and students hampers their teaching-learning process.

The delegation presented how the Vice-chancellor claimed the meetings and academic congress he conducted as part of the consultations on FYUP, whereas in reality there were no such consultations in all those meetings on the new Course. Similarly, the outcome of the discussions of those meetings was not even placed in the AC and EC meetings at any point of time. As a result the teachers have never been in a position to discuss the implications FYUP for the SC, ST, OBC, Minority students and persons with disabilities within the University forums.

Professor Thorat accepted a representation from the delegation and advised them to seek permission from HRD Minister to represent themselves at tomorrow’s meeting of National Monitoring Committee for Education of SCs, STs and Persons with Disabilities at Vignan Bhwan. The Delegation has immediately approached the Office of the HRD Minister and submitted a written request for permission to represent themselves and place their views on FYUP in the meeting.

Hanybabu, 9811971166
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For Alliance for Social Justice