The Congress had appointed people with RSS background as vice-chancellors of universities while it was in power, but the party had done so “without realising and doing background checks”, Congress MP Bhalchandra Mungekar said Thursday.
While speaking at a conference on ‘Preserving and Protecting Freedom, Truth and Equal Access in Higher Education’ — organised by Congress’ student wing National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) — Mungekar also attacked the BJP-led government at the Centre. He claimed that the Centre was appointing people with questionable credentials and a particular ideology as heads of educational institutions, but admitted that this practice had been started by the UPA government.
“As philosopher Herbert Marcuse had said, universities should become centres of revolution, but today they are becoming centres of counter-revolution because of the current regime. Even the Congress government appointed vice-chancellors with RSS background without realising and doing background checks, because of sycophancy,” said Mungekar.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who also addressed the conference, condemned the killing of rationalists like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi. He said that scientific temperament was being “undermined” replaced by “propaganda” under the current government.
“When you start coming up with theories such as there were aeroplanes invented in pre-Vedic India, you have to ask, on what rational basis? My problem is when the real work of an Aryabhatta or Sushruta is mixed up with crackpots who talk about Ganesh ji’s head and plastic surgery, because that undermines the scientific basis of enquiry. To mix actual scientific achievements of ancient India with propaganda, and a certain set of stories designed only to glorify an ideological point of view, is highly to be avoided,” he said.
“We have tragically seen the murder of certain rationalists, because some of the things they said were not to the taste of others with an opposite point of view. When you don’t like an argument and your answer is only a gun or a knife, it proves that you don’t have a counter-argument to offer. You can kill the individual but you cannot kill the strength of his reasoning,” said Tharoor.
Some speakers also blamed the Congress for sowing seeds of the education policy being followed by the BJP-led government now. Dalit intellectual Kancha Iliah said that there had been an attempt to “shut down public institutions of higher education” in the last 10 years.
Delhi University professor Apoorvanand said, “The fact is that we did not care for due process and academic freedom during the implementation of the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), which is why when we cried hoarse about its violation when it was rolled back, there were no voices of support. In the last few years, we have destroyed the integrity of the professoriate”. Other speakers included filmmaker Sanjay Chhel, DU professor Aditya Narayan Mishra, JNU professor Aditya Mukherjee, academician Mohan Gopal, and Yashaswi Mishra, an alumnus of FTII.