The recent exercise to — ostensibly “improve the education system and make it rational” — undertaken by the Sangh Parivar, precisely the RSS, in West Bengal makes it obvious that the saffronistas are determined to completely destroy the modern mode of education in the state.
Day before, the vice-president of the BJP in Karnataka, Tejaswini Ananth Kumar, wife of the late Union minister Ananth Kumar, was appointed chairperson of the board of governors of IIEST (Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology), Shibpur. Her appointment has come under serious scrutiny. A large section of academics and teachers associated with IIEST nurse the view that her appointment was one more example of the central government handpicking people with close BJP affiliation as heads of academic institutions.
Tejashwini’s appointment might not have invited the ire of intellectuals and academics, but coming just after Governor C.V. Ananda Bose appointing BJP favourites to key posts in university administration ignoring the basic tenets, norms and rules in appointing the vice chancellors, this has simply strengthened this apprehension.
Bose, only a month back, had entrusted the former Karnataka High Court chief justice, Subhrokamal Mukherjee, with the job of vice-chancellor at Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta. Again, only two days back, Mukherjee was appointed as the officiating vice chancellor of Presidency University, one of the most acclaimed educational institutes of the country. Bose did it in the face of bitter criticism from academics and intellectuals over appointing a person accused of expressing “bigoted” views, after he put in charge of a university named after Rabindranath Tagore. For a while, Presidency was without a vice-chancellor after the extended tenure of Anuradha Lohia came to an end in mid-June this year. Though, earlier, Bose was approached with a few prospective names, but Bose rejected all and preferred to repose his trust in Mukherjee, a strong believer in RSS philosophy and Hindutva.
RSS took to vengeance after Mamata Banerjee government ordered closure of 125 schools run by three trusts — Sarada Shishu Tirtha, Saraswati Shishu Mandir and Vivekanada Vidya Vikas Parishad (VVVP) — linked to the Lucknow based Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan. These trusts run over 350 schools in Bengal and have over 60,000 students. These trusts are educational outfits of the RSS.
This action took place in 2018. At that time Partha Chatterjee was the education minister. He is now in jail on the alleged charge of being involved in scams. Speaking in the state Assembly, he had said that 493 schools run by the trusts “inspired by RSS” were under government’s scanner. Out of these, 125 are running without any no-objection certificate from the government. These schools were accused of “fanning religious intolerance” and “deviating from the state-mandated syllabus” in public.
The RSS did not take this step of Mamata government lightly. Soon after this, Partha Chatterjee was arrested. Refuting the allegation, even the VVVP organising secretary Tarak Das Sarkar, had said that notice issued to these schools does not indicate any problem with the curriculum. The trusts even moved the High Court which had issued an interim stay on the government notification.
Mamata government patronising the Urdu-based madarsa education, providing huge funds to the madarsa in the state and promoting Quran had further enraged the RSS and other members of Sangh Parivar. For BJP, it was of course a political issue, but for RSS it was a threat to its survival and its plan to spread further in Bengal. It sent down a message down to the Hindus that the Mamata government was trying to stop schools run by Hindu bodies connected with RSS and that the pro-Islamic and anti-Hindu Bengal government had put on notice 125 schools run by RSS affiliates.
As per RSS sources, C V Anand Bose was made the Governor of Bengal with the only mission of target the higher educational institutions of the state. That Bose is obediently carrying out this brief was clearly manifest in his targeting the educational system of the state. Bose started interacting and communicating with the university officials without even bothering to inform the state of its moves.
The relations between the Mamata government and Bose have deteriorated to such an extent that education minister Bratya Basu described Bose as a “James Bond… on a one-man mission to destroy the higher education system”. He even said the government would take legal steps against Bose, as “no one is above law”. On 2 September, Bose issued a circular stating that varsities were not bound to listen to the state government’s directives.
While the Governor has asked the universities to communicate directly with him, bypassing the state government and its education ministry, on Monday the minister told the Raj Bhavan and university registrars that all communication between state-run universities and the chancellor (the governor) should be routed through the higher education department. The government’s communication came hours after Bose – ex officio chancellor of state universities – appointed officiating vice-chancellors of 16 universities, including Presidency, Makaut and Netaji Subhas Open University in Kolkata.
It is unimaginable how RSS and BJP could stoop so low to take revenge against Mamata, even to the extent of ruining the future of the poor students of the state. There is no denying that Bose’s arbitrary actions were beyond the ambit of the existing statutes and violated the statutes. Minister Bratya Basu said: “For the past few days, directives have been issued one after the other by Raj Bhavan regarding appointment of vice-chancellors, only to accentuate chaos in universities,” accusing Bose of appointing ‘puppet VCs’.
Basu tracing a pattern in the action of Bose and the governors of other non-BJP states, said: “The governor is acting like an agent of the Centre to disturb, to destabilise an elected government.” Under constitutional provisions, the Governor has to consult the state government, but Bose has been making appointments without any consultation and acting in a brazen “dictatorial manner” and in the process “destroying” the university system in the state.
Bose must be aware that once the working system and setting is vitiated, it takes a long time to rectify the damage and restore normal functioning. He, at the behest of his political masters, is hell bent in tossing the education system, but he must do some amount of introspection on the nature of damage he is inflicting on education.
The Governor is free to free to appoint a person of his choice, but in the process, through his ignoring the vast number of excellent academics and intellectuals in the state, he is not only setting a bad precedent, he is also demoralising and dispiriting them. This would be a serious loss to state known for creating high order of intellectual asset. Bose, in the true sense, is implementing the agenda of the political lobby that is out to finish off the Bengali identity.
A group of educationists, including former V-Cs of state universities, have rightly described the action of Bose to appoint interim V-Cs as “adventurous and illegal”. The Educationists Forum also said such appointments “will not do any good to the higher education system of the state”. Though state CPI(M) has an antagonistic relation with TMC, its central committee member Sujan Chakraborty alleged that the governor was “appointing those as interim VCs, who have links with RSS and do not have the requisite 10-year experience. He is appointing non-academic persons as interim VCs.” (IPA Service)