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“Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair”: Protests at EFLU, Hyderabad

This is what you have to ask yourself: Do you want to be good, or just seem good? Do you want to be good to yourself and others? Do you care about other people, always, sometimes, never? Or only when convenient? What kind of person do you want to be?

                                                    ― Charles Yu, Sorry Please Thank You: Stories

Pravin Patel for BeyondHeadlines

My experience of and affiliation to The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad goes back to July 2008 when I registered myself in a Diploma course, and continues to the present with the subsequent enrollment in PhD (English) in July 2009. I have spent a period of six years on EFLU campus as a student, and another one and half year for occasional visits.  In other words, I have witnessed EFLU’s worst crisis, its fall and its rise. In my second year of PhD, I saw the worst phase of EFLU, which was full of conspiracies, hatred, violence, and what not. EFLU had become a battleground of different ideologies since there was no full-time Vice Chancellor (VC) for almost two years, the period just before the present VC, Prof. Sunaina Singh. I often felt that the honor, dignity, image and academic excellence of EFLU would collapse forever if a group of people with vested interest takes over and controls the functioning of the university. I do not say that all the protests on the campus were unwanted. I appreciate efforts for genuine issues, which were in the beginning of the present VC’s tenure. In that point of time, for instance, there were issues of insufficient dinning-space in the hostel-mess, lack of required number of rooms and adequate facilities in the hostels, and the like. For their basic needs, they have right to protest. I consider the protest a noble act, if it has been carried out with selfless surrender.

A gang with the help of few students at EFLU and so-called “activists” and “revolutionaries” from Hyderabad try to create a culture of unrest, with no clearly defined objectives other than those predisposed to protest, disrupt, segregate, draw media attention and then covertly smile and go back to their homes. To use Charles Russell’s words, which he used to describe postmodernism, they are well proficient in the “art of criticism, with no message other than the need for continuous questioning. Actually, they embody their own contradictions but it is so deeply rooted letting them to become their defining characteristics: they are elitist and try to bring a pseudo-revolution for the poor against the elitists; on the one side, everything is construction for power and domination, and on the other, they create the same system. Thus, their discourse works on the logic of a double-edged sword in which the poor and rich, “upper”and “lower caste”, institutional administration and individual aspiration, public and private are never reconciled but are brought together only to widen a sense of suspicion between them. Their entire questions are centralized around the constitutionally or socially constructed systems without any answer. They aim to divide the university students, make them fight with and hate each other, divert their attention from the academic courses that they are pursuing, and in consequence destroy the future of young students through a structural process. Their deceptive projection of gray space is just to alienate and deviate people from democratic principles. Their so-called effort for liberation and freedom are barbarically reproduced by their blind followers. The barbarism of their activism is to fragment society, to undermine national sovereignty and unity, end autonomous functioning of institutions, and murder the communal harmony and mutual respect that people have for one another as individuals. In short, the fair actions of the university for the good are foul, and their foul ventures are fair to them.

I am anguished for their shameful, criminal and unconstitutional actions that created violence in Kashmir a few years back. It is great that the then government of J&K pursued the matter with an open mind and revealed the truth to the public. I ask the gangs in EFLU and their sympathizers, if they had not made it an issue of religion and region? Had they not tried hard to bargain for personal gains at the cost of the integrity and sovereignty of India?  Let me ask them another question, what made them break the gate of Ramesh Mohan Library? Yes, you do have the right to protest, but who gave you the right to damage public property? Let me also remind them about the most shameful mindset and heinous crime committed in Basheer Hostel on the night of 31 October 2014 by one of their most “liberal” members. Was he not one of those open-minded liberals, who fought for the entry of female students in the men’s hostel? And what he did under the guise of his liberalism is the most shameful incident in the history of EFLU. At present, a gang with the help of few students are protesting for their “rights to express” on Facebook. Do they ever think the rights of those whom they defame and malign on Facebook? Do they ever have the minimum respect for the public institutions? If you do not respect the integrity of the other, why should the other not take the help of constitutional means to curtail your freedom? One can have differences with certain people, but it does not mean that the former should defame the public institution to which the latter is associated. The administration will keep changing, people will come and go, but the institution will be there forever. I can continue the list, but I am not interested in chronicling their activities. What I wish to underline is what is not known to the public outside. The public have been misinformed because even the reporters who constantly highlight EFLU news are a part of the same gang. There are several discrepancies on the factual information and official statements. It has been corrected by the concerned administration, and is also available on the internet. Whatever be the news that the gangs construct and pass on to the public, I know the motives and logic of the protests in a detailed manner, as some of the key “leaders” were either my batch-mates or friends. My short affiliation with them has given me a chance to understand their hidden motives, intentions, agendas, purpose and logic for the protests, what they express publicly and what they intend privately, what they make their rallying cry and what they do. In short, I am one of those few who understand the appearance and reality in their demand for “justice”.

The notion of freedom brings some responsibility, but conversely, certain gangs for fulfilling their political agendas have misused the constitutional rights of the freedom of expression. A schoolchild in India knows that the freedom of expression is one’s fundamental right. The people who, in the name of “freedom of expression,” wish to propagate divisive and violent ideas, never ever think of a debate or dialogue over what they say, wish to act or do. With my several personal experiences, it appears that it is only their freedom that matters. If somebody tries to assess their views and action with evidence, legal norms and logical reasoning, it will be fatal for him/her. The people who always try to misguide the society by misusing the right to expression would never ever wish to see the views of the other if the latter contradicts their views. If somebody dares to tell them that their views are not right and constitutional, then the person will be branded as an intolerant, fascist person.

The strange and blind protests at EFLU for blind power aim to defeat all that which are good and appropriate for the students and teachers coming from different sections of society and culture. Blindness rules the demands of these protests, and if the same is not fulfilled, they spread blind fear on the campus. They have created a world where their senses are limited by their love, their hate, their law, their dreams, their passions, and their desires. However, the silent majority at EFLU is not a fool and knows very well what is happening to them and around them.  Foucault rightly says, “In the most recent upheaval, the intellectual discovered that the masses no longer need him to gain knowledge: they know perfectly well, without illusion; they know far better than he and they are certainly capable of expressing themselves”. This is the reason that they do not have even five percent of the support of EFLU students.

The gang which plots to hold EFLU, like Ted Hughes’ hawk holds the “Creation,” for their own destructive, egoistical and deadly purposes is deliberately manipulative and lacks any vision in their thought and actions. They do not have any understanding of the ground reality of poor students coming from remote locations in the country – whose parents still struggle for minimum requirements like roti, kapada aur makan (food, clothes and shelter) for survival. The elitist gangs want them fight a revolution only to make them poorer and dispossess them from what they have at the minimum. They must know what W.B. Yeats says, “the world is more full of weeping than you can understand”.

In order to bring more students in their gang, a bunch of self-designated leaders from different political outfits propagated the lie that the VC, Prof. Sunaina Singh has done nothing for the development of the university. Moreover, that she is rigid, and unfriendly to the students. Yes, Prof. Sunaina Singh has not built any minarets against the azure sky, because they are not required. Yes, she is very tough and hard to those who attempt to run a parallel administration. The fact is that the VC is above the politics of class, caste, religion, region, etc. The people who hate her are the people who involved in one or other type of divisive agendas. It has become now a difficult time for those who are surviving on the politics of religion and caste. As the VC, she has taken appropriate action, within the ambit of constitutional norms, against those who were involved in any kind of corruption. For instance, the infamous case of the Deputy Finance Officer. The case is under judicial investigation, so I would not comment on it; and let the law take its own course. But what I would like to emphasize is how these gangs brought the issues of religion to protect him and his administrative position. Since the action was initiated upon the available evidence, where does the issue of religion come from? Why should the VC be not tough on him and, and on those who wished to protect him? What kind of interest these gangs had? Why should the VC not implement the constitutional laws to punish them? If the VC is harsh, she is only towards those who wish to bend the public system for their individual interests.

I agree that, yes, it is good to change the system but don’t accumulate power for yourself. But I am afraid that these gangs with the help of the “activists”, “revolutionaries”, and “intellectuals” want to pursue criminal agenda, and want everything for themselves. I do not aspire to see a world where the rich becomes the poor, upper class/caste gets subservient to the lower class/caste; which is nothing but an another kind of segregation. What I want is a space where people can celebrate each other’s differences, where mutual respect and tolerance come eternally, where everyone should have equal opportunity, equal share, equal sense of belonging to the nation, equal honour and pride, and where people live for India. This is where the vision and mission of Prof. Sunaina Singh lies. This is the toughest task as we live in the most complex society at the most complex time. For the future of country, it is a much higher and noble achievement than anything else.

However, the gangs, who have destroyed the academic atmosphere on campus, run deceptive campaigns like “Save EFLU,” “Revive EFLU,” and “Bring Back EFLU” on social media. Those who are unaware of their villainous motives and those who deliberately choose to close their eyes from the truth, they may consider them as the savior of public institutions. I wish to tell the misguiding and the misguided youths what Mark Twain says, “Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it doesn’t make it right.” And the history of EFLU will commend the VC for whatever she has done; as the head of the university, it is her utmost responsibility to restore a just, good and favourable academic atmosphere for every section of society. Moreover, the university has every right to take legal action against those who have arrogated to themselves the privilege of framing the alternative for vested interests.

What David Caute in his book, The Illusion (1972) says about the art and its relation to the “world,” I must say if the gangs in EFLU want to make the poor and deprived interrogate and challenge the structure of the public-sphere and the world, the former (along with its supportive activists and intellectuals) must question and expose themselves first, and they must do so for the sake of common people and in the name of public action. If they do not expose their own ideologies and hidden motives, fears and hopes, metaphysics and “religion,” which they carry on and try hard to impose on other people, one wonders what kind of system would this be, and what kind of social function it would bring, and would it be it for the sake of the public or for proliferating one’s own personal gains and urgent needs.

Those who wish to bring revolution at EFLU, they must know that there cannot be any social transformation without personal transformation. There cannot be any meaningful social change without psychological change. Now, the silent majority knows that most of the protests and disruptions of academic atmosphere are for elitist delights: sex, money, and power.

(Pravin Patel is an Assistant Professor of English at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India.)

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