Political interference at Tribhuvan UniversityToday's problem is to bring creative politics within the grasp of everybody and use it as a means to fight against its abusers.
Yug Pathak issued a statement on behalf of the Brihat Nagarik Andolan, or the Wider Citizens’ Movement, on February 23. His statement came immediately after the Supreme Court ruled that Prime Minister KP Oli's dissolution of the House of Representatives on December 23 last year was unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the authorities should summon Parliament by March 8. What struck me in this statement made by Pathak, who is also the President of the Writers Union of Africa, Asia and Latin America and coordinator of the citizens' movement, is the following conclusive statement: ‘The Wider Citizens' Movement after discussions and deliberations with various social groups and bodies of citizens will continue to work vigilantly for bringing politics within the grasp of the people.’
I am in full agreement with this call of the Nagarik Andolan to bring politics within the grasp of the common people. The Court's pronouncement of the time from the day of the dissolution of the House to the day of the Court ruling as a blank period has a great metaphorical and symbolic significance insofar as the politics of Nepal is concerned. The semantics of Yug's statement is that the politics of Nepal that has become fluid and derailed is moving beyond the grasp of the common people, which is a serious matter. A few political parties and those in the helms of affairs, the executives, act unscrupulously at the cost of the democratic structures and norms. As an academic and a teacher who has spent over half a century teaching, I want to put the following caveat.
A huge demonstration was taken out in Kirtipur as part of the Nagarik Andolan a couple of weeks ago. The most catching slogans that the participants echoed loudly outside the closed gates of the central office of Tribhuvan University were to stop meddling in the affairs of Tribhuvan University, stop political interference, and stop appointing political supporters and party cadres to the key posts of the University.
They were making loud the cries of the hearts of the teachers and academics who are dedicated to their works, and who want to be recognised and rewarded for that dedication. That is precisely in short supply. Not only that, the perennial political interference and the shameless mismanagements of the University's affairs and materials have severely damaged the academic character of the University.
I want to speak like a witness in the following lines and put my own ideas on this subject. My idea of a free university is simple. Stop misusing academic programmes for the advantage of political parties and their cadres. Let competent people work freely. Make your activities transparent and be fair to the academics who are competent and dedicated. I want to make one point very clear here. Some academics are greatly responsible for inviting political parties and the governments they support to play into the system and admitting them into the texture of the university. You do not have to go very far. You can still find dedicated teachers and academics who can tell you about that because they have witnessed all that over a period of time. Political leaders especially the unscrupulous ones, those students and teachers who have slowly connived to 'politicise', to use the word in common currency here, have done no service to the University. There are lost opportunities for learning. I want to recall one very telling incident here.
That was a time when Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, alias Kisunji, was active. One afternoon, I noticed a flurry of activities on the turf outside a classroom in Kirtipur where I was going to teach after some time. Students had created a makeshift stage for a programme. Loudspeakers were being tested. I approached the student leaders and said ‘since I am going to teach in this room after some time make sure people don't tinker with the loudspeakers until then. I will try to make my lecture shorter.’ They agreed. They were familiar students. But shortly after that, the noise of a political leader's speech and clapping rose in the air, drowning us all. I could recognise Kisunji's voice.
After cutting the class short I went to meet him and complained about how the students had breached the agreement. Kisunji summoned the student leaders and said how politics should not interfere in the educational process, how everybody should abide by what he called 'the holy covenant'. If you drown education in the din of political sloganeering you will do the greatest damage to the country. He asked the student leaders, ‘why didn't you inform me about the agreement with your teacher?’ That was a historical event. I was so moved by his approach. I have since met no other leaders of Nepali Congress or Communist Party of Nepal who had or has even an iota of concern about that 'holy alliance' that Kisunji had.
So when we speak about the political meddling in the affairs of the University we should answer these questions: Who is making political meddling in the affairs of the University—political parties or the party-affiliated students' wings? But more broadly, how can we keep political education as part of the academic programme? And how do we develop it as the condition of consciousness building energy among the university graduates who can understand the mantra of taking political awareness within the grasp of the people when they act as politicians or as responsible citizens? That is exactly the message of the culture of education. But sadly, by overplaying with what is called politics at the University, we are producing just the opposite results.
Kisunji was not openly asking students to renounce politics that afternoon. He was saying instead how you can repel the uncanny political meddling in the educational institutions and ethics by making people politically aware, which means making people conscious of freedom. The students and teachers participating in the demonstration in Kirtipur were criticising the political parties and their government leaders who glibly slide into the realms of autocracy, and were saying how an independent education system can free the university from such meddling.
We should ask ourselves whether we are all prepared for that. Students and the academic fraternity should be vigilant about it. I can say from the evidence of my long experience of teaching, and dealing with students, who are some of my best friends in life, that the University is an important place where we can find answers to all kinds of questions, including those of politics. Today's problem is, to cite the phrase again, to bring creative politics within the grasp of everybody and use it as a means to fight against its abusers.
What do you think?
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