Quote Selective, Drape Progressive – The “RIGHT” WAY !!


This epistle is
a response to a masquerading intellectual who had contrived an article titled
“Lengthy Slogans, Lousy Research – Of Force and Farce: Why Progressive UGC
regulations have rattled nerves at JNU” that figured on the edit page of Times
of India dated 8
th April, 2017. The reference to his piece is
provided at the end of this article.

I was extremely
overwhelmed after reading the above mentioned
 article in TOI. This is because
the author of the article seemed to be deeply concerned about the future of
research in JNU, something which is otherwise extremely devalued in our
country. Consequently he sounded very perturbed about the ‘lengthy slogans’ and
‘lousy standard’ of research in JNU. At the first blush he appears to be an
emphatic (right)er but a closer examination of his piece reveals that what he
did in fact was to embellish himself with a robe that is far too hollow and
invites a rebuttal. Subsequently if one was to judge the quality of research in
JNU by taking this article in TOI as a standard, certainly then one has to
admit that the standard of research in JNU has become lousy because of the
various statistical and logical fallacies, analytical errors and contradictory
claims in the piece.
Let us take as
a point of first reference the class that the author attended in  what he calls the “Centre
for Studies in Law and Governance’’(sic) where it should Centre for the Study
of Law and Governance (CSLG)
But one may say in response like
Shakespeare ‘what is in a name?’
But good
research does not allow such remiss. As an example of lack of support for the
strike that JNU Students Union had called in April, the author has given
example of a class at CSLG based on a sample that
more than 80%
of the students attended the class
In this, it is
amply clear that the author is batting with a “right” hand stance and selective
memory is at work, concealing important facts. As we know that if numbers are
totured enough, they will speak what you want them to”. Let me put things in
perspective. The author says “Last week – Monday
and Tuesday – witnessed yet another strike in JNU”. Here the article is
partially correct
in pointing out that on 27th March, 2017 (Monday)
there was a strike, but it does not state  that it was the fifth day of the Students Union
strike that began on 23rdMarch, 2017 (Thursday) and continued till
28th March, 2017 (Tuesday).More importantly the strike was
completely observed by the all the students of CSLG (the centre that the author
cites as an example of lack of support for the strike) on all the days with no
classes taking place on any of the days (except for that one class that the
author mentioned; to the details of which I shall come in a moment) while the
students turned up to the centre daily in solidarity and tried to find out the
adverse ramifications of the regulation. Even on 28th March, 2017 (Tuesday)
as correctly pointed out in the article there was strike. But what is
conveniently omitted is the fact that on the same day, the JNUSU had issued a
call for a protest outside UGC office in which significant number of students
of the very same centre participated (along with several hundred others from
various centres). To the best of my knowledge all these students of CSLG are what
the author calls “independent students who reject
political-party based campus dialogue”. Y
et they participated in not
only this protest but also in the earlier once organized against the UGC 2016 notification
and has stood with JNUSU’s call on this issue every time. This punctures the author’s
claim that the students unequivocally reject the Union’s strike.
Now let me
elaborate the details of the class (which I was also part of) that the author
had mentioned. It is an elective course offered in Mphil 2nd
semester at that centre, which is credited by 12 students and the author audits
this course. 4 students were not present that day. So effectively 8 out of 12
crediting the course attended the class. So even statistically the claim is not
correct that more than 80% of the people were present.Apart from that it is
evident now that in quoting that more than 80% of the students attended the
class an attempt was made to unduly exaggerate the statistics when absolute
numbers were small.
The author also
seems to have forgotten the reason for which this class took place despite the
apprehension of a few students who were still in favour of strictly following the
students union call. This was because not all the students who credited the
course were present in the centre to show their solidarity. The pre-decided norm
“boycott the classes but be present at the centre” was not held up that day for
that class due to absences and hence the class took place.
importantly one can keep on playing with statistics irresponsibly to make
frivolous claims like the author did. For instance, one can claim that since more
than 12 people out of 18 from this same MPhil batch at CSLG protested outside
UGC office on the same day, therefore more than 70% of the people in JNU
support the strike and attended the protest. The point that one is trying to
underscore here is that the author has committed a statistical error by
choosing a very small, biased and a nonrepresentative sample to
prove his hypothesis. The fact that the strike was in full swing was also
evident from the fact that students were standing outside the schools and
centres in solidarity particularly the bigger ones like SSS, SIS and SLS etc.
and no classes were taking place. The impact was profound to the extent that
all the canteens and eateries were shut down on all those days
There are other gaffes too. To quote from
the piece “Of the more than 8,500 students in the
residential university, only 
4,865 students had stepped out and cast their votes in the last
student election. Among them, 1,077 voted NOTA. So JNUSU’s theatrics is not
representative of the contemplative silence of several students”.
Of course, the author has not published his
article in a “peer reviewed book or journal” which according to him is “the
only standard of research”. But that does not give him the liberty to tinker
with the data the way he wants. As per the figures published by the Election Committee
and as also pointed by others who have responded to the author’s false claims[1],the
number of students who stepped out and cast their vote in the last student union
election in 2016 were 5,138, and not 4,865. Further the highest number of votes
polled for NOTA was 437 (for the post of Vice –President) which is less than
half the figure of 1077 that author had quoted. The count of NOTA votes for the
other office- bearer posts stood as: President – 135, General Secretary- 296,
Joint Secretary – 272. I don’t know how the author has arrived at the figure of
1077. In case a simple summation of NOTA votes cast in all office bearer
positions was attempted, then this is yet another statistical and analytical
blunder not to mention the arithmetic error.
Why does the author cite (wrong) absolute
numbers here and percentages earlier. Of course the criterion in both the cases
was to support the argument with an exaggerated statistics, when the argument itself
is unavailing. 5138 out of 8500 is 60.44%. Now this
is roughly equivalent of the turnout on the basis of which mostly the
representatives are being elected at state and centre level in our esteemed
democracy and the governments are being formed in the country. So why is one
sceptical of the same number as not being representative enough for choosing the
students union body. No form of governance system is free from some biases.  But if one is making the claim about under-representation,
one needs to look at the problems of the first past the post system. Then one
should also consider the extent of under representation at the national level
on the basis of which governments are formed in the centre with less than 35%
of the people voting for them. But I suppose one cannot run the risk of
annoying one’s political masters.

state is making enough attempts at surveillance through CCTV and Aadhar. I am
amazed that the author is adept at  myriad
forms of surveillance over the students in JNU e.g. like peeping in the
library, reading rooms and hostels to be able to assert in TOI that “But the
call for inactivity by the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) was hardly under
observation in libraries and hostels. Reading rooms were full during daytime
and so were those hostel beds whose occupants are wise owls of the night.” Even
if some of the students were studying in the libraries and hostels, how is that
proof of their disjunction with struggle call of the students union? It is also
important here to mention that there are not always lengthy slogans being
raised as the title of the author’s article suggests. In fact there is a short
and crisp slogan which is “STUDY and STRUGGLE”.
author also needs to be reminded of the fact that some former Student Union
representatives who had once raised “lengthy”slogans in their students days also
did “serious research” alongside and are today hold faculty positions in JNU. They
have many publications in peer-reviewed books and journals (the paucity of
accumulated data prevents me from putting exact numbers) which according to the
author is “the only indication of excellence in research” and rightly so
because their publications reflect deep flair of “serious research”. It also
serves as a means (sadly though) to satisfy the mechanical“API requirements”
which UGC has made mandatoryfor appointment and promotion. While most of the
faculty have raised their concerns either in writing or verbally about API not
being an effective measure of academic performance and research but the author
who is a ‘messiah’ of “serious research” and takes umbrage to “lousy Research”
did not utter a word on that. Also publications in peer reviewed journals,
impact factors and the quest for world rankings while important, but these
being considered “the only indication of excellence in research” reflect a
particular colonized mindset (which seeks approval of the West) which the
author is not able to jettison away. This might annoy his friends who are
increasingly pointing at ‘unique Indian culture’ and attacking the “Western
Intellectuals” for not respecting it.
important issue was raised in the article regarding the low level of number of
submitted to published thesis in JNU. Either the author lives in an utopian
world or at complete dissociation from reality of the commercial publishing
industry. Increasingly more than “serious research” it is the market value of a
topic in terms of “what can be sold”  and
how much royalty it shall generate that decides the fate of publication.
Further the gestation period in terms of the thesis submitted to being
published in academics is becoming an increasing function of one’s appointment
as a permanent faculty in some university or as a head of any
government/autonomous research institution, ministry or think tank without
which mostly the renowned publishers won’t publish your research.
While I personally do not
believe in any form of hierarchy, I was also glad by the fact that a
“responsible senior” raised concerns about the “junior students” and hence said
“At risk are students of MA final year who fear that serial disruptions will
delay examinations, results, degrees and promising careers”. But I think the
concern is completely misplaced here and one seems to have missed on the very
idea of an university which is not a “promising career” making machine. It is
time we reflect on Jawaharlal Nehru’s words after whose name this university
A University stands for humanism, for
tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth.
It stands for the onward march of the human race towards ever higher
The very “lousy research” of which the
author is very apprehensive will happen as we have forgotten that universities
stands for debate, dissent, academic rigour and most importantly“serious
research” which may or may not be mutual to the idea of a promising career with
‘good packages’. The government anyway is more concerned about the “promising careers”
of the youth and hence escalating investment in technical universities and
management institutions. I suppose that will better take care of the career
concerns highlighted by the author.
Further if one is seriously concerned with
the careers of students in masters programmes at JNU, then one must also be
aware of the changing dynamics of one of the “promising career” which is
University teaching, where a doctoral degree has almost by norm became an entry
level requirement these days and it is the access to this very doctoral degree
which is being restricted for many by this UGC regulation of 2016 which the author
I am glad that the author raises the point
regarding resources. He says “It is surprising that
the issue of quality research is never raised in JNU. It does not have a
publication division, it does not host a journal, the central library is not
fully functional as it is under renovation for many months now and departmental
libraries lack space and staff. Yet none of these issues ever provoke a chorus
on campus”. ButaAgain I think the author has not done sufficient homework.
Otherwise he would have found that since more than a year, when the issue of
cut on non-NET fellowships was being raised and the occupy UGC movement took
place there have been continuing protests by those raising “lengthy slogans” for
increasing the library resources and for other concerns regarding research and
publication like the issues of falling number of subscriptions of journals,
magazines and databases by JNU library, a point which author did not even bother
to mention. There are people who are “struggling” day in, day out to make sure
that the resources for research are not curtailed and level of research
escalates in the campus. Most importantly they do not resort to the refuge of
“print media” for acknowledgment or appreciation of their efforts.
It is quite clear that in
making his arguments regarding infrastructure for research the author is barking
up the wrong tree and that too deliberately. This is evident from the fact that
at no point does the author states the obvious – it is not in hands of students
to raise the infrastructure required for research but for the government to
provide through adequate funds in public universities.
But at the same time there is
an acknowledgment about of lack of investment in education when the author says
Interestingly, those who wrongly call research
a right never highlight the lack of investment in school education which is a
legal right”. So till once get higher education as a legal right, there should
be no investment in higher education?
 The reason library and other resources are in
shambles in most universities is because there is a continuous cut in the
expenditure on education from past three years. It has been reduced to less than
half a percent of GDP in 2017-18 by the present government[2].
I maybe accused of lousy research here because I am citing a newspaper report.
This is because on the MHRD website one would discover that the trick is to not
provide the data on education expenditure post 2013 (when it was already at
abysmally low levels of less than 5% of GDP).  This is synonymous with the income tax data
concealment that has been done for a long time and which when revealed made
their claim of JNU students being parasitic on tax payer’s money completely
hollow as only 1% of the population pay direct taxes. It would have been much
better if author had voiced his opinion on these issues as well.  
Most importantly and to put
it bluntly, I was deeply aghast by the self contradictions, the double
standards and the rhetoric of a progressive thinker that author tried to
portray by saying at one point in his that “With the upper limit of the number
of supervisees now fixed, only the very best from all social sections will gain
admission”. And at another point saying that “Affirmative action and
deprivation points cannot substitute for lack of primary and secondary
education in the country”. Further one went on to say that “competitive
research must not make way for thousands” and finally towards the end saying
that “Sadly, the measure of an individual on this campus has shifted base .It
is no longer founded on intellectual achievements but on a particular
“historical” discrimination”.”
Again the self contradiction of
the arguments resurfaces because how the best from all sections in the society
will gain admission into the university with the UGC regulation in place on one
hand ensuring drastic seat cuts and on the other hand to do away with
affirmative action and deprivation points? I guess it would have been much
better if those viewing the UGC regulation to be progressive have thought about
sitting on the other side of the fence for a moment and hypnotize being born in
an opposite gender of to a  not affluent
religious minority hailing from rural outskirts denied of all the opportunities
to gain quality primary or secondary education leave aside thinking about
making it to higher education? Perhaps then one would have understood the
plight of those who fall in the ambit of affirmative action but never enjoy
being part of it. Perhaps then the author would not have lamented the futility
of affirmative action and deprivation points at higher education level.
I fail to understand why
theauthor wants to himself in this appear in guise of a progressive man by even
doing the lip service of saying that students from all sections will gain
admission because of the UGC 2016 notification. Who is it that he and his
ideologues are afraid of? Is it the attack (from pen and not from stick as some
may infer) from the “real progressive” people? I suggest they should not be
worried as already the space for progressive voices is shrinking in the
campuses. One should be courageous enough to fall in line with the counterparts
in the state to implement exclusionary entry to research and that it should not
make way for thousands. Why should research make way for thousands especially
for those who are not endowed with the power of eloquent speech, why should
research make way for those not endowed with the power to articulate in English
effectively, why should research make way for those who are being pushed at the
margins due to the presence of various biases, and why should research make way
for those who are “historically discriminated” over those who are
“intellectuals”? As a shrewd (Right)er, the author has provided a  list of those who according to him are excluded
from the category of what he calls “particular 
historical discrimination”. I request the learned author and his pseudo
intellectual gang who are doing “serious research” to stop creating false
binaries among those who are “historically discriminated” and “particular
historical discrimination”. The binaries that are being tried to make with
eloquent speech do not exist. This is because those historically discriminated is
the group fighting against UGC regulation relentlessly and also have deliberately
chosen not to affiliate with right wing students. And I think that is the
reason the author and his ideologues are getting restless along with the fact
that they have not succeeded in achieving  political majority on this campus for a very long
brings me to another logically
fallacious statement that the author had made which was “with UGC regulation in
place the seat distribution would not happen based on the political
affiliations”. The data from the last student’s election bursts the balloon of
the claim. The General Secretary candidate of the major right wing party on the
campus got a little over half the votes polled by the Vice president candidate
of the left wing organisation (1330 and 2461votes respectively). Even if I
assume complete merit in the author’s claim that students are admitted on the
basis of their political affiliations, then reducing the number would not
change the status quo either which is that left leaning student’s hold majority
in the campus. All that the author  is
doing in making such claim is questioning the credibility of JNU authorities in
conducting a free and fair exam as a result of which ideological people enter into
the campus. But I again advise the author not to resort to such claims, otherwise
he will be devoid of the fruits he wants to reap from all his political Guru Bhais.
The author should just throw
away the cloak of being the sympathiser of those “historically discriminated”
as it may well be choking. It seems from his views on deprivation points and
affirmative action that one should indeed believe in what Ayelet Shachar calls
“birth right lottery” and keep on encashing that by allowing only those who won
the lottery (by virtue of being born in affluent families) to be a part of the research
cohort. After all “great academicians are born and not made” is what the
author’s article in TOI is hinting at. More familiarly, even greatest of
thinkers. Social Darwinists will support the author’s claim in upholding and ensuring
only the fittest shall survive along with the advocates of the free market. Research
then should be a virtue of a handful of people and especially those who are
inside the campuses with rest being jettisoned of it because who cares for
future generations!
Finally, the author that he
cannot have his cake and eat it too! If one is so apprehensive about the
standard of research in JNU, then the free market provides you enough choice to
pursue a degree elsewhere. Why be  in an
university that is so “lousy”  in research!
People like the author are in fact the ones who want the best of all the worlds
– of mechanical things like NIRF rankings, NAAC grading etc that the University
receives to hone the value of their degrees in “market”  and at the same time do flip flops to support
the dominant narrative to find space in a newspaper column when the same
university is being attacked for its dissenting voices which are fighting for
campus to be a more inclusive and democratic space.
Link to the
article under discussion: