“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it,” said one of Terry Pratchett’s characters in his witty fantasy novel, Diggers. An open mind belongs to the seeker of truth. Truth being as elusive and deceptive as happiness, it keeps the seeker going on and on endlessly. Most people don’t like such endlessness. People like to snuggle down in the cosy warmth of the status quo. Religion is the most staunch supporter of the status quo. And religion insists on putting things into open minds. And shut them.
The cosy warmth of the status quo is what turns the BJP and its allies against Jawharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University, says Kancha Illaiah in his article in the Indian Express. Both JNU and HCU have produced numerous thinkers and scholars because their academic environment encouraged the liberal pursuit of truth. Banaras Hindu University, on the contrary, has failed to produce such thinkers and scholars, argues the author, because the very air of Banaras is bathed in status quoism.
The status quo that religions uphold goes against changes especially of social hierarchies. Both JNU and HCU have a lot of Dalit students and an illustrious set of Dalit alumni while BHU cannot boast of having produced any famous Dalit scholar. “The only known Dalit politician who studied there was Babu Jagjivan Ram,” says Illaiah. He goes on to say that Jagjivan Ram faced horrible caste discrimination at BHU “and later shifted to the University of Calcutta, where he finished his BSc.”
Caste discrimination is part of the Sangh Parivar ideology, says Illaiah. Parivar people can never think of changing such deep rooted social hierarchies. The Privar cannot tolerate changes. It is only natural that intelligent Dalit students find Karl Marx and other such thinkers more attractive than Golwalkar and Savarkar because there is nothing in the latter that can stimulate the intellect which always seeks to transcend the status quo. JNU and HCU encourage leftist thinking because they have academicians who are intelligent thinkers and scholars.
The thinking brain seldom rests on status quo. BJP and its allies want status quo. Dalits want to change the status quo, the existing social hierarchy which is obviously against their interests.
I am paraphrasing Kancha Illaiah’s article here merely to draw attention to it. I also agree with Illaiah to a large extent.
Let me conclude this with a personal experience. A few years ago, when I was in Delhi, I made a friend who went on evening walks with me every day for years. One day he made a very uncharacteristic remark. “You know, Mr Matheikal, I’m a Brahmin but I don’t mind befriending low caste people.” I wondered why he made that remark because merely by virtue of not being a Hindu I had no caste. It did not take me many days to find out the reason, however. Someone had told him that all Christians were low caste converts (which is not true, in fact). The irony came a month later. The school where we worked sent out a form to be filled in where we, the staff, had to enter certain details including our caste status. I ticked the “General” category. But my eyes did not fail to notice my “Brahmin” friend’s tick mark: he belonged to the OBC [Other Backward Class] category! I was amused by the profound irony. Soon I learned how deeply entrenched the caste feelings are in the minds of the vast majority of people of India. Hence I think Kancha Illaiah’s views need to be examined seriously.