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Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:30 AM (IST)BEYOND THE NEWS

Saffronisation in higher-education centres

Academicians with strong RSS links capture top posts in universities
Saffronisation in higher-education centres
The Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University, Prof Sikandar Kumar, receives warm welcome by students and employees of the university in Shimla. File photo

KS Tomar

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently gave a shock treatment to the nation when he rejected an old perception of the Sangh excluding Muslims from Hindutva and emphasised the requirement of including Muslims in making a strong nation. But there seems to be no change in the ideology of the Sangh Parivar regarding appointments of scholars and intellectuals linked with the RSS in educational and cultural institutions at the Centre and in the BJP-ruled states.

Links with the RSS and its ideology serve as a crucial ingredient in the selection of cultural heads and vice-chancellors in the Central and the state- controlled universities. BJP-oriented educationists may get less primacy, as compared to the scholars with RSS links who have got Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amti Shah’s approval.

The Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh Central University, Kangra, Kuldeep Agnihrotri, and Director of the Technology Institute at Hamirpur, Dr SP Bansal, have a strong RSS background. Talking of other states, the new Vice- chancellor of Punjab University, Prof Raj Kumar, is also a die-hard RSS worker and he could outsmart another aspirant, Prof ADN Vajpayee, a former Vice-Chancellor of HP University due to the strong influence he wielded in the RSS circles.

Safforniation is also complete in neighbouring states like Haryan, Rajasthan etc, which are ruled by the BJP. CMOs in these states are packed with RSS- oriented bureaucrats and universities as well as cultural organisations in many states have got heads having strong RSS links. BJP chief ministers consider it as an extra qualification if someone is having an RSS background.

Reliable sources revealed that an appointment of a Vice-Chancellor of Himachal Pradesh University was delayed for about eight months because the state government was under an obligation to appoint Prof Sikandar Kumar, who has been the state head of the BJP’s SC Morcha. They said due to his connections at the highest level in Delhi, the state government was forced to keep the post vacant because he did not fulfil the UGC condition of having 10 years’ experience as professor. But his RSS background paid rich dividends hence his appointment orders were signed by the Haryana Governor, Kaptan Singh Solanki, who was having additional charge of Himachal in the absence of a regular governor since Governor Acharaya Devvrat was on a foreign tour.

The state government did not wait for the return of Devvrat and Education Minister Suresh Bhardawaj took the file to Chandigarh to get the approval of the acting Governor. The Opposition alleged that Governor Devvrat was reluctant to sign the appointment order because Professor Kumar did not fulfil the requisite experience of 10 years as a professor, though the state government denied it and termed the appointment as “legal”.

Without bothering about the reaction from the teaching community, scholars, academicians and students etc, the new Vice-Chancellor felt proud while openly expressing his gratitude to the RSS for ensuring his elevation to the top slot in the university. He was taken in a procession to his office on the occasion of joining his duty by employees, teachers, students, etc, and some of them raised slogans like “Jai Shri Ram,” which infuriated and enraged many on the campus.

Political observers opined that the new Vice-Chancellor ought to have kept his links with the RSS as a “private affair,’ which is an issue of commitment and ideology. The observers feel that display of an open association with the RSS sends a wrong signal because teachers and students in the university are likely to belong to different ideologies and such blatant association with the RSS is an evidence of saffornisation.

Leaders of the NSUI and Communist organisations have criticised the attitude of the new Vice- Chancellor and blamed the BJP for such a decline in values.

On the other hand, it is an open secret that the Congress governments also appointed vice- chancellors who acted like stooges of the regime and showed their complete loyalty to the ruling party. These vice-chancellors also obeyed the instructions of the then government, which may apply to the current Vice-Chancellor also. He will be under tremendous pressure to follow the diktats of the present BJP government.

Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri, PCC chief Sukhvinder Singh and Rakesh Singha, MLA, CPM, have expressed their concern over the “saffronisation” of educational institutions and control of the RSS over the Chief Minister’s Office through advisers, officer on special duty (OSD), etc.

But senior BJP leaders have defended the CMO and supported the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor who is a scholar and having long experience in teaching.

Notwithstanding the repeated denials by the BJP, it is a harsh reality that the RSS influence is visible to everyone and close affinity is natural when the chief minister of the state, Jai Ram Thakur, himself is a product of the RSS who worked in the Jammu region as a Pracharak. This weighed in his favour during the time of his nomination as the chief minister.


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