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Even the most ardent supporters of democracy who opposed imperialism and colonialism feared “majority dictatorship.” Not only in the 17th century but also today in India, this was a reoccurring subject. A majority, it was claimed, would definitely infringe on the minority if given the opportunity. Is it possible that increasing India’s diversity will make it a hostile environment? For many years, the solution has been obvious, but the current political climate demands “exclusivity,” “uniformity,” or simply “one” religion, political philosophy, and set of moral values, all of which are incompatible with political individualism, rationality, and diversity in general.

The ability to think critically, independently, and transcend preconceptions is demonstrated by protesting students and academicians at numerous sites of higher study (some of the key dimensions of transformative higher education institutions).

According to the most recent report, ‘Free to Think 2021,’ Indian authorities have imprisoned and jailed students and professors in breach of anti-terrorism legislation. SAR, a global network of over 550 higher education institutions in more than 40 countries dedicated to academic freedom and widening society’s logical space, contributed to the above state report. Education intervention and attacks on students, teachers, and other education professionals remained consistent from 2009 to 2013, according to a report titled Education Under Attack 2014.

The government is also accountable for the shrinking space for academic study on economic disparity, political oppression, environmental conservation, the critical human race, religion, caste history, and marginalized people’s rights until 2020.

Unceasing tumultuous educational times

The article must present James Madison’s thesis, which was based on a series of articles written by Alexander Hamilton to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787. Among all of these essays, Hamilton’s most influential political inquiry was on how to protect citizens from ‘factions,’ groups of people united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community, whether they were a majority or a minority of the whole. In ‘Federalist 10,’ Madison discusses how to reconcile citizens who have interests incompatible with the rights of others or the community’s overall interests.

In today’s democratic India, such modern ‘factions’ are seen inside parliament or legislatures and outside as radical and nationalist organizations such as RSS, Bajrang Dal, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, all aspiring for a homogenous ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ How serious is the issue of ‘Conversion McCarthyism?’ Right-wing radicals recently vandalized a Christian school in Madhya Pradesh, alleging that children were being forced to convert to Christianity.

The VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Hindu Jagran Manch, and other right-wing factions accused the school administration of converting eight kids to Christianity in a memorandum given to the local authorities following the demonstration. In the memorandum, these factions accused the school administration and the church of forcing students to wear ‘Kalawa’ instead of ’tilak’ (a colored mark) on their foreheads (a sacred thread worn by Hindus on the wrist). The Saint Joseph Church, in a letter to the district collector on Sunday, refuted all claims of religious conversion.

The mob invaded the school with stone-pelting, oblivious that innocent children were taking a mathematics exam and could barely escape. The mob smashed the building’s windows and demanded that the state authorities bulldoze the school if any indulgences were discovered. As a result, the new objective or fear of converting Hindus to Christianity is the latest catalyst for escalating sacredness above science, plurality, and individual liberty.

It isn’t new to bulldoze, attack, and disassemble educational institutions. It occurs not just due to religious fanaticism but also as a result of other political adversaries. A year ago, the educational institution Jamia Milia Islamia was destroyed and assaulted by Delhi police, who were unrestrained in assaulting students, hurling teargas shells into reading rooms, and wrecking the Dr. Zakir Hussain Library, demonstrating that this method is effective in destroying youth/individual liberty to resist and creative transformation, as well as educational continuity.

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students and teachers are still waiting for the police and the varsity administration to bring those responsible for the incident that provoked nationwide protests to justice a year after a crowd entered the university campus wrecked property, injured and hospitalized five teachers and students suffering. Rising tensions between student political activities in higher education have led to increased violence directed towards academics and students, particularly those associated with minority groups or viewed as political opponents.

In terms of historical facts, numerous areas of the country have experienced turbulence as a result of ongoing political and separatist battles, all of which have resulted in an unfavorable educational position. Separatist ideology and communal tensions have played a role in the country’s north-eastern bloodshed. Education-related abuses were predominant in the states of Assam, Manipur, and Meghalaya.

Naxalite or communist gangs continued to oppose the government in the east of the country, but further south, harming education.

During a student confrontation inside the NSS Hindu College in Changanassery, Kerala, on October 27, 2007, Hindu right-wing students killed a police officer. A student with a wooden plank struck the officer. Shakti Babu, a BA (Hindi Honours) student at Mahatma Gandhi Central University, was assaulted by some unidentified persons on September 13, 2018. He was a member of the students’ core committee demonstrating against the MGCU Vice-Chancellor (Arvind Agarwal), seeking his expulsion from the position. During the attack, he suffered internal injuries.

Education was hampered in the row as a result of such circumstances. In July 2016, tensions rose after a Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen leader, and two other militants were murdered fighting government forces. The state’s schools were closed for eight months due to conflict in erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir. In April and May 2017, violence erupted in the state, with student protests against Indian authorities for closing colleges and institutions now and then. When the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 and imposed a security lockdown and a communication blackout on the region, schools, colleges, and universities across the valley were forced to shut down. Although the restrictions were ultimately lifted, the valley had been suffering spontaneous closures as a result of the decision and ensuing conflict.

CEDAW expressed concern in 2014 over the degree of violence against women in the country’s conflict-affected areas, including rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

Madison concludes that ‘factions’ as people are inevitable due to man’s nature—that is, as long as people have differing opinions, wealth, and property, they will continue to form alliances with people who are most similar to them. They will occasionally work against the public interest and infringe on others’ rights.

Nonetheless, renowned political intellectuals such as Baron de Montesquieu continued to see factions as a severe threat to democracies and republics at the end of the 18th century. Today, Democracies must not let such extreme intervention by factions as spontaneous attacks show the room for free inquiry and debate is decreasing. We must denounce acts of violence to punish people for their beliefs, protect vulnerable students, and promote the freedom to think.

© The Eastern Herald
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Sadaf Khalid
Pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Administration and a gold medalist from Aligarh Muslim University. Worked as a Policy Analyst at Aam Admi Party policy research cell, New Delhi. A young social activist for People Service Institute, Kolkata, Swasthya Sankalp, Cancer Aid Society, and building youth brigade for child rights awareness, gender sensitization, environmental policies, etc. A contributor to The Eastern Herald.