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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 49 December 2, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Dec 2, 2003

Saturday 2 December 2023


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Dec 2, 2023

India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru speaking on December 13, 1947 in a special convocation of the University of Allahabad defined the role of universities as mind-opening spaces. “A university stands for humanism, for tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth,”, he said [1]. But we have a long way from those objectives with current-day administrators of Universities in India getting busy pleasing powers that be and keeping their jobs by promoting propaganda about national achievements in the ‘recent past’. The University Grants Commission (UGC), the top decision-making body that accredits and shapes rules regulating all nationally recognised universities has issued a circular on December 1, 2023 [2] asking higher educational institutions to set up ‘selfie points’ that be located on campuses for the youth to capture moments for sharing on social media. The UGC approved designs hyperlinked on the circular all of which have photos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the backdrop of the selfie kiosks. Does this mean that ‘national achievements’ are all connected with the current Prime Minister?. This directive comes over as promoting a cult of personality around Mr Modi, that too, just a few months before the National General election. There is always a risk that so called national achievements can be narrowly defined and even riskier if fixated on a specific national leader or a government led by a particular ruling party. UGC is supposed to be an autonomous entity should keep distance from all advertising on educational spaces, whether government-defined or by private business. Collective organisations of students, teachers, employees of universities, concerned citizens and colleges and universities should challenge and veto this move by the UGC as misplaced and prone to political misuse.

December 2, 2023 —HK

[2UGC letter regarding: Setting up "Selfie Point" in Universities and Colleges to create awareness among the youth about India’s achievements in various fields

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