Musings of a Spectator

Location: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Insecurity Syndrome

Indian Government recently seems to have denied Visas for Fulbright Scholars who wanted to do social science research on what the Government describes as "sensitive" areas - be it religion, culture, communalism...

Opposing this position strongly Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta has written an incisive article in the Indian Express. Here are my views on the same:

I completely agree with the argument on the point that we should be welcoming more and more research students, especially social science researchers, from across the world to learn about India - for we wish to claim India as a model for the world.

But what does intrigue me is why is it that we move into a shell when discussing about issues of concern - which can be matters that are bone of contention between major sections of our country - and this, despite the fact that someone like Prof. Amartya Sen mentioning that we in India are argumentative in nature. I, for one, feel that it has got to do with the point that we have been apprehensive of own identity as an Indian, despite all the hogwash about being proud of it. Some may attribute it to the apparent contradictions (which arise mostly due to the lack of clarity in the understanding of the milieu). Some to the point of lack of historic understanding of why we are what we are, why we do what we do and so on.

What is the cause for this insecurity in the Government when scholars from abroad come to India? - When the political leaders of India are apprehensive of what they would mean by Indianness - and when the majority of the youth of today are either superficially aware or not aware of the Indian societal structure and it's historicity in the language of their own - I certainly see why the Government is apprehensive. One, it is not ready to take a stand. Or it wants to pass on the buck to someone else who is courageous about the stand it wishes to take.

Tomorrow, if these Fulbright Scholars having studied the history of India, spent time on it and focused on it to understand India - come up with theories of how India was, is and how the social dynamics work - if at all they raise issues of concern - from an academic point of view - in order to give a rebuttal of the same - one requires to have bright students working in the social sciences research. In India, bright students turning towards social sciences research has become a dream, if I may say so. Even if there were students, do we have sufficient quality research institutes producing work that can influence the current state of the society? Despite all the strikes against Reservations, which also included Dr. Mehta's resignation from the PM's National Knowledge Commission - we haven't yet been creative enough to oblige the politician as well as the students through a method which can both satisfy the votebanks as well as help the students. Talking of Reservations, I would like to think that lack of innovative methods under implementation (private efforts - though meaningful cannot be comparable to what Government can do) as pilot projects across the country towards educating children of India as the failure of the intellectuals.

When we do not have the courage of conviction to counter an academic debate with quality work from our end as well - especially in social sciences which requires one to take a stand on a subjective issues at some point - I do not see there is another way to stop the point of getting influenced by well-worked research of foreign students than to stop them from doing research! This may be our attempt to stop what I think Salman Rushdie mentions in one of his novels - Best way to destroy people is to describe them - since we do not kow how to describe ourselves. Yeh sab hain - par phir bhi dil hain Hindustani!