Monday, February 04, 2008

Nehru University, Progressive Students & Our Civil Society

Rafique Wassan

Recently, I got an opportunity to present a paper on the subject of ‘health and social inequities’ in an international conference titled ‘Spheres of Justice’ organized by CRG, the policy research organization of Kolkata, India. I deem myself responsible to share with the highly reputed educational standard of the JNU of India, progressive active politics and civil society role of the students and professors and the research activism of civil society and policy research organizations in India. Especially when we look at the work of our institutions/organizations, education and research quality in universities, and positive progressive student politics in Pakistan it seems that we not only lag behind to our neighbor country but we don’t have an understanding of aforementioned positive democratic trends.

The research domain of CRG is of an international level. This policy research organization in India organizes workshops, seminars, courses, conferences, public lectures and discussions and produce research papers and reports of a qualitative standard at different times on the national & regional South Asian issues like forced migration, social justice, issues of socially marginalized groups, issues of the victims of forced displacement due to state and international development aid projects and poverty issues. This time in the conference on the subject of social justice, scholars and social scientists from Germany, Finland, Australia, France, Croatia, Argentine, Algeria, Nepal, Pakistan and participants from different states of India participated and presented their papers on the conference theme.

The international level and nature of the conference in terms of the scholarly discussions on the policy issues made me realize that NGOs are playing a role of civil society activism in India. On the contrary, in Pakistan, the same role is overlooked and the NGOs have not got the real essence of civil society in terms of its work and responsibility. Even, we see a very little role of civil society organizations in the situation of the dysfunction of the democratic institutions of the state at the hands of the military regime.

The educational and research quality of Indian universities is better than ours. In the conference, two young girls who were studying law in India also presented their papers. But, we don’t have such culture of producing research papers at universities level. Most importantly, social scientists are doing much work on policy issues in India, while we still lag behind in the social science subjects especially anthropology, political Science and Sociology in terms of the their utility. CRG also organized a public lecture by a French scholar Etienne Balibar. A large number of students and civil society members participated in the public lecture, which indicted the responsible and active civil society role.

In India, the state of West Bengal is one among the three states wherein Communist Party of India has a stronghold. The Kolkata region has a great importance at the national as well as international level in India. Historically, Kolkata has remained the capital of British India. Kolkata was the trade center in the British era.

During the three-day conference, various scholars presented their papers on the issues like gender justice, forced displacement & role of state, global justice, liberalism, Dalit question etc. Shritha, an Indian participant, presented an interesting paper on the women’s social space and gender discrimination.

After participating in the conference, I went back to my Sindhi friend who is studying in JNU Delhi. It was a nice experience visiting JNU with my friend in India. Like QAU Islamabad in Pakistan, JNU is very famous for its reputed quality education and research in India. Including India’s different states, large number of foreign students comes to JNU for higher education studies. JNU seems different compared to our universities in terms of the progressive role of students and teachers. The students play a very advance role and influence the national and international policy agendas of the state. The professors of JNU also play responsible role of civil society actors for the social change and democratization in different state spheres. On the contrary, in Pakistan, student political organizations and teachers in universities are sidelined to play the same role.

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