The Indian state under the current ruling political formation has over the past few years been pursuing a virulent campaign of a populist anti-intellectualism, targeting the humanities and the social sciences in particular.
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Many academics from these disciplines, alongside journalists, lawyers, and civil rights activists, who have sought to question the inegalitarian aspects of social structures and public institutions, are subjected to arbitrary tests of allegiance to sectarian and divisive definitions of the nation, people and culture, threatened with fraudulent charges, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, allegations of being anti-national, and even murder. The diversity and ferment of debates in public life, especially universities, are stifled, while new voices from marginalised sections that have entered university spaces over the past two decades are met with brutal repression.
The attacks on academics, intellectuals, and activists, however, need to be understood as part of the accompanying wholesale subversion of democratic institutions and neoliberal assaults on the people, all intensified under cover of the Covid-19 regime of lockdowns and “social distancing”. Notwithstanding the misuse of the anti-pandemic measures to outlaw public protests, people’s resistance started resurfacing even before any loosening of the measures, the most remarkable being the ongoing massive farmers’ agitation at the borders of Delhi.
The contributions to this larger context—carried in this series of newsletters under the title ‘Whither India?’—reflect on various aspects of the institutional erosion and their social consequences. The first issue of 2021 of Postcolonial Studies carries slightly longer reflections on the attacks on university spaces in particular.
The contributions to the ‘Whither India?’ section have been curated by Ira Raja and Shaswati Mazumdar.