Year 2014 became a special time period in my life, though I did not visualise so in the beginning of the year. I returned to Punjab after nearly nine years, after retirement from JNU, where I overstayed few more months post retirement to complete pending assignments. I had wished to get fellowship in either Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi or Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla, to continue my research on Bhagat Singh and/or Ghadar party, or getting associated with Central University of Punjab(CUP) at my home district Bathinda . CUP, Bathinda Vice Chancellor Prof. Jairup Singh invited me for a lecture on Kartar Singh Sarabha in November 2013 and subsequently offered the position of Professor in Comparative Literature. There were certain hiccups in between due to over bureaucratisation at CUP, but I was able to join the University in mid-December, initially for six months, but with the understanding of longer stint. It was a welcome break for me, as I was unhappy at the misconduct of Centre of Indian Languages, JNU Chairperson with me and Prof. Nachimuthu, despite JNU VC’s support to us, at the time of our retirement on same day in January end 2013. Prof. Nachimuthu was invited by his home state Tamilnadu Central University to join as Professor in Tamil, I also got similar offer from my state!
Though I wished to serve CUP with idealist ideas of contributing to its development, I had some difficulty in adjusting to entirely contrasting too liberal academic culture of JNU to stifling atmosphere at CUP, where younger faculty was bound like factories from 9 am to 5.30 pm with bio-metric attendance and signing the attendance register as well, with no vacation at all. I came to know about it prior to joining, but made it clear to Vice Chancellor, while accepting the offer that I will compromise with these conditions only if accommodation was provided to me at campus, which was acceded to. Bio-metric or signing attendance register was not meant for us-6-7 retired Professors, who were engaged by CUP on contract, yet I always felt pinched by it and made no bone of it, always spoke openly and frankly against such indignity heaped on younger faculty. But those who suffered-the younger faculty made no protestation at any time, even during my stay at CUP. As usual I found a form of silent protest over it, never came to my office before 9.30 am, usually between 9.30 to 10 am, except when there was some meeting fixed, that may have happened rarely in whole year, though sat late till even 8 or 9 pm some times. There are about forty younger faculty members, few of them still on contract, while some were regularised after spending long time on contract. While they are expected to do quality research, they were not allowed even to attend refresher/orientation courses till recently, though obligatory by UGC instructions. Even before sending a seminar paper for consideration to any University for acceptance/presentation, in India or abroad, they were required to seek permission, even when many of the papers were never accepted. This condition has been recently waved! Faculty has accepted all these anti-academic conditions silently. Generally most of the faculty is hard working, yet favours like funding/travel grants for papers presentation abroad, got only few!
Why I wished to be in CUP? When Central University was established in 2009 at Bathinda, I was happy and welcomed it, since it was established in my home district. The idea of establishing one central University in each state and that too in most backward region of that state was good idea of then MHRD minister Arjun Singh, in order to provide quality education to poorer students at affordable level with more facilities and financial support as Central Universities generally provide, more than State or private Universities to students. Bathinda in Punjab deserved it most. As Professor and Chairperson of Centre of Indian Languages then in 2009 at JNU, New Delhi, I wrote to then MHRD minister and his successor Kapil Sibbal, who had no pretension of Nehruvian ideal of his predecessor and was more coloured in Corporate world of privatization, to name the University as ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh Central University of Punjab’, it was published in Punjabi Tribune, Ajit and University News at that time. Till today no University in the country, even in Punjab or left ruled states is named after Bhagat Singh, even though he is considered the supreme hero of the country. Founder VC Prof. Jairup Singh was not in favour of naming it after Bhagat Singh, neither Govt. paid any attention as usual. I was invited as expert in very first interviews to select faculty at the University. Later I expressed my wish to donate my collection of books at Patiala, which was accepted by Vice Chancellor, CUP by acknowledging it personally; accordingly 2000+ books were collected from my residence in Patiala. It was but natural that after my retirement, I offered my services to CUP, Bathinda, which were gracefully accepted by then VC Prof. Jairup Singh. I had left Bathinda in 1976 to join JNU as student, and after doing PhD from JNU, served at different places in Punjab and outside Punjab, before finally joining and retiring from JNU, New Delhi as Professor in January end 2013. The other reason was that I was an activist teacher during my early period at Bathinda and I wished to refresh my contacts/friendships with many of those days’ friends/activists after nearly four decades. So despite my reservations, joining CUP was a pleasure, though my working hours or classes were just two days a week for four hours in both JNU and in West Indies for eight years! On my own I used to spend more than eight hours a day in my office and produced more than twenty books in this period in Hindi, Punjabi and English, which earned me a bit of name as well in academic world, that too more outside my professional area of literature!
Small but green campus of CUP was most pleasing for me and it was so quiet too! Even though I was provided with just one attached bath, a single bed-cum study room accommodation, I was satisfied with that. There was shared kitchen to make tea/breakfast, while I took my lunch and dinner from only students mess on campus, other faculty and staff too took food there, when necessary. Food may not be very good there, but for me eating in mess was enjoyable, I always liked to live like a hosteller that is what CUP provided me. Then there was good gym on campus, to which I was introduced for first time in 2011 at The University of the West Indies, here it was free too! I enjoyed spending evening time in gym for at least four months, but stopped using it in summer and then did not go till the end of my term. My office facilities were as good as in JNU or West Indies, I was made administrative head (COC) of two centres-Comparative Literature and Punjabi, and also In charge of CUP Library. I just escaped another charge of public relations being given! I enjoyed all three responsibilities, but missed teaching classes, which I could not, as younger faculty, were under compulsion to have full teaching work load. So I took special classes or classes of teachers on leave. Had I got the authority, I would have made them share teaching with me and spend more time on research! But I introduced the culture of participation of all faculty members in decision process. Like JNU, I started holding faculty meetings for every issue-academic or administrative, which I was not expected to do. In library also, I made library committee more active for discussing everything and take decision by consensus, many times my own views did not find favour with my colleagues and I never insisted to push my views upon majority view of my colleagues. While most of my colleagues were happy at participatory discourse, few were upset, who wanted me not to hold any ‘meeting and take decisions ‘on my own!’ This was my way of introducing democratisation of the institute, which badly lacked it!
Other way of democratising the institute I adopted was to hold academic functions of such nature. For the first time in English hegemonic University, International Mother Languages Day was celebrated with much gusto on 21st February, later students were encouraged to commemorate Bhagat Singh martyrdom day, which they organised with my lecture. Inspired by this some Maharashtra students took initiative to observe Dr. Ambedkar day, the lecture was held with my support and encouragement. I was able to organise even Punjabi poet Pash Memorial Day with Rana Ranbir play based on poet’s life and poems-Khetan da Putt-on poet’s birthday-9th September!
By that time new Vice Chancellor of the University Prof. R K Kohli had joined, who was not appreciative of my activities and though after that I organised official programmes to observe Hindi fortnight in September itself, as Professor-Coordinator of statutory Hindi committee of CUP,I was made to realise that no more support for even these official functions from VC will be available. Ironically though new Vice Chancellor joined on Teachers Day-5th September, the day turned out to be ‘On duty no pay day’ for contractual teachers and non teaching staff. Vice Chancellor joined around 12 o’ clock and all staff had marked their attendance at 9 am itself and worked as usual till 5.30 pm, yet without any rhyme or reason and without even informing them in any manner-oral or written, they were made to work ‘without pay’ in the ‘joy of new VC joining’, the fact they came to know much later, when they got their salary for September!
My library staff colleagues were quite happy with my being in charge as I tried to enrich library with more books and journals, despite many hurdles created by audit official. I gifted some more books and journals from my personal collection further. Here too, new Vice Chancellor imposed fifty rupees per day fine on late return of books, without either informing or discussing with me, officially designated Professor-Incharge of library, for which I was paid extra remuneration per month! Reason apparently was that in interaction with students, he got the complaint of non availability of books to students. Without cross-checking about the complaint from library staff or knowing the real reasons for it, he made a sudden arbitrary declaration of imposing fifty rupees per day for non return of books by faculty or students, supposing late return to be the real cause of non availability of the books for students! The fact of the matter was that there was not even 2% rate of late return of books either from faculty or students and the real reason for non availability of books was non purchase or non display of books already purchased on shelves, which he would have been briefed had he asked for it from library staff or in charge! CUP library is not short of funds; rather it has more funds than even old Central Universities like JNU, known for its best collections. Library had not evolved proper purchase system due to non appointment of full fledged Librarian, which was a must for developing library. In absence of that, books had been purchased a lot but mostly at the fag end of every financial year, that too more in the field of sciences and less in humanities. There were few journals subscribed in humanities. During my short term as Library incharge, I did try to balance the purchase of books, but again the over bureaucratisation and hurdles created by one audit official, put even the recommendations on hold. I tried my best to improve upon and got many journals subscribed as well as books purchased in humanities. Yet many of purchased and accessed books could not go to shelves, because of technical problems of much advanced mechanised process of library.
As per my practice, I took the matter of Vice Chancellor’s late return fine instructions to library committee, where all faculty members were upset, as no University library in the region, may be except private Universities, like DAV University, from where new VC had come, though after spending three decades at Panjab University Chandigarh, where no such provision exists. In most of the Public libraries or Govt. institutions or state or Central Universities libraries, the rate of late return fine is not more than one or two rupees a day as was in CUP. Yet to accommodate new VC’s instructions, library committee found a way out by resolving that fifty rupees per day fine for late return may be imposed after normal fine days of two weeks are over. The proceedings of library committee were sent to VC as usual, who rather than appreciating it, took affront to that and in personal meeting accused me of ‘doing trade unionism like JNU’ and getting signatures of faculty members by force! I tried to explain the reasons and actual situation and offered to hand over library charge to any new appointee of VC. I did refuse to go against library committee decision which was statutory in nature as library manual was approved by EC and refused to issue fifty rupees daily fine notice. Vice Chancellor got the order issued from library staff by himself dictating the notice, yet no new library incharge was named whom I could hand over the charge!
I did not visualise spending more than one year in CUP. In the meantime I continued with my academic activities-presenting papers, writing, publishing books, digitalizing my own earlier published or hand written documents, which gave me great satisfaction. My relations with my younger colleagues and students were quite cheerful. I kept on recommending younger faculty for attending seminars/refresher/orientation courses, though sometimes my recommendations were turned down with impunity. COC’s/OIC’s in CUP are supposed to act as remotes of higher authorities, which I could never allow myself to. Over bureaucratisation and feudal attitude of higher officials and centralisation of power in just one person did kept on disturbing me, but I dealt with it in my own way of arguing with reason, sometimes succeeding, mostly failing in my reasoned democratic approach.
Finally I thought it was time to leave, as a retired Professor with some name in academics, also having remained President/activist of Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA) President and teacher activist/office bearer for many years at Punjabi University Teachers Association, Patiala (PUTA) too, I did not wish to compromise with the dignity of a teacher, not just my personal dignity. When few young faculty members from CUP took initiative to form a platform to develop CUP Teachers Association in future, I supported them morally, though I could not have become part of them as retired faculty.
CUP friends and former colleagues, I wished to share my experiences at CUP with you and also unpleasant correspondence with CUP officials during my last few months, some publication links as usual. The one last presentation prepared for CUP on Nehru’s experiences with the region-Jaitu/Nabha to mark 125th birth anniversary of our first Prime Minister and founder of scientific approach of higher education was not allowed to be shared with you and students, though it was accepted for presentation by VC as early as in November 2014, while many other presentations were being made.(Sharing now in PPF) This makes me little worried about the days to come in the field of higher education, which were put to sound basis by first Prime Minister Nehru and first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, whose day was marked but not with his ideas on education! I have heard about the Vice Chancellors meetings conducted by new MHRD minister, who behaves like a headmistress and treats VC’s like her class monitors and expects them to obey her orders alike monitors do in schools. Sadly MHRD is treating 13 new Central Universities like high schools and remote controlling these from Delhi with concept of ‘University autonomy’ thrown to winds. They are trying to control old central Universities and state Universities also, but face resistance there due to institutions having been built in long time and difficult to dismantle in one go, but with new Central Universities, they find it easy with obliging Vice Chancellors, some of them, who have no self respect or respect for their profession and who try to please the masters whom they would have treated differently, if they had been part of their class as student any time earlier and the new masters have no concern for education or higher education and just wish to push their irrational unscientific mediaeval religious agenda to destroy education system built by Jawaharlal Nehru like visionaries!
Wishing you best in 2015 and beyond…wishing the best for CUP Bathinda as well, for the students of the institution and region, who must avail the facilities of this public institution as their right and not as charity! I also wish that CUP officials accept Comparative Literature/Punjabi faculties meeting resolution of introducing at least 2000/ rupees scholarship for all M.A./MSc level students. Also wish the students and faculty to avail some vacations in coming years!
- Bhagat Singh ke Durlabh Dastavez aur Kranti ka Barahmasa, Samvad Merrut 2014
- Shaeed Bhagat Singh: Dastavezon ke Aaine Mein(Ed.-Urdu), Publication Division, New Delhi, 2014
Articles in Books/Journals
1.Pash di kavita vich jhalkda Bharat da bimb, in Bheeminder edited-Pash di Prasangikta, 2014
- Two letters of Bhagat Singh in The Hindu (English), Jansatta (Hindi) and Punjabi Tribune(Punjabi) on 23rd March 2014
- On Ajnala Black well of 1857– The Hindu, Frontier, The Milli Gzzette, Janta-English (September 2014) Samkaleen Teesri Duniya (Hindi-Septmber),
- Chauri Chaura (Hindi) book- review article in English and Hindi in Frontier, The Citizen(Emglish), Kathadesh, Samkaleen Janmat, Kall ke Liye Akshar Parv,(Hindi-September 2014) etc.
5.Nehru aur Nabha Jail, Dainik Bhaskar(Hindi) Chandigarh, 14th December, 2014
Reviews on my book-Understanding Bhagat Singh:
- The Hindu, The Meditative Revolutionary,by T Ramakrishna, Dec. 2013
- Frontline, More Light on a Hero, Kuldeep Kumar, May 2014
- Frontier, Suchibrata Sen, May 2014
- Mainstream, Useful, if Controversial, Barundas Gupta, 27th September 2014
- Monthly Review Website/Frontier, Left Traditions in South Asia, Radha D’ Souza, September/November 2014
1.Organized International Mother Languages Day Discussion on 21st February 2014 at Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.
2.Organised Pash day function at Central University of Punjab Bathinda on 9th September 2014, delivered lecture on Pash’s life and poetry.
3.Organised inaugural Hindi Day function in Central University of Punjab, Bathinda and delivered lecture on Official languages act on 15th September and valedictory on 29th September as Professor-Convenor of committee.
- Presented paper at Kolkata University History Deptt. National seminar on Ghadar party centenary on ‘Kartar Singh Sarabha to Bhagat Singh’ on 8th February, 2014
- Presented paper ‘Partition and Indian Literature’ at national seminar of Freedom Struggle and Partition by History deptt. at Vishav Bharti University Shantiniketan on 11th February, 2014
- Presented paper at Panjab Univesity Chandigarh on 8th March, 2014 on Bhagat Singh’s writings in Chand and Kirti, on Ghadar party centenary seminar.
- Made presentation on Om Prakash Balmiki and Dalit literature at Indian Institute of
Advanced Study Shimla on 14th April 2014
- Made presentation on Ajmer Rode and Sukhwant Hundal plays on ‘Kamagatamaru’ on 21st April 2014 at Indian Institute of Technology(IIT) Kharagpur workshop
- Made presentation on post graduate Syllabus of Punjabi at Punjabi dept. Punjabi University Patiala Workshop on 5th March 2014
- Made presentation on syllabus reforms at Revanshaw University Cuttack on 16th May 2014
- Presided over a session on workshop on Post Graduate Punjabi Syllabuses at Punjabi University Patiala on 5th March 2014
- Presided over a session on national seminar on Om Praksh Balmiki and Dalit Literature on 14th April 2014 at IIAS Shimla
- Presided over Chhatarpati memorial function to honor NDTV editor Ravish Kumar and Umesh Joshi at Sirsa on 22nd November, 2014, delivered address.
- Delivered four lectures on Black/Dalit Literature and Impact of revolutionary Nationalism on Hindi literature at Allahabad University Hindi dept. refresher course on 20-21st July 2014
- Delivered lecture on Ghadar party hero Kartar Singh Sarabha at Revanshaw University Cuttack on 17th May 2014
- Presided over and delivered lecture on ‘The significance of Books in the age of Internet’ at Mata Sundari College Mansa on 5th January.
- Delivered lecture on ‘The Significance of Hindi as World Language’ at CUP, Bathinda on 10th January 2014
- Delivered speech on Bhagat Singh at Ferozeshah Kotla grounds Delhi march of workers on 23rd March 2014.
- Delivered lecture on Relevance of Bhagat Singh at Central University of Punjab (CUP), Bathinda students function on martyrdom day-25 March 2014
20.Delivered lecture on Bhagat Singh as young man at Giani Zail Singh Engineering College, Bathinda function on 25th March, 2014
- Delivered lecture on Bhagat Singh birth anniversary at Panjab University Regional Centre Mukatsar on 24th September 2014
- Delivered lecture on Bhagat Singh’s legal knowledge at District Courts bar hall Patiala on 26th September 2014
- Delivered lecture on book Chauri Chaura at Shaheed Smark sansthan Lucknow on 7th October 2014.
- Lecture on Bhagat Singh’s ideas at Punjabi University TPD Malwa College,Rampura Phul (Bathinda) on 13 October 2014
- Lecture on Bhagat Singh legacy in freedom struggle at Punjabi University College Ghudda on 5th November 2014
- Spoke on Bhagat Singh ideas at panel on Reinventing Heritage at Chandigarh-
Literati-2014 at Lake Club Chandigarh on 8th November 2014
- Lecture on Ghadar party/Kartar Singh Sarabha legacy and Bhagat Singh Thought at Govt. senior secondary school, Dabwali on 23rd November 2014.
- Delivered lecture on visit to Cuba and Venezuela at Allahabad on 20th July at Hindustani Sabha hall.
- Delivered Reception committe chairman address on Bathinda’s history at All India Bank Employees meet at Bathinda on 2nd November 2014
- Presided over function to honour NDTV’s Ravish Kumar with Chhatarpati award at Sirsa on 22nd November 2014 and delivered presiding address.
(Eleven presentations-papers/lectures on Bhagat Singh alone)
- Interview recorded for documentary being made on Bhagat Singh by Mahesh
- Interview recorded by Epic channel at Delhi on 18th October on Mudham Singh and Madan Lal Dhingra.