Connect with us

Politics

The problems that arise when politics and academia intersect – Economic Times

Published

 on



<!–

Uday Deb
–>

See baba, I am not a chancellor, vice-chancellor, professor, lecturer or peon of any grand university. But I like to think I am educated — matlab I have been to a good school and college, got myself a degree (never collected it, though), and have zero complaints to air about the quality of my education. As is the case of millions of others in India, I also think we were pretty fortunate to have been taught by inspiring, even brilliant teachers. We didn’t always agree with their political/social/cultural/religious views, and they never asked for ours. There was never any khitpit in this regard. Some of them wrote well-researched academic papers, some penned blistering newspaper columns, some preferred poetry and a few were published authors. We admired our faculty members and applauded their achievements.

Now suddenly we have an international cause celebre revolving around a genius-prof called Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Oxford, Princeton, Harvard), whose outspoken columns are widely read and energetically dissected. He represents a new breed of progressive thinkers who call themselves ‘public intellectuals’.

So why all the fire and brimstone over his decision to quit? An intellectually celebrated, immensely sought after professor decides to step away from an environment which he feels is not conducive to his politics — so what? It does not signal the end of the world. He is a free man, and entitled to take such a call. No jabardasti to hang around feeling unwelcome, right? But it’s not all that simple, I say! Nothing is as ‘hunky dory’ (love its usage in the Supreme Court this week) as it appears. The chancellor and vice chancellor of the university are strenuously explaining themselves, while the Board of Trustees insists it has nothing to do with the mess. Some of its 100-plus donors are reportedly ‘offended’. Ninety faculty members expressed solidarity with Mehta. Then why are so many red-faced, self-styled spokespeople jumping out of the woodwork?

What is not being spelt out clearly and unequivocally is simply this: Pratap Bhanu Mehta is seen as being openly and virulently anti-government, which may have not gone down well with the bosses at Ashoka.

Fair enough. Which means they are either pro-BJP but not admitting it, or pressure is being exerted on them to tame Mehta and his ilk. Which is it? And what exactly is at stake? One of them candidly admitted in his column that this unpleasantness in the public domain could lead to funds drying up and investors losing faith in the future of the university. Is it then, only about money? Grants? Subsidies? Education is big business today. No harm in protecting one’s investment — but why not be upfront about it?

Pratap Bhanu Mehta had become a ‘political liability’ (his words). If a university calls itself ‘independent’ and claims to encourage liberal thought, why would someone like Mehta be made to feel unwanted? And why now? He has consistently been a critic of the present government, undisguisedly so. Where’s the surprise? Was this not known to those who appointed him? Has he dramatically changed his stance recently? Was there no screening process in place when he joined Ashoka? Was he told he was no longer free to write anti-establishment political commentary if he signed up with Ashoka? As we all know, such sensitive issues are never tabled, much less documented. If the Board now says these issues did not come up during his tenure — of course they didn’t — there’s nothing on record! Who was going to tell Mehta, “Hey, look here old chap — just go easy, won’t you? We are feeling the heat.”

Either you call yourself an unbiased, open and democratic institution, or you declare your political affiliations of whichever shade and colour and leave it there. You cannot have it both ways and pull out the martyr card when things start slipping. The students have the right to know where they stand vis a vis the university’s politics. Look, it’s perfectly okay to say Ashoka is pro a political party — that’s not a crime. Just say it, na? But stop the charade of pretending to be ‘neutral’.

Whether a professor with attitude stays or leaves is hardly the main issue. But it definitely marks a big moment in the university’s alarmingly young history.

Mehta at the moment is a folk hero — he will go on to other academic positions and perhaps bigger things. His critics call him a ‘closet politician’, and say he will cash in on the controversy. But what will Ashoka University do to retrieve some of its dented glory? Rightly or wrongly, public opinion is backing the man whose political leanings cost him a prestigious appointment. It’s now up to the lofty folks at the university to regroup, rethink and come up with some much-needed damage control — before some more grants and funds from donors dry up.

Facebook
Twitter
Linkedin
Email


Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

<!–

Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.

–>

END OF ARTICLE



Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Bosnia’s political crisis: What you should know, in 600 words – Al Jazeera English

Published

 on


Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing a political crisis that some fear could lead to armed conflict, little more than 25 years after the Bosnia war ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, announced this month that the country’s Serb-run entity, Republika Srpska, will quit key state institutions to achieve full autonomy within the country, in violation of the 1995 peace accords.

Dodik has been threatening the secession of Republika Srpska from Bosnia for the past 15 years and his latest statements have fuelled concerns that an armed conflict could be reignited.

Here’s what you need to know:

How did the crisis start?

The crisis began in July when Valentin Inzko, then the high representative, banned genocide denial and established war crimes, as well as the glorification of war criminals.

Serb representatives responded by boycotting central institutions. Dodik has since been seeking to withdraw the law, threatening Republika Srpska’s secession.

What’s happening now?

Earlier this month, Dodik said that Republika Srpska is pulling out of three key state institutions: the armed forces, top judiciary body and tax administration.

On October 12, Dodik said the Bosnian judiciary, security and intelligence agencies will be banned from operating in Republika Srpska.

Instead, “Serb only” institutions will replace these bodies in the entity by end of November.

“We want our authorities returned to us [the regional parliament] … This isn’t anything radical,” Dodik said. “This is for strengthening the position of Republika Srpska.”

On Wednesday, the Republika Srpska assembly adopted a law establishing its own medicine procurement agency, the first of its proclaimed agencies to operate separately from the state-level one.

Is secession on the cards?

Dodik insists “this isn’t secession” and “there is no possibility for war”, but he told media on October 14 that seven European Union countries support Bosnia’s dissolution, adding “friends” have promised help to the entity in case of “Western military intervention”.

“This is secession in all but name. And he’s testing the waters,” according to political scientist Jasmin Mujanovic.

Why is this alarming?

When recently asked by a reporter how he plans to throw out members of state services – judges, prosecutors, members of armed forces – from the entity’s territory, Dodik referred to “1992 as the Slovenes did it”, referring to the use of violence during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Emir Suljagic, director of the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, wrote in a column for Anadolu Agency on Sunday that “mono-ethnic institutions like the ones Mr. Dodik plans to re-create” were vehicles for genocide in the 1990s.

“Police, military, intelligence, and security services were at the centre of organised and systematic violence against non-Serbs. These institutions considered Bosniaks’ existence an existential threat,” Suljagic wrote.

“If we fail to deter these threats, the ultimate price we will pay is another Srebrenica [genocide].”

What can be done?

Partners who accepted the duty to protect peace 26 years ago and have the power to take action must do so, Ismail Cidic, head of the Bosnian Advocacy Center, told Al Jazeera.

Critics found the joint US-EU statement on Wednesday underwhelming, as it called for “all parties” to respect state institutions.

“I understand that ‘both-sideism’ is always a safe option for every diplomat, but the consequences of such an approach are well known from the 1990s,” Cidic said.

“If they are not willing to react because of the people of Bosnia, they should do it at least because of the leaders in their countries who cannot afford yet another refugee crisis or a Russian-backed conflict right next to the NATO borders.”

Pro-Bosnian political leaders and state institutions “must be prepared for dangerous scenarios”, he said.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Doug Ford says Ontario opposition playing politics over his 'bang on' comments about immigrants – CTV Toronto

Published

 on


Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he believes opposition parties are playing politics over his comments on immigrants and said he’s been told his remarks were “bang on.”

Ford was asked on Wednesday by Brampton East MPP Gurratan Singh in Question Period whether he is ready to apologize for the comments that “play into racist stereotypes about new Canadians.”

“Those comments were hurtful, divisive, and wrong,” Singh said.

Ford responded to Singh by saying he has been “inundated with messages from your community, the Sikh community, that said ‘You were bang on.'”

The comments about immigrants were made in Tecumseh while Ford was speaking to reporters about a labour shortage on Monday.

“We’re in such desperate need of people from around the world,” he said. 

The premier then specified that he only wanted “hard-working” people to come to Ontario.

“You come here like every other new Canadian. You work your tail off,” Ford said. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around, it’s not going to happen. Go somewhere else.”

On Wednesday, Singh asked Ford if he was ready to apologize, adding the comments were “just plain wrong.”

“Stop playing politics and let’s speak the truth,” Ford responded to Singh. “You know the backbone of this province are great hard-working immigrants.”

“My phone is blowing up all night, all day, day before, from immigrants telling me their story … I’m the biggest pro-immigrant premier we’ve ever seen here.”

Ford told Singh he will “go to his community and door knock and see the response from the Sikh community.”

He said he’s been told already by the Sikh community that his comments were “bang on” and that he needs to “stay focused.”

Many Ontario politicians spoke out and demanded Ford apologize on Monday.

Ford was asked on Tuesday by the NDP to apologize for the “discriminatory” comments. He did not, and instead used the opportunity to say he is “pro-immigration.” 

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

How green politics are changing Europe – BBC News

Published

 on


The Greens

An ocean of conservative blue blankets the electoral map in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria.

And yet the conservative vote actually fell across Germany in last month’s federal vote, while the Greens achieved their biggest success yet,.

In an election dominated by climate change, a speck of green has made a ripple in Bavaria. For the first time a Greens candidate was directly elected to represent Bavaria in the federal parliament.

It is symbolic of the creeping rise in support for European green parties, from Hungary to Finland.

Bavaria's electoral map

1px transparent line

The new MP, Jamila Schäfer, beamed with satisfaction when she recalled her surprise victory in Munich-South, by a wafer-thin margin of 0.8%. Only once before had the CSU lost the constituency since 1976.

“This is a major sign of change,” Ms Schäfer told the BBC.

A campaign ‘close to the people’

The Greens won 14.8% of the vote nationwide, appealing beyond their eco-protest roots with Annalena Baerbock standing as candidate for chancellor. Now they are in talks to share power as part of a three-way coalition.

Greens co-leaders Angelina Baerbock (L) and Robert Habeck (R)

Getty Images

Ms Schäfer, 28, is the Greens’ deputy federal chairwoman and typifies a party that has undergone a national makeover after years of power-sharing in several German states (Länder).

She rose through the ranks of Green Youth, taking part in school strikes against education reforms, long before Swedish activist Greta Thunberg made her name by skipping classes for climate protests.

Climate change was consistently ranked as the most serious facing Germany in opinion polls ahead of the election.

Even so, Ms Schäfer targeted her “close-to-the-people” campaign in Munich-South on housing, pensions and taxes.

Green shoots of success

Once ridiculed by many as idealistic hippies, Green parties increased their vote share in 13 European countries at the most recent national elections. In six of those countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden – green parties have a share of power in coalition governments.

A map showing the countries where green parties hold power

1px transparent line

In all those cases, the Greens are pressing their partners to adopt more ambitious targets for lowering carbon emissions. Elsewhere, the green mayors of Amsterdam and Budapest are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 and 2030 respectively – to balance the greenhouse gases emitted and absorbed by their cities.

Despite last month’s election success for the German Greens, even co-leader Ms Baerbock admitted they had failed to live up to early opinion poll ratings: “We wanted more. We didn’t achieve that.”

Given the urgency of curbing emissions, what’s holding the Greens back?

Trust and fear of change

One explanation is that mainstream parties across Europe have elevated climate change to the top of their agendas.

“If you’re concerned about the climate, it doesn’t follow that you’re going to vote green,” Adam Fagan, a political scientist at King’s College, London, said. “It means you’re going to scrutinise the manifestos of the main parties for their green credentials.”

A map showing the percentage of votes for green parties in recent European elections

1px transparent line

Green parties tend to do better in countries with more proportional systems, as used by the European Union for its parliamentary elections. For example, the Greens/EFA bloc gained 25 seats with 10.8% of the vote in the 2019 election to the European Parliament.

“People think putting the Greens in power [in the EU] is less dangerous,” said Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/EFA.

“From the right and the left, there’s always a question hanging over us: can you really trust the Greens with the economy?”

National election results suggest the answer is no.

To reduce emissions, the Greens say big structural changes to the economy are needed. While those reforms are necessary, they scare people and put them off voting green, Ms Schäfer said.

“They’re worried they’ll be the losers of big transformation,” the MP said. “It’s a lack of control that people are afraid of. But we need to convince people that our politics is not about giving up control.”

‘Killing the planet’

It’s even more difficult in Southern and Eastern European countries, where support for green parties is fragmented or non-existent. Surveys show that climate change is far from a top priority in post-communist countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

Voters and political parties there are generally more concerned about economic development or migration, leaving environmental issues to civil society groups.

Mr Lamberts believes voters find the message that their country’s model is “killing the planet” unpalatable.

Unlike in many of the other former Soviet-bloc states, green parties have made inroads in Hungary.

Gergely Karácsony

Getty Images

The green LMP party has won seats in three consecutive national elections since 2010, while Dialogue received 11.9% of the vote in an alliance with the Hungarian Socialists in 2018.

Dialogue’s success came under the leadership of Gergely Karacsony, who was elected mayor of Budapest in 2019.

He defeated the nationalist incumbent by rallying opposition parties behind his liberal platform, and promising solutions not only to environmental issues, but economic and social ones too.

“In Hungary today, there are three different crises. A democratic crisis, a social crisis and an environmental crisis,” Budapest’s mayor told the BBC. “The advantage of the green movement is that we have proposals for all three.”

He linked green policies such as urban foresting and carbon-free public transport to Hungary’s poor record on air quality and other environmental problems.

Particularly in post-Soviet countries, the mayor said, social justice must go hand in hand with the green transition.

“We cannot put the costs of sustainability on disadvantaged segments of society.”

Jamila Schäfer speaking at an event

Andreas Gregor

What worked in Budapest may not necessarily follow elsewhere, but green candidates have achieved electoral success where they have channelled voter discontent, united the opposition and diversified their offer beyond the environment.

If the Greens can build on these gains, there is a future for them in coalitions, Professor Fagan said.

“Green politics in Europe is getting bigger and stronger, and I’m sure it will grow in the coming years,” Ms Schäfer said.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending