Saturday, April 23, 2016

The language of meritocracy, the workings of power, and the lack of accountability

One of the challenges of an organizational structure built on the rhetoric of meritocracy is its inability to put checks and balances in place to hold accountable the structures of power that are accumulated through claims to meritocracy.

The logic of meritocracy works precisely on the acceptance of inequality as natural to a structure that is built on merit, with merit standing in as a signifier of capability.

Inequalities are justified to the extent that they are based on differentials in merit.

Inequalities in differential labour, differential assigned workloads, differential pay structures can all be justified to the extent that they can be justified by some claim to merit. The powers that be in meritocratic structures determine the rules of the game to justify these inequalities.

Now all of this would work in a meritocratic system if the system was devoid of the workings of power and the traps to equal access that are put up by structural differences in access to opportunities.

In the concept of a meritocratic structure, once one has achieved the markers of what constituted merit, he/she has an opportunity of being part of the system. This logic would of course work if a meritocracy was based on continual evaluation on the basis of clearly articulated and transparent structures, with checks and balances of accountability built into the system such that those who were once in but have failed to perform to the standards of merit are automatically filtered out, making place for new power players in the system by virtue of merit.

In other words, for meritocracy to work, the rules, processes, and guidelines would have to be transparent to organizational members broadly, and opportunities would have to be extended equally so every organizational member has a chance at merit.

However, meritocracies are not devoid of power. Quite the opposite. Once through some claim of meritocracy one set of actors have been incorporated into the structure, it is of ultimate interest to the power brokers within the system to maintain their power. The maintenance of this power can now be achieved through the changing of rules, creation of new systems and new metrics that would serve the interests of power, and that are overall directed toward servicing the control of the power elite. In many instances in organizations, these rules are not transparent and are not available to all organizational members. This lack of transparency then keeps intact the power structure while keeping those in these structures out of the lens of scrutiny. Inequalities produced by the structures are continually justified without any accountability to organizational members.

Power in a meritocracy thus makes sure that new rules, standards, and arguments are propped up to retain and propagate power, maintaining intact the status quo. In organizational structures, these workings of power retain as intact the dominant modes of circulating power, simultaneously consolidating additional power in the hands of the meritocratic elite. Inequality thus is continually perpetuated in meritocracies that work by perpetuating differentials of access and differentials of labour, opportunities, and rewards.

Accountability in such systems is lost as structures don't really create opportunities for remaining accountable. The logics of the organization and its rules are not rendered visible in such instances, ensuring that inequalities are perpetuated.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Attack on academic freedom across Indian Universities: BJP’s saffronization agenda



In global education, established universities are seeking partnerships with India to build their brand presence in the country. Noting the large market for education in India, multiple international institutions are exploring building partnerships.

For these institutions, while building linkages with India, it is vital to make note of India's most recent round of attacks on academic freedom. Partnerships and collaborative works with Indian universities stands threatened in a climate that is actively seeking to thwart academic freedom, silence thoughts, and turn education into a skills-mill. While the skills-mill approach may sound enticing for a global partnership, the drawback of such a skills-focused approach is its lack of engagement with critical thought.

Education in many ways in India now is being modeled into a factory for producing obedient workers for the global neoliberal economy. Add to this training in obedience an unhealthy dose of nationalism filled with perversions of history, you have a model of education that can hardly be called education.

Since coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the center in India has systematically orchestrated attacks on academic freedom across Universities in India. The impetus of these attacks has been on silencing dissent, with an active agenda toward thwarting any critique of the BJP’s narrow idea of a Hindu nation state and its model of growth-driven development.

These attacks have been accompanied by strategic efforts by the BJP to place at the helm of University decision-making individuals who are aligned with the BJP’s Hinduization agenda. These BJP-installed decision-makers are seen by the state as instruments for redoing the curriculum and the research agendas of Universities, turning toward the teaching of Sanskrit, the discoveries of ancient Vedic science, and the reformulation of teaching as practical skills-building to serve the narrowly conceived agendas of economic growth.

Education, reworked in a saffronized imaginary, is seen as an instrument for reintroducing the ancient knowledge of India from its Hindu past. Education, thus, is reworked into a script for investing Indians with nationalistic pride.

In BJP’s strategy of redoing India’s education, Universities as spaces of critical thought are antithetical to the progress of the nation state. The vision of the nation conceived in the image of Hindu growth has little room for critical thought that is seen therefore as anti-national, against the goals of the nation.

Concerted efforts have been carried out in attacking criticisms of India’s regressive caste-based Brahminical culture, interrogations of the increasing saffronization of the country, and criticisms of India’s death penalty or of the oppressions carried out in the hands of the Indian army in spaces such as Kashmir and Northeast India.

Earlier in 2015, a Dalit (meaning “oppressed” in South Asia, a broad category comprising of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other oppressed groups) student leader at the University of Hyderabad, Mr Rohith Vemula committed suicide after having been unjustly treated by a University administration directed by the BJP government at the Center to take action. Rohith was a member of the Ambedkar Students Association, a dalit student group and was protesting the hanging of Yakub Memon, a convict in the 1993 Bombay bombings. The attack on the Ambedkar Student Association reflected the caste politics of the state, mixed in with its impulse to label any critique as anti-national.

The recent round of attacks on the hallowed Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) further depict the relentless nature of the efforts to cleanse Universities. On February 9, 2016, a small group of students at JNU had organized a cultural event ‘A Country without a Post Office’ to question the unjudicial hanging of Mr. Afzal Guru, who was allegedly involved in the attacks on the Indian parliament in 2001, and in solidarity with the people of Kashmir.

Accusations of anti-India slogans raised at the event formed the basis for the arrest of the President of the JNU Student’s Union Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar, followed by arrests of students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya accused of raising the slogans. Used as evidence for the arrests were doctored videos broadcast by TV channels and circulated on social media. The police are yet to offer concrete evidence that the arrested students had raised the slogans.

How the doctored videos were circulated suggest possible involvement of the BJP in the creation of the story. For instance, investigations reveal that Ms. Shilpi Tiwari, former aide of the Union HRD Minister Ms. Smriti Irani, planted and circulated the doctored videos. Moreover, the BJP spokesman Mr. Sambit Patra played the doctored video(s) on network Television, thus framing the students as anti-national. The attack on JNU students by the state was accompanied by orchestrated media attacks on the basis of the doctored videos that constructed the students as anti-nationals.

The depiction of the accused students as seditious sought to catalyze mass hysteria. Home Minister Rajnath Singh warned “Anyone who raises anti-India slogans or tries to put a question mark on nation’s unity and integrity will not be spared.” Singh then suggested that the JNU event had the backing of the Lahore-based Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, following a tweet by an unidentified individual impersonating as Saeed.

Similarly, the Union HRD Minister in charge of Education observed: “The nation can never tolerate any insult to mother India” and went on to deliver an address in Indian parliament attacking the students. BJP-affiliated politician Subramanian Swamy demanded a temporary closure of the University and a complete cleansing of the University. The disproportionate actions of these BJP leaders raise questions about the underlying motivations behind the cooked up controversy.

More recently, arrests have been carried out at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai and the University of Hyderabad. The responses by the state point toward a concerted effort to delegitimize the University as a site of thought and to undermine spaces of thinking that interrogate the BJP’s vision of creating a Hindu India. The anti-national propaganda campaign has been strategically directed at portraying students, professors, and their university as a threat to the nation, feeding into a national media and public frenzy to shut down debate, conversation, and difference.

This most recent attack on JNU is part of an ongoing campaign against Universities in India, witnessed earlier in Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), University of Hyderabad, and more recently, Allahabad University.

Across these spaces, thought is in jeopardy.

To think, in the imaginary of Modi’s “Make in India,” is to be anti-national.  

Globally, institutions of higher learning need to think cautiously and carefully when building partnerships in India. To build collaborations in spaces where freedom of expression stands threatened is to give in to the silencing of knowledge and thought, simply because it is inconvenient. Countries and universities that are exploring collaborations in the Indian education sector without giving serious consideration to questions of academic freedom are equally at fault as Mr. Modi's authoritarian regime.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Unequal acaedemic labour: Time and work in culture-centered projects




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In 2004, I wrote 15 peer reviewed articles drawing upon quantitative large-scale survey data that I had "not" gathered. I had not done the field work for this research (mostly conducted by large survey companies).

Also, in 2004, I published 14 peer-reviewed journal articles, mostly in top tier disciplinary and sub-disciplinary journals. Once again, most of these articles were quantitative articles, drawing upon quantitative analysis of data I had not myself gathered.

A couple of these pieces are among my most highly cited pieces, one of them putting forth a theory I had developed on the basis of my quantitative analysis.

Something else also happened in 2004.

It was the year that I published my first ethnography in the journal Communication Theory. The piece titled "The unheard voices of Santalis" was drawn from my ethnographic fieldwork started in 1998.

Dutta‐Bergman, M. J. (2004). The unheard voices of Santalis: Communicating about health from the margins of India. Communication Theory, 14(3), 237-263.

My almost two-decade-long ethnography in Jangalmahal has only seen three journal articles, in spite of the many grueling hours in the field and in spite of the many vulnerabilities of doing this work (not to be romanticized). The rich stories, many of them shared through collaborative processes of attempting to develop solutions, many of them shared amid resistance and violence (between 2008 and 2012, large areas of Jangalmahal were sites of resistance, state sponsored violence, and Maoist violence), are often unwritten.

The impetus to publish these pieces in journal articles is overpowered by the desire to save the stories, to respect their incompleteness, and to recognize that their time has not yet come.

The impetus to publish the pieces is taken over by a commitment of the CCA to not publish culture-centered work till community members feel that change has been achieved in some small way and that entry points have been created.

Most importantly, the impetus of writing the stories is taken over by the joys and struggles of academic-community partnerships in working on potential solutions, albeit fragmented and contingent.

What is salient in these experiences is the fundamental difference between quantitative and qualitative research and the differential forms of labour that go into these practices of generating academic scholarship.

More importantly even, the slowness of CCA projects is grounded in the anchoring of the CCA in structure and structural transformation.

To publish any ethnographic work, and especially culture-centered work that seeks to see change in structures through participatory processes, it takes me a minimum of three  to five years (with the first one to two years on fieldwork, second and third year on developing the change processes, and fourth and fifth year to the process of academic writing). 

The writing of culturally-centered projects thus is slow, taking the depth of turns, the richness of layered narratives, and the incompleteness of fragmented and contingent dialogues. 

Anchored in an axis of structural transformation, the value of this work is measured in the meaning it brings about for the communities it works with, and the changes in structures it introduces.

By its nature, this work is contingent, incomplete, and slow.

To invite spaces for such work is to recognize the fundamental difference of culture-centered projects of social change from quantitative data driven projects. The criteria of commitment and reflexivity we expect from culture-centered scholars mark an altogether different register for the design, practice, and evaluation of research.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The tech savvy professional Sangh woman




The emergence of the Sangh in post-liberalization India rides on the participation of tech-savvy men and women, empowered yuppies in tech centers, Internet-empowered corporate executives with MBAs, and now-arrived NRIs in US, UK, Singapore etc. who see the Sangh as a tool for returning their lost dignity.

The Sangh is the ride to the market, Indian ishtyle. These are the Sanghi net warriors. The trolls that inundate the Internet. The Twitterati feeding cycles of Sanghi propaganda. The likes of Shilpi Tiwari. Tech savvy. Sanghi minded. And full of hatred for the "other."

Particularly salient in these groups is the presence of the tech-savvy, professional Sangh woman.

The Sangh woman is convent educated, professionally trained, tech-empowered, and consumer savvy.

She had heard of feminism and enfranchisement and is vocal about gender rights. She has found her joy ride to the tech centers of Noida and Bangalore. Or perhaps a ride to Silicon Valley.

The tech savvy Sanghi woman might be working at an Infosys. Or a Meryll Lynch. Or Google.

She is emancipated. The face of an empowered India. Empowered with technology. Empowered to participate in the New Nation.

For the Sangh woman, hatred for Muslims offers an easy narrative of alignment. The narrative is  one of the Muslim "other" that is threat to "Mother India." Hatred for dalits is another easy narrative. For her, Dalits represent a class of opportunity-seekers who use reservation quotas to move ahead in life, reducing the opportunities for her Brahminical brethren.

Technology is a tool for actualizing individual identity. So the Sanghi woman turns the other way when her Sanghi brothers attack women.

The Sanghi woman does not find the RSS attack on women's rights a problem as long as her own rights are protected.

Emancipation for her is individualized in the Nike Label. She can "Just do it." She can achieve whatever she wants to achieve.

The gender question for her then is not one of solidarity, but one of individualist progress. In this individual success narrative, gender can be performed as a successful career trajectory, disengaged from broader questions of gender, inequality, and patriarchy of Indian society.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why we need to keep talking about the inconvenient Kashmir question.



In its most recent version of attack on educational institutions, the BJP-led Indian state has targeted the hallowed Jawaharlal Nehru University of India, branding the University as anti-national. The initial round of police attack on the University has been followed up with attacks by RSS and BJP affiliated goons on University students and faculty associated with the University.

A section of the mainstream media associated with the agenda of the Hindu Right, Times Now and Zee TV have catalyzed the attacks through the media trials of students and the broader University, repeat-broadcasted through 24/7 cycles and captured in hashtags and sound bytes.

At the heart of the recent spate of attacks on the University is an event organized by a group of students on February 9 that raised questions about the legitimacy of the juridical process that led to the hanging of Afzal Guru, alleged to be associated with the attack on the Indian parliament in December, 2001.

The media stories narrating the February 9 event have been built around the anti-India and freedom for Kashmir slogans that were apparently raised at the event.

In subsequent protests and public discourse, the conversation has primarily focused on the evidence and the claims made regarding the role of the student activists at the event. Discourse for instance has focused on "Who raised the slogans," rightly pointing out that the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar did not raise the slogans and was most likely present at the event in his capacity as JNUSU President to manage it.

Moreover, this discourse has pointed to "outside elements" who were apparently present at the event and might have raised the slogans. Other stories suggest the presence of Kashmiri students at the event who raised the separatist slogans.

While this discourse on the factuality of events is an important counter to the anti-national narrative currently being circulated and magnified on social media, I also find it to be limiting as it potentially accepts the claim "Raising questions about the trial of Afzal Guru or about the sovereignty of Kashmir" are anti-national.

It forecloses the possibilities of ongoing and much-needed conversations on Kashmir, plebiscite in Kashmir, sovereignty of the Kashmiri people, state-sponsored violence in Kashmir, and (im)possibilities of democratic representation of Kashmiri voices.

Attributing the voices of sloganeering to "Kashmiri outsiders" marks Kashmiris as outside of the space of the nation state. It shuts off possibilities for important and much-needed dialogue on the Kashmir question, giving in potentially and paradoxically to the jingoistic notion that "to ask questions about Kashmir is to be anti-national."

The notion that interrogating the relationship between the Indian state and Kashmir is out of discursive possibilities circulates and reifies the ongoing forms of repression in Kashmir. The possibilities of listening to Kashmiri voices that account for and represent the atrocities and violence carried out by the Indian state in Kashmir are erased.

As a result, key elements of the Kashmir conversation, the role of the Indian state in Kashmir, the accounts of the state-sponsored rapes and extra-judicial killings in Kashmir, remain erased.

At this moment of nationalist muscle-flexing across India, it is vital to not only question the ways in which falsified information and allegations were manufactured, but also the very premise of these allegations. Doing so is important toward cultivating possibilities of dialogue on the Kashmir question in India.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Arnab Goswami's propaganda war on students



The current moment of attack of the Indian State on the campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been catalyzed by an active role of a section of the mainstream Indian media in fanning the flames of nationalism to feed a witch hunt. Police have entered the University to arrest students on charges of sedition, claiming that the students participated in anti-national activities.

Students at JNU who had come together to organize a cultural evening to draw attention to the absence of juridical process in the hanging of Afzal Guru, an accused in the Indian parliament attacks of 2001, are in the midst of a national storm that have labeled them as separatists and as anti-national. And the media are key players in this story.

Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU Students' Union, has been arrested under the outdated sedition law that was ironically the very instrument used by British colonialists to thwart India's right to self-rule.

The mainstream television media have played instrumental roles in stoking the flames of national frenzy, and in orchestrating a large scale media campaign that is mostly based on allegations, one-sided storytelling, and fabricated visual images. In these mainstream stories, University campuses have become hotbeds of anti-nationalism and therefore need to be challenged.

Having turned detective and judge in their Talibanesque performance, media anchors have turned into mouthpieces of an authoritarian state.

In the conclusive judgments passed by these mainstream media organizations, the students are anti-national and JNU, an institution that is publicly funded, produces and harbors anti-nationalists. The anti-national rhetoric thus is both an attack on the students as well as on the broader University.

The coverage is being used to question public funding of Universities such as JNU and the role of such institutions in the broader context of the nation state. Social media posts exaggerating the frenzy are circulating the manufactured conclusions, far removed from examining the evidence or the basis of the claims being amplified through the hashtag news culture.

Having given up on any notion of serving as the fourth estate, news channels such as Times Now and Zee News have turned into active propaganda mouthpieces of the state, conjuring up lies, and recycling bytes and #hashtags in 24/7 news cycles to feed the nationalism frenzy.

Allegations are bandied around without the necessary evidence to support them, having then established a lie as a truth and magnifying the lie through hashtags and sub-titles. The juxtaposition of the hashtags and sub-titles is key here, working side-by-side to pick up one-sided narratives and push them onto public discourse.

Absent from the news stories are balance, evidence and questioning of evidence, and critical interrogation of superficial narratives. The news shows thus have become sites of claims making that feed on heuristics and affect, without the space for reason and argument.

Videos that are presented are mostly unclear, although the conclusions drawn by the media anchors from the videos are definitive. Although the veracity of the videos have been questioned and competing video narratives have emerged, the news channels fail to actually delve into the evidence and the questions around this evidence.

Failing to perform their roles as journalists that ought to be critically engaging with evidence and the nature of claims-making, the news anchors have turned into elaborate storytellers, concocting up stories of convenience that are likely to be picked up by a wider mass because of their intrinsic emotional appeal. Hashtaggable stories are the driving features of coverage.

What becomes apparent from the coverage is the agenda of driving ratings through frenzied performances of jingoistic nationalism. Nationalism draws ratings, and the narrative of anti-nationalism at one of India's hallowed institutions becomes potentially a powerful story likely to grab ratings, likes, shares, and comments.


On the 24X7 channel Times Now for instance, the topic of the daily Newshour debate anchored by Arnab Goswami on February 10, a day after the JNU event, is the anti-nationalism on JNU campus, introducing the term sedition to label the event and the organizers of the event.

Sedition is set in opposition to freedom of speech, and the show is set up as a binary between sedition and freedom of speech. Although it is given the garb of a debate, the show is anything but a debate, having been choreographed to drive the conclusion that is already decided upon by Goswami. Having made up his mind that the students are anti-national, Goswami performs a show that attempts to build the plot toward his foregone conclusion.

And the students stand on trial.


Goswami's show The Newshour Debate frames the cultural event as an anti-India event. The term "cultural event" is itself questioned, with Goswami offering the conclusion that there is nothing cultural about the event. The viewer is not offered an explanation as to what Goswami understands by culture or cultural event, and the arguments for his claim that the event was not really a cultural event.

Students associated with the JNU event are brought into the show and are put on trial. Goswami is more the trial lawyer and the judge, shouting down his conclusions, mostly without the thoughtful engagement with supporting materials you would expect from journalists.

The viewer is offered the understanding that the students are associated with the event, but the students are not given the opportunity to explain their relationship with the event, the nature of the event, the planned purpose of the event, or their interpretations of what then took place. Their voices are mostly drowned out by Goswami's ever-higher-pitched voice caught up in a nationalist fit of rage.

The show quickly devolves into one-sided attacks on the students, with Goswami leading the charge. Making statements such as "You are caught today," "We are calling you out tonight," "You are a shame in the name of India," "You are traitors," "You are anti-nationals," "You people carry Indian passports?" Goswami goes on to cast the students as threats to the nation.

The frenzy picks up its shrill pitch as the show proceeds, with Goswami performing greater doses of anger as he brings in the different students on the screen. The viewers witness the students on the screen, their voices mostly drowned out by Goswami's tirade.

The BJP spokesperson is allowed to make allegations at the students being traitors and "closet terrorists," amplifying Goswami's label of anti-nationalism hurled at the students.

After making the one-sided allegations, none of which are backed up by warrants and evidence, Goswami does not give the accused students the opportunity to respond. His monologue goes on to answer his own questions and then directly addresses his viewers, having foreclosed the conclusion that the students are anti-nationals, complicit in a seditious acts.

The BJP spokesperson joins in the Goswami chorus to offer additional epithets in delivering the final judgment on the students as anti-nationals.

At the end of the show, without any opportunity for balance, Goswami concludes "You are more dangerous to this country than Maoist terrorists." Note once again the narrative of Maoist terrorists that is thrown around to feed the frenzy. The students stand accused, having now been labeled as national threats.

The show thus is set up as a trial of the students, with the predetermined purpose of labeling the students as anti-national. Rather than serving as a news segment or a debate as it is pitched, the Goswami show becomes a propaganda tool that makes allegations based on heuristics and appeals to the nationalist sentiments of a large viewer base, perhaps seeking to drive up his ratings in doing so.

The #hashtags on Goswami's show serve as rhetorical devices that frame the narrative heuristically. Rather than serving the purpose of news as balanced information, the #hastags flashing on the screen offer a narrow frame to the viewer, a narrow way of looking at the world, and a nationalist anchor to rally around.

Take the #hastag #FlashpointAfzal that was deployed for the February 10 Newshour presentation. The #hashtag is accompanied by the question for the debate "Is it freedom of speech or sedition to encourage separatism?" Note here the narrow framing of the debate. The JNU event has already been framed as encouraging separatism, without the presentation of evidence to support the frame.

A few visual frames of students shouting slogans (both visuals and audio unclear) are flashed on the screen as the only sources of evidence. The opposition set up in the frame between free speech and sedition already has a pre-configured resolution, that free speech cannot be allowed at the cost of promoting sedition.

Subsequent Times Now coverage of the JNU events and the ongoing student protests quickly pick up the hashtag #StopAntiIndiaCampaign. The transition from #FlashpointAfzal to #StopAntiIndiaCampaign is seamless, as if the conclusions naturally progress in that order. News has now become the basis for a propaganda campaign, serving as an organizing device for drawing attention to the apparent anti-nationalism on University campuses through hashtags and truncated titles floating on news screens.

The news show gives up any attempt at balance and distance, now turned into a propaganda function, carrying out its function as a mouthpiece of the powerful state and feeding on the narrative of anti-nationalism to shape public opinion.

Goswami's show is a propaganda war, having sacrificed any notion of commitment to journalistic decency. Unfortunately, the subjects of his ratings-driven propaganda war are students, the anchors in any nation for its possibilities and imaginations.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Professor Mukherjee, upper caste Indian elites, and academic erasure



Professor Mukherjee, the head of a department and advisor to student groups when I was once a student, lived a life full of privilege, in the deeply held belief that he was intellectually and culturally superior and therefore, should rightfully command respect from his students.

Professor Mukherjee was a special breed of Professors, Professors that came from well-to-do upper caste, upper class Bengali families in Kolkata to the small town.Many of these Professors came from Bengali Zamindari families and they ensured that the town knew of their Zamindari lineage.

Professor Mukherjee's sense of superiority was embedded in his long-ingrained sense of Brahminical privilege, mixed in with a sense of ownership of high culture.

In the faith that he was the chosen one, that his was the job of protecting the aesthetic aspirations of the academy, Professor Mukherjee made sure that he performed the task of extracting respect from his students.

His studied seriousness formed the face of his performance as the high priest of culture.

His command for respect was doubled when he met lower caste students, students he believed had no right of being in the hallowed institution he served.

These students needed to be integrated into society, into the norms of civility. By chiding them, by subtly pointing out their caste status, Mukherjee made sure he put them in their place.

As an admirer of finer things in life, classical music, poetry, dance, all things classical, Professor Mukherjee self-appointed himself as the gatekeeper of high culture.

He made sure that he educated the lower caste students about the high culture of India. This education was mostly in the form of public commentaries directed at the lack of culture amond the lower castes.

His job was often one of differentiating between high and low culture on campus, serving as the moral police for art and culture, the judge of aesthetic refinement.

Those in the lower caste, the low cultured ones that did not know Tagore or were unfamiliar with Malhar, he made his special duty to civilize them.

Especially so, because they didn't deserve to be at the hallowed institution of the intellectuals. Especially so, because they needed the civilizing mission.

In his interactions with the lower caste, he made sure he extracted respect.

His job was one of reminding them how lucky they were.

His job was to call on them publicly so he could put them in their place, make them aware of how out-of-place they were.

In his interactions, he would often call on lower caste students for not demonstrating respect, reminding them how important it was to respect the norms of civility.