With Gaushalas, mantras on loudspeakers, are DU colleges becoming less secular?

New Delhi: Students and faculty at Hansraj College, University of Delhi (DU) have started an online petition alleging that a gaushala (cow shelter) called Swami Dayanand Saraswati Gau-Samwardhan ewam Anusandhan Kendra was built on land designated for a women’s shelter. The petition denounces the construction of a cow shelter on the premises of the college, while asking the authorities to build a women’s home – a project that has been on hold for several years.

Contradicting his own former statement from 2016 and denying all allegations, Rama Sharma, Principal of Hansraj College, said Thread that “there is no approved land for a women’s shelter at this time”. She added that a hostel for women will be built at Hansraj College after reworking the master plan of the college. She called the controversy Swami Dayanand Saraswati Gau-Samwardhan ewam Anusandhan Kendra just another research facility, “comprising a single cow for purely academic purposes”.

“The need for a women’s hostel is immediate. Women from outside Delhi find it extremely difficult to find safe and affordable accommodation in the city. Many female applicants prefer to be admitted to a college with a hostel because their parents feel more comfortable if they are housed on campus, resulting in a dismal male to female ratio of 62:38 at Hansraj College. It is totally disrespectful to me as a woman to find out that a fully fledged gaushala has been built on the land reserved for a women’s hostel when the colleges are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sama, a second-year student at Hansraj College. .

Teachers across the university questioned the rationale for the measure. A Hansraj College faculty member, requesting anonymity, said: ‘At first I thought it was a joke as there was no communication of any kind or staff council meeting at this topic. If it is for research purposes, it should have been done through academic forums, which is not the case either. I don’t know by what rule, he [gaushala] is even allowed since our college is a state-funded secular educational institution? »

Another gaushala with the name Gaukul was also found at Laxmibai College at DU, which has been operating since 2020. A college faculty member, requesting anonymity, said Thread that the place is used for various purposes including “the worship of cows, the recitation of Mrityunjaya japa, Sundar Kand of the Ramayana and periodical bhoomi puja.”

In the same way, mrityunjaya japa is continuously broadcast over loudspeakers in the halls of Hansraj College. sharma said Thread that it is simply a “new announcement system” that has been installed in the college and mrityunjaya japa is part of the monthly havans (prayer rituals) that are only played in the morning and evening for “positive energy”.

While emphasizing recent sudden changes in the atmosphere of the college, involving an increase in right-wing webinars, a faculty member, who also requested anonymity, questioned the play of these Mrityumjaya japa. “The Havans always give people from other religious backgrounds the choice whether to attend them or not. However, one may wonder why only Mrityumjaya japa, and not just any other religious hymn like Gurbaniis being broadcast over loudspeakers at a public educational institution,” the faculty member asked.

According to Indian Express, university officials don’t even know if similar cow research initiatives exist at other DU colleges. “I wasn’t even aware of this. [Hansraj College] project. It must be an initiative taken at the college level,” Registrar Vikas Gupta said.

Miranda House faculty member Abha Dev Habib said Thread“Today, colleges are transformed into gaushalas! Have a gaushala while this space can be used in a thousand and one ways, is a statement from the leaders of these institutions that they are aligned with the ideology of the current government. The presence of a gaushala is part of the divisive policy.

What does the college administration say?

In a telephone interview with Thread, Sharma, while emphasizing her commitment to build a women’s hostel at Hansraj College, said, “Within a year, a girl’s hostel with a capacity of 25 to 30 girls will be built while a larger hostel will be built. capacity of 100 girls will be built once. the college master plan is reworked and approved by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. However, she did not reveal the location of these inns.

Meanwhile, she also explained the need for a cow-based research center that would provide “pure milk and ghee” to students and for the month havans conducted on campus.

“Ours is a DAV Trust college like Khalsa and St. Stephen’s College, and its base is the Arya Samaj. In keeping with this tradition, we are organizing a havan on the first day of each month, which students, teachers and non-teaching staff can attend to congratulate those celebrating their birthday that month. For this we have to go to the market to buy things that we have to offer to the flame, like pure ghee. We can now be self-reliant in this area,” she said.

“Students from different college departments can create start-ups based on this college initiative. We also plan to install a gobar gas plant. If the research proves useful and beneficial, we will expand the centre,” she added.

Gaurav Kumar, the organizer of Swami Dayanand Saraswati Gau-Samwardhan ewam Anusandhan Kendra, further underlined the need for a “logical search” of cow-related products, especially gaumutra (cow’s urine), cow dung and cow’s milk which is considered “Amrit » according to popular sayings and must therefore be tested academically.

On the question of how this research should be carried out, Kumar claimed that the project is in its “infancy” and that nothing is clear and permanent for now, including the name of the center, which is causing controversy. . “It’s just a pilot project,” he said.

A question about secularism in a public college

According to Kumar, the plan to establish the research center started before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The planning for the center was started two or three years ago by the college administration itself,” he said.

“The research center will also work for mushroom cultivation and the plan is to create an eco-village as well since people in towns and cities want to see villages,” he added.

The description and timeline of the research center provided by Kumar is quite similar to what we found at Laxmibai College, including Gaukul (where two cows reside) and Mera Gaun (such as the proposed eco-village at Hansraj College) have been operational since 2020. They are built near the homes of six non-teaching staff of Laxmibai College, who resided there before they were asked to vacate their homes and now live outside. college premises in rented rooms.

the Gaukul consists of a gobar-gas plant where gobar agarbattis, dhoopbattis and manure are made by college gardeners. During this time, mera gaun is used for growing mushrooms and vegetables. The whole area is often used for Hindu religious activities such as the recitation of Mrityunjaya Japa, Sundar Kand of the Ramayana and periodical bhoomi (earth) and Gau (cow) pujan (veneration).

While pointing out the unsanitary conditions the whole project is causing in the college, such as providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes, foul odors, etc., a faculty member, on condition of anonymity , questioned the college’s commitment to secularism and transparency.

“According to what rules and guidelines, is all this allowed in secular public educational institutions? Who financed its construction and maintenance? Where does the milk go? Who should be held responsible for such unsanitary conditions? said the faculty member.

Sharma also assured Thread that no new cows will be added. “I can guarantee you that there will only be one cow, and it will not be a gaushala,she said. However, according to a faculty member from Laxmibai College, there was only one cow when ‘Gaukul’ was launched. “The second is the calf of the oldest cow,” said noted the faculty.

Is Hansraj College saffronized?

In addition to the developments mentioned above, Mushfin, a third-year student at Hansraj College, said Thread that the environment of the college since its first year has gradually become “majority”.

“From holding webinars to stifling our discourse on important issues, there has been a steady increase in right-wing activity over the past three years at college. Recently, the philosophy department held a seminar inviting a non-academic person whose NGO was affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and he was openly asking students to join him, and this is happening everywhere,” he said. declared.

The webinar was hosted on January 12 by the Head of Philosophy Department, where Suresh Jain, who is an associate of Bharat Vikas Parishad and RSS, was invited to talk about the philosophical ideals of Swami Vivekananda. As with the other students as well, the questions and answers were selected by the organizers in a way that glorified the Sangh bet.

On the other hand, several female students said Thread that they were harassed by the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) for starting an online petition in favor of the women’s hostel and condemning the new research center. Sama said, “I think cows are more protected and respected than girls in our country. ABVP members who are not even from our college are trolling, spamming and abusing us which is not only sad but downright scary.

Shatakshi, another second-year student at Hansraj University, also said, “The campaign for Hansraj Women’s Shelter has been met with several sabotage attempts. Many male ABVP students joined our WhatsApp group and attempted to disrupt our campaign by trolling and abusing us. It saddened me deeply to see that claiming our basic rights would be met with such hostility.

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