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Gandhi in the classroom

Radheshyam Jadhav Kolhapur | Updated on October 01, 2019 Published on October 01, 2019

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The many reasons people are studying the Mahatma and teaching his ways

Every time students skip his class, Professor Rajendra Parijat sends them a WhatsApp message saying he missed their presence in the classroom. When truant students refuse to come around, he fasts for a day and sends them a message saying he loves and cares about them. Parijat also shares his classroom notes with students on WhatsApp so that they don’t miss out.

Parijat is an associate professor with a Kolhapur-based business and education institute, and his recent “weird” behaviour has worried his colleagues and friends. Some call this a symptom of “madness”; others believe all is not well with him.

“Nothing has gone wrong; I am on the right track, thanks to the Mahatma,” says Parijat, adding that Gandhi’s ways are not only the way of life, but also a “road to career success”. He believes that Gandhi has provided all the answers on how to live life as a good human being and be a professional.

A student of Kolhapur’s Shivaji University, with a diploma in Gandhian studies, Parijat has been influenced by Gandhi’s Nai Talim concept of education (Nai Talim: towards new education). He turned to Gandhian studies as he felt that in a life full of contradictions and conflicts, one has to look for peace of mind. “It is really working. I can see a gradual change in my students and it has also transformed me as an individual,” he says, adding that Gandhi can help professionals build their lives and careers. Parijat insists that Gandhi is not outdated, and cannot be so.

Students’ perspective

But Sanyogita Patil, who has completed her masters in science, has taken the course to understand the “worth” of the man. “He is present on currency notes and has roads in his name. Was he really a Mahatma?” she asks. She is not very sure if Gandhi was right in his stand on women. Patil's understanding about Gandhi’s views is that he considered women weak and should hence be given commensurate roles. In essence, she feels Gandhi wanted women to take on domestic responsibilities. “Later, he changed his views, but I don’t know. I have to read more and study,” she says.

 

Patil says she is aware that Gandhian studies are unlikely to help her get a job or earn money. “But that is okay. Earning money can’t be the aim of life; one also has to be a responsible person,” she says. Understanding Gandhi, she feels, is essential.

As Patil speaks, other students’ faces light up in smiles. They are candid that they are not there to understand Gandhi, but for other reasons.

Vishal Deshmukh, a mechanical engineer, is preparing for competitive exams and he thinks the Gandhian studies will help him score well in the History paper. “Also, we get access to the library and internet facility for free,” he says, listing the benefits of getting admission to Gandhian studies. As an afterthought, he adds: “Yes, along with this, we can also know certain things about Gandhi”.

Avdhoot Gangadhar says that apart from preparing for competitive exams, studying Gandhi could help him manage his own life, especially during times of tension. “But I am not sure if we can use his techniques and concept of non-violence in today’s world,” he says.

Like Deshmukh and Gangadhar, Saurabh Powar admits that many students take up Gandhian studies to avail university facilities. The living cost is high for students who come from rural areas, and admission in the hostel saves them money on room and board.

Ruturaj Swami, a computer engineer, wants to understand “which Gandhi” is correct. The BJP and the Congress claim Gandhi’s legacy and Ruturaj says that Gandhi probably was completely different from the portrait that politicians paint of the Father of the Nation.

Full intake

“There are various reasons why people come here to study,” says Bharati Patil, co-ordinator of the Centre For Gandhian studies in Shivaji University. “We run a post-graduate diploma in Gandhian studies and also in rural development based on Gandhian concepts. Each course has an intake of 30 students and admissions are full every year...”

With disarming candour, she adds: “But don’t go by the number of admissions: there are hardly four or five students genuinely interested in studying Gandhi.”

She added that students who pursue the rural development diploma are mainly those who appear for panchayat-level competitive exams or those already working at the village and panchayat levels.

Shivaji University, a prominent educational Centre in South Maharashtra, started the Centre For Gandhian studies in 2000 with funding from the University Grants Commission (UGC). However, the UGC ended the grant five years ago as there were other Centres in the university that needed funds and it could not support all of them simultaneously. Following opposition from all corners over any shutdown of the Centre, the university decided to keep it going with its own budgetary provision.

Interestingly, Gandhians in Maharashtra want to have a separate university in Gandhian studies, but their dream has remained on paper. “We made lots of efforts to establish a Gandhian university in Pune, but there were hurdles at every level,” says Kumar Saptarishi, who heads the Maharashtra Gandhi Smarak Nidhi in Pune.

What’s it worth?

But who will study Gandhi as a core subject and how will they get a job? There is no answer to this question. “We have kept all the infrastructure ready so that we can start courses in Gandhian studies at our institute, but we are not getting students,” he admits.

Back in Shivaji University, while students are still groping in the dark to find Gandhi, teachers gather to pay tribute to Bharatiya Jana Sangh co-founder and BJP icon Deen Dayal Upadhyay on his 103rd birth anniversary. The BJP and its mother organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, consider him to be as visionary as the Mahatma.

Published on October 01, 2019
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