Although the bulk of this posting relates to my alma mater, St. Stephen's College, Delhi, the moral and rationale that I talk about here applies to all my alma maters and also to my many readers on my primary blog.
It has been quite a while since the exchange of views on the Kooler Talk Blog about the appointment of Rev. Valson Thambu as Acting Principal of St. Stephen's College and then his radical new Dalit Christian oriented admission policy to the College.
I was greatly honoured when John Dayal, Member of the National Integration Council, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and President of the All India
Catholic Union, asked me to contribute to a book which would consider the aspect of admission of Dalit Christians to minority educational institutions.
Then came those couple of Anonymous postings in the Comments section of the Kooler Talk Blog which accused me of being a fundamentalist Christian.
That made me sit back for more than a moment and search through my 11 years of writing on the internet to see whether I had ever given cause to be considered as a fundamentalist Christian.
There was a time when I took part in a fundamentalist Hindu web discussion site where I came out strongly against Hindu Fundamentalism and Muslim extremism in the wake of the Gujarat massacre. It left a very bad taste in me to get into a discussion with a set of rabid and illiterate Hindu fundamentalists located all over the world who were foaming at the mouth when challenged about their fundamentalism.
Then there was a time when, thanks to Stephanian Prof. Sreenath Sreenivasan, Professor of Journalism at Columbia university, New York,I was looking in on the South Asian Journalists (SAJA) Discussion Forum where, again, a few well-educated Hindu Fundamentalist "journalists" were putting forward all sorts of arguments to prove "their" theories of the Indus Valley Civilisation to demonise other religious groups in India.
There was no limit to the twisting of the truth, very much as George Bush continues to use his "Christian Fundamentalist" values to kill innocent Afghanis and Iraqis to achieve his ends.
As a result I had decided not to be drawn again into such arguments as they only leave me with wanting to use a new mouthwash!
When I decided to wish Rev. Thambu well on his appointment as the Officiating Principal of St. Stephen's College, I had no idea that I was being drawn into a major controversy which is raging there.
I am 7000 km away from India. I have not visited India since the year 2000. I am not an expert on anything Indian. I have only my nostalgia of a time long gone by and that does not make me competent to even write a line in support or defense of policies of education, religious fundamentalism or any other matter related to what is taking place in India.
After much deliberation with my friends and my main confidante, I felt that I would only be adding fuel to the fire if I wrote about the controversies. After 8 weeks of much thought and prayer, my wife and I decided that we should not be embroiled in a battle of which we knew nothing about.
We have a reputation, which has been stated by many of our regular readers, that we have never done anything or written anything which violated the trust of all the different religious and ethnic groups that read our many blog pages.
When I went through the Indian Press Reports that I get daily, yesterday there was this one in the Times of India "Exclusive quota for backward Christians and Muslims in Tamil Nadu". This is for the second time that DMK Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has sought to provide exclusive reservation for specific castes in the backward classes catagory. In 1989, he had carved out 20 per cent of the 50 per cent reservation for Backward Classes for the Most Backward classes.
This has been Karunanidhi's vote gathering politics.
Rev. Valson Thambu's strategy was to divert the attention from his controversial appointment to a more amenable to improver his public ratings. In that he succeeded admirably by focusing on the concept of social justice.
To continue to stay away from the personal glare, yet another step was undertaken to undo anything controversial that previous Collge Principal had done. Rev. Thambu took steps to end the open ended permission that Principal Anil Wilson had given to the Centre for Mathematical Sciences (CMS), run by the Mathematical Sciences Foundation (MSF), by asking them to move out of the Stephania campus, causing a section of senior teachers at the college to protest.
What is happening in Stephania today is not based on the ideals that I imbibed in the educational institutions that I attended in India.
Principal Anil Wilson was obviously wrong to have made such an agreement with the MSF. The Bishop of North India was wrong to appoint his son onto the Supreme Council of the College. Principal Wilson was wrong to have continued to hold his position as Principal when he went forward as Vice Chancellor of another University. The Supreme Council was wrong to appoint Rev. Thambu as Officiating Principal when they had not resolved the issue with Principal Wilson. Principal Wilson was wrong to publicise his dissent. Rev. Thambu was wrong to start his tenure with moves meant to divert attention away from his appointment. Principal Thambu was wrong to cause the still waters of campus life to be stirred so violently.
And, all this is being done in the name of "education" and "Christ".
To me none of this stands up as promoting "Christian values".
I know there are many senior and outstandingly intellectual and honest alumni, before and of my era, in and around Delhi like B. G. Verghese, Rahul Bajaj, Ashok Jaitly, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Mani Shankar Ayar, Shanker Menon, John Dayal, etc., who have the depth of vision to tackle these issues rather than someone as uneducated as me who is so far away from home base to contribute anything worthwhile to resolving them.
All I can do is to tell my audience of all alma maters that what is happening in St. Stephen's College will happen in all minority institutions when internal and personal politics supersedes the values which we should adhere to.
I do not appreciate anonymous input. One should have the courage of convictions to put a name and identity to what one believes. Have the courage to call a spade a spade. As otherwise the spade is being called a bucket to hold the nightsoil!
Do I approve of the actions of the Bishop of North India, his son, former Principal Anil Wilson, or present Acting Principal Rav. Valson Thambu in what is happening in the college?
The answer, from this distance is - NO.
That is because it is not in keeping with the values which were imbibed by me from all my Indian alma maters - Good Shepherd Convent, Mysore, Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore, Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai and St. Stephen's College, Delhi.
These values have nothing to do with any religion. It has to do with Fair Play.
I request the alumni in all these institutions who are nearer to the home bases to get actively involved in the institutions that they love to ensure that what is happening in St. Stephen's College is not repeated elsewhere.