Sunday, May 26, 2024

In Conversation with Professor Hiren Gohain- Renowned Academician, Scholar and Writer

Robin Bhuyan (Editor)

Naba Kumar Sharma (Staff Reporter)

Hiren Gohain is a well-known name in Assam. A renowned academician, scholar and writer, he has authored several books in English as well as in Assamese. In the past few years, he has gained a lot of media attention for his criticism of the RSS as well as the BJP, which is the ruling party in both the state as well as the nation. In this exclusive interview with Enigmatic Horizon, Professor Gohain discusses the problems with modern education, his views on the ruling party and the present condition of the state.

EH: What do you feel are the current problems in the state of Assam? What do you feel that the government should do to tackle them?

HG: Assam has a great many serious problems. And I feel that the inefficiency of the present government is the leading problem. The present government is committed less to the people of Assam, and more to several kinds of interests outside the state. I am sure people will understand what kind of interests I am talking about. As a result, their intervention to the problems of Assam doesn’t seem enough. Thus, the problems continue to get worse and worse.

EH:  You are an academician, and you used to be a Professor of English at Gauhati University. Today, we can see that when it comes to study of English language and literature, students in Assam are quite backward. What do you feel about the standard of education in the field of English in the universities in Assam?  

HG: This is a very serious as well as a complicated question. To answer it shortly, firstly I would say that the course of English literature at the graduate and post-graduate level is quite different today, than what it used to be, in our times. Today, English literature means World Literature presented in the English language. I personally don’t feel that this change is very good. This can land the students in confusion, as there are so many countries all over the world. It is not possible to grasp world literature in a span of four or five years. Regarding the standard of education, I would say that education has become less of learning, but more of parroting in the present day. It makes students ingest some information, which they are supposed to later write down in the examination.

EH: What kind of changes do you feel are needed in the education system, at both the school level and the college level? What kind of reforms are needed?

HG: The most important change that is needed is to make sure that our students actually learn something, rather than focusing on memorizing and regurgitating.

EH: What are your expectations from the intellectual society of Assam today?

HG: It seems to me that the standards have declined horribly, since the last 20 or 30 years. Back in 1971, I remember an incident where I had gone on a tour visiting North Kamrup. I met some higher secondary students of that time and saw that they were quite resourceful, original as well as bright. I talked to them about Gandhism, Marxism and several other issues. They asked me some questions, to which I had no answer. This showed that they had the capability to think on their own. However, today, even post graduate students are not able to ask such questions.

EH: Although our universities have many research scholars, it is hard to see practical implementation of their work. All the research work is just trapped behind books. What do you feel is the reason behind this?

HG: The educational authority is to be blamed for this, along with society itself. Society today has no interest in education. Today, all kinds of books are getting out, and every single one of them are getting praised; even the bad ones. However, the situation is not same in other places like Bengal, as they are critical of all works. In addition, people take up education as a career, not because it interests them. I have seen several theses which were quite horrible. This is the condition today, and I feel many people are being awarded Ph D, even though they are not worthy of it.

EH: What changes do you feel are needed in the education scenario in India?

HG: Yes, I do feel many changes are needed. I feel the new educational policy is a horror. The cost of education is getting higher and higher, and students are being forced to drop out of schooling. I think that the new education policy is just a tool to hide these kinds of facts.

EH: Do you feel that the presence of leftist parties in India are declining? Do you think that there is a chance that these parties will gain prominence again?

HG: We all know that there are several problems plaguing society such as rising costs as well as unemployment. I would like to say that the capitalist structure of society is leading to every one of these problems. I wouldn’t say that capitalism is the same everywhere, or has been the same at all times. Today, it is destroying our forests and our nature. Although proponents on capitalism will blame the common people for these problems, it is not so. Common people contribute to around 10 percent of these problems, but majority of these problems are a result of direct capitalism. This is why in my opinion, it is leftist ideology that can address these problems, because it understands the nature of capitalism. The present decline of the left is due to their lack of creativity and their bureaucratic attitude. After the collapse of the Soviet State, the enemies of socialism began to spread the word about how socialism has been a failure. There was propaganda everywhere. Thus, common people lost interest in leftist ideology. However, many intellectuals have analysed that although there were few drawbacks, people always had enough to eat, and even had sufficient recreational facilities. Health examination and medical care was free. Compared to this, in the US, you have to spend a huge amount of money for healthcare, if you don’t have insurance.

EH: Is there any country which you would view as ideal in the present times?    

HG: I wouldn’t say so. Although some nations are accepting socialism, they have pretty much already been damaged by capitalism. However, at least by turning to socialism, they are trying to undo the damage. They have made significant changes, such as reducing the costs of education and healthcare. There are events where capitalistic governments did nothing to save the lives of its citizens. However, there was a disaster in Cuba, where 40,000 lives were in danger, and the government managed to save every single person. There is a saying that the rights of individuals are suppressed in socialist countries, but this is an example, that in socialism, the lives of individuals are valued greatly. It is also to be kept in mind that Cuba is a much poorer country as compared to the US.

EH: We can see that every political party that comes into power ends up disappointing us in one way or the other. Do you think that there is a problem with all the parties, or do you feel that the system of democracy is itself flawed?  

HG: The problem is that the system of democracy is affected by capitalism. This is the force that controls our lives, and we like to pretend that there is no such thing called capitalism. This is the reason that there are so many problems plaguing us. Maybe at the time when democracy was implemented, no one thought that this would happen. Today, television and cinema has completely brainwashed the people, and people are starting devaluing human life. Thus, it is capitalism that needs to take the blame.

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