Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gyan Panchayat

Crisis in the world of knowledge and a people's initiative

Gyan Panchayat

Changes in the information age have opened the world of knowledge such that the rule of science and technology is now limited to government departments, professional bodies and the university. Independent thinkers, social activists, non-party political workers and ordinary people are increasingly liberating their knowledge, reasoning and thoughts on policy from the domination of science. Computer, media, language, art and entertainment openly use alternate sources of knowledge, understanding and critical appreciation. All this has greatly enlarged the world of knowledge and there is new respect for other values and standards. A new understanding is emerging that people constitute the biggest location of knowledge and its activity. Take any area of human activity, social problems or nature and you will find a competent alternate understanding and process. The areas of agriculture, health care, house building, forestry, literary criticism, industry and materials, water management, market management, all bear this out. Most such thoughts come to be expressed in the context of problems and resistances which are results of government policy or activity of large corporations. Often such understanding or knowledge process has a deep relation with the needs of the people and their ways of thinking. The dominant media, government, professional bodies and the university appear to get into concerted action to marginalize the arguments and policy proposals that stem from alternate streams of knowledge. Arguments produced in any particular sector or with respect to any specific problem get isolated and no suggestions, that are not main line, are accepted. To alter this situation, it is necessary that alternate thinkers in different areas come together in some effective manner. This will strengthen the people's side in the spheres of knowledge and policy. For this, it is not at all necessary that these people also agree with one another. What is needed is that they see themselves as participants in a new knowledge movement. A gyan panchayat needs to be built to shape such a knowledge movement. This gyan panchayat can have the capacity to open pathways for solving problems and handling situations that have plagued mankind for the entire capitalist period.

Let this gyan panchayat draw inspiration from the French Encyclopedists and also from Mahatma Gandhi. Just as the European Enlightenment held the Church responsible for the miserable state of man and just as Gandhi held the machine responsible for the debasement that man had suffered, let the gyan panchayat stand for humanity and against all knowledge enclosures including the university. University is the most prized product of the capitalist age. It is the university where all that knowledge has been produced which provides the basis of the destruction of nature and production of poverty everyday. The university obstructs the free movement of thought by building enclosures, both physical and social. However one thing that cannot be done to thought, is to stop its movement. There are people everywhere who are not constrained by extraneous considerations and who individually or collectively challenge the false limitations. All these people must become part of this gyan panchayat. Gyan panchayat is like a people's court in the world of knowledge. It is what ought to turn philosophy into a social force. It is the place from where the knowledge basis of another world is prepared. A revolutionary change in the world of knowledge is a prerequisite for a radical pro-people transformation of the society. Gyan panchayat is the bearer of such a revolution.

Vidya Ashram has proposed to the Indian Social Science Congress to set up a Gyan Panchayat to cap more than three decades of its devoted existence in the service of knowledge and the movement of knowledge. This congress is proposed to be held between 8-12 December, 2009 in Hyderabad at B.R. Ambedkar Open University. The focal theme of the congress is Our Planet in Crisis.

Sunil Sahasrabudhey

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