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Educational Institutions and the Molding of Impressionable Minds: A Scene from Anek

Anek is an Indian Netflix film which focuses on the politics of North-East India where rebel groups have been demanding a separate nation since India’s independence. The plot revolves around an undercover agent who is sent by the Central Government to sign a peace accord with the head of the largest militant group in the region. There are, however, other separatist groups at work in the North-East as well who are against the signing of this peace accord. Amongst these is one group that goes by the name of Johnson. This group focuses particularly on the role of education to strengthen the alienated population of North-East India so that it may be able to fight for its independence or, at the very least, demand its basic rights.


The movie shows educational institutes bearing the flags of the separatist group and the principal propagating the group’s ideology that signing a peace accord would be akin to betraying the people of North-East India. According to the group, economic independence is the only way forward for the youth of the region for which education is of the utmost importance. Although at first glance, this ideology does not seem to have a violent streak to it, as the movie progresses, it can be seen that the group supports the use of arms, when necessary, along with its emphasis on educational attainment of the children of the region.


One particular scene in Anek shows a school principal convincing parents to send their children to school so that they may be able to progress in the country, which portrays the sway of educational figures in poor and deprived conflict-affected areas. The scene perfectly captures how schools are used as a basis to perpetuate an ideology laced with rebel elements and make children a part of the conflict by providing access to education. Schools are used as recruitment basis to mold students at an impressionable age into people that reflect the ideas of the separatist group. The impact of using the education network to perpetuate a separatist ideology is measured by one line in the movie, which says: “You can kill one Johnson, and another Johnson will spring out of another corner”.


Finally, in my opinion, Anek’s portrayal of the use of schools as recruitment basis is similar to the situation in madrassas across Pakistan – at least during a particular time period – when young minds were taught certain ideologies so as to prepare and motivate them to partake in a violent conflict. Figureheads present at such educational institutions had and, in some areas, continue to have, considerable amount of influence over their students who are brainwashed into believing that war and violence against certain factions of society is their religious duty.

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Education is so oftenly used to brain wash students. Sometimes it scares me that what if I am also being brainwashed. But then what brings me peace is the fact that I am allowed to have my own ideas and voice them, i am presented with different frameworks and then i get to choose which one i agree with. Nothing was ever enforced on me (in LUMS). And that is where you draw the line between education and brainwashing. Education is meant to help students grow and shape up to become whoever they want, not conform to pre-existing ideas of an ideal citizens. The day our educators understand this and start giving students room to breath, we'd be on the…

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I believe, we, as a student body studying at LUMS is lucky in the sense that we are allowed a platform to debate, ciritically analyse and question mainstream narratives. This privelege is not given to students in most other universities in Pakistan, which is a sad reality. We cannot expect to churn out intellectual individuals if our education system limits their ability to ask questions.

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Your post made me think about how there's a fine line between teaching and brainwashing. Teaching means you impart students with knowledge about the world around them and provide them with an agency to critically think for themselves. In contrast, brainwashing provides students with heavily skewed information that leads to one predetermined conclusion. Teachers play a crucial part in determining which way they want to steer the students education in; teaching or brainwashing. Your example of Madrassas is an example of indoctrination which can continue to happen if there are not official provincial curriculum guidelines.

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This is an interesting aspect, which makes me realise that in certain situations teachers - often with the sole purpose of teaching what they are instructed to teach - do not themselves differentiate between brainwashing and effective teaching methods. In many primary schools, whether they be public or private, teachers often assert that their point of view or the concept that they are teaching is the correct one, and anything else said by anyone is wrong. This is followed by lectures on how teachers are equivalent to parents and what they say should be accepted without question or else it is a sign of disrespect.

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we have discussed how the schools are targeted or play a role during conflicts. they are either targeted and destroyed by rebel groups to disrupt education or are used by them to propagate certain ideologies. from the description in your blog, what I understand is that the separatists were using the schools to instill their ideas in their brains. they might be mobilizing the youth to stand up for their rights, but asking them to take up arms and fight with state institutions and the army is violent. such actions put the lives and futures of these students in danger, and we cannot equate it with demanding the rights of these very individuals.


another critical observation I made was that…


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You make a very relevant point with your second observation. Citizens of North-East India have demanded their rights for a long time now, yet the population is ignored, discriminated against, and deprived of their basic rights and the chance for upward economic mobility. This movie, although highlights shortcomings of the state and political games within the government, still manages to paint these neglected citizens in a more negative light than the State. The movie also traces the life of a boxer from this region who ends up representing India internationally, giving the message that no matter what your grievances are, at the end of the day, your sole loyalty must lie with the State.

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One very important observation I have made is the difference between the roles and responsibilities of principals and administration heads of public and private schools (i.e., there is a difference between the functioning of the elite and the underprivileged). This movie, Anek, has a principal who has to go out, advocate for education, and convince people to send their children. From what I know, this is something that happens all around the world with schools in places where education is often not prioritized. If you compare this to the elite circles from which LUMS students come from (or some of them, at least) then the teachers, administration, and faculty often do not go above and beyond. I feel that, accordingly,…

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This comparison can be made between the different areas of Pakistan - in the more affluent cities, there is no question of not attaining education as all families try to provide their children with the best possible education. However, in the more rural areas, the presence of an educational institute may not always be enough to get students to enroll as parents face a trade-off between taking their children along to work or sending them to school. In such areas, parents often have to be provided with incentives such as conditional cash transfers to be convinced to prioritise the education of their offspring.

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It is very important to acknowledge that while education has a positive side and this is the most prevalent narrative, there is also a negative side to it. The post reminds me of Edward Said’s notion of how schools and universities are or become breeding grounds for nationalists that then perpetuate a certain ideology within a state. In Pakistan, we also see how the curriculum promotes a religious-nationalist ideology and it is not neutral for e.g. Zia’s curriculum reforms. School structure can also contribute to categorizing and collectivizing. Brown and Langer (2010) in one of their papers argue that inequalities in education were a principal factor in the construction of Muslim nationalism in what became Pakistan. I also want to…


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From the examples you have given and the point I was trying to make in the blog, I think a key take-away is the power that teachers and educational figures hold over their disciples. Whether it be in the context of indoctrinating certain values or deconstructing state narratives, these figures can be used as a weapon in both conflict settings and peacebuilding efforts. Moreover, adding to your point of education inequalities, this is most certainly a factor that has led to the indoctrination of a certain ideology in the minds of students from comparatively less priveleged areas/households in Pakistan. Many families who do not have access to proper schools often - out of necessity - send their children either to…

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