Campus politics: Give students the freedom to study, struggle
Student leaders of tomorrow must devise innovative ways of dissenting and protesting through their writings, plays and social media.
Student politics is an essential, and a desirable part of university life. Student activism can bring about concrete changes in our lives; political, environmental, economic as well as social. However, the spurt in incidence of violence, strikes and protest movements in our educational institutions raises some pertinent questions. Do we really need politics in our educational institutions? And more importantly, what kind of politics do we want?
Rejection of Lyngdoh commission
In 2005, the Supreme Court decided to set up a committee to implement measures that would curtail the unrest caused by student elections, and introduce an age limit for the candidates contesting in the student elections. Following the Supreme Court order, the Ministry of Human Resource Development constituted a six-member panel headed by former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh.
The committee submitted its report in May 2006 regarding the eligibility criteria of candidates and money spent during the student elections. It also disallowed candidates from re-contesting the student elections, irrespective of their victory or defeat in the election.
However, the Lyngdoh Committee has largely been denounced by student unions, especially in JNU, due to its restrictive nature. The students claim that it limits the democratic functioning of student unions by allowing the intrusion of university or college authorities in the electoral process.
The students demand autonomy, exclusive of institutional intrusion, for conducting student elections. But the question is are these young minds capable of holding an electoral process at an educational institution without the ‘intrusion’ of the authorities?
In my opinion, yes, they are. The trouble arises only when student elections become the scaled down versions of parliamentary elections and the display of muscle power and money takes precedence over intellectual freedom that these elections should provide to our student community.
Campuses are often on the boil because the ruling political parties want to interfere in student politics and campus life. But who is responsible for this? Do our academic institutions of higher learning enjoy academic autonomy, or do they reflect the democratic ideals that the ruling party at the centre espouses?
Change the politics on the campus
The answer to all these lies not in disallowing any form of politics on campuses but in changing the kind of politics we practice.
Democratic politics refers to the dialectical environment that includes debate, discussion and dissent in a peaceful setting. The intention is not to force your own ideology but to recognise the right of others to have thoughts or ideologies different from yours.
The same should be the case for politics in the universities. The student leaders of tomorrow must devise innovative ways of dissenting and protesting through their writings, movies, plays, songs, social media and the internet without disrupting the academic discipline of the institution. Also, they must not deprive others of their right to study in a peaceful environment.
Study is essential, of course, but struggle is equally imperative. Our aware and intelligent students stand firmly in the camp of Indian nationalism. They want to make their world a better place, both by study and by struggle. And we need to give them the freedom to do so, with minimum intrusion by political parties and the authorities.
First Published: Sep 08, 2018 22:15:13