Guest Post by Shehla Rashid
When politics decides your future, decide what your politics should be !
The recent government constituted panel‘s (headed by former cabinet secretary T.S.R. Subramaniam) report on student politics is unconstitutional, highly regressive and politically motivated, and signals the upcoming onslaught of total commercialisation of education and imposition of Hindutva ideology in universities. The TSR Subramaniam Panel’s report is the logical follow up to the Birla Ambani report (which was submitted in 2000), following which student unions across the country were banned. The Birla Ambani report had lamented that student unions are not allowing commercialisation of education: we accept the charge and take pride in it! We believe that education should be a right of everyone, not a privilege of a handful of people.
After the report, tremendous restrictions were put on student union elections in the form of Lyngdoh Committee recommendations (2006), but students resolved not to give up, but to intensify the fight against imposition of austerity on education. Student groups over the past several years have resisted the commercialization and saffronisation of education and that is why the present government is fighting a proxy war against students. Students across the country are being targeted for democratically raising their voices. Interestingly, the only students organization which does not face any action is the perpetually violent ABVP, the student wing of the regressive RSS, whose members are well known for their rogue and abusive behaviour!
We warn the government not to engage in any measures to restrict political activity by students, as these will be in violation of Article 19 of the Constitution of India.
Student activism has made academic practices better and richer. JNU, HCU and FTII, for example, are some of the finest institutions of learning in the country. That is not “despite” student politics, but “because of” the progressive student politics of these campuses. Modiji has the luxury to tell us to leave studies and do politics. What does he have to say to those who will never be able to enter these educational institutions, due to the policies of UPA & NDA governments? It is for those that we fight, and will continue to.
The TSR Subramaniam panel asks for restrictions to be placed on student groups organized along identitarian lines. In the garb of banning student groups based ‘on caste and religion’, the government (if it acts on these recommendations) will end up terrorising student groups of minority and Dalit, communities and not upper-caste Hindu supremacist organisations such as ABVP which openly engage in anti-women, anti-Dalit and anti-minority propaganda. It is shocking that the government is mulling interference at such deep level in campuses. It appears that the people on the panel do not have knowledge of the Indian Constitution which empowers all citizen groups to form unions and associations. Students are no different, and have the right to form associations and unions. The fact that students do not like Modi and Modi doesn’t like students can’t be used to curb our voices.
It is ridiculous to ask students to leave studies to do politics. (Meaning, as the minister Venkaiah Naidu said recently, ‘If students want to do politics, they should stop studying, quit universities, and then join politics’: Kafila).
When the BJP comes to seek votes of students, does it ask us to leave studies? Then why does it get threatened when we intervene in politics? What comes next? Will they ask farmers to leave agriculture and then come to politics? Why don’t they ask the Yogis, Sadhus and Sadhvis in their party to leave religion and then come to politics? Why don’t they ask lawyers in their party to leave advocacy and then come to politics? Most of all, why don’t they ask Gajendra Chauhan to leave BJP and then run the FTII? It is ironic that a government which has flooded educational institutions with mediocre saffron puppets has the audacity to lecture students on political neutrality! The govt should stop making a joke of itself and stop interfering in campuses. The ruling party representatives are there in the campuses and are active in student politics, and should be enough to carry the ruling party ideology. The increasing isolation of ABVP on campuses is causing the govt so much anxiety that they are desperate to politically intervene in one way or the other, to save the sinking ship of the ABVP.
This report goes on to imagine ghosts and makes ridiculous statements to the effect that, students stay in hostels for several years for political motives! On the contrary, it’s when students don’t get hostels and can’t pay the shockingly high rents outside campuses, that they join the fight against budget cuts in education. Why shouldn’t a student get a hostel for the entire duration of the study? What is ABVP’s response on this shameful denial of hostel facilities? Weren’t they screaming in student Union elections that they will ask their govt to build more hostels? Why is their government targeting students who are lucky enough to get hostels?
In addition to all this semi-literate chatter, the committee suddenly says that Yoga must be encouraged in campuses. While we have no problem with Yoga, why is the government politicising Yoga? The only time in the history of mankind when Yoga got negative publicity is when Narendra Modi tried to forcibly impose it on people and politicise it. What does Yoga have to do with a report on student politics? Why make it sound as if students need a rehab? There are many tribal practices which are very good for health. Why doesn’t the govt include those too in this trashy report?
This report is a deliberate provocation to instigate the next phase of unrest on campuses. This will be followed by further fee hike and commercialisation of education, reduction of scholarships, aggressive Hindutva activities and, by declaring students as violent, it already lays out the justification for the use of institutional violence on them in case they protest, just like in the case of Rohith Vemula, and now JNU, BHU, AMU, MANUU, Guwahati University, etc.
The Modi government must stop attacking the opposition and start working now. It has been two years of total failure of the government. They can’t silence people who protest against the government’s failures. We are also elected representatives, and in addition to fighting state repression, we are also working for students. If Modi needs some lessons in progressive politics, he can come to JNU. JNU Students’ Union can be a model for him. We deliver and struggle for most things that we declare on our election manifesto. We don’t go around attacking the opposition, beating them up, abusing them on social media, etc. We work. We invite all BJP persons for lessons in progressive politics from student representatives.
Shehla Rashid is a student at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi (JNU) and the Vice President of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU). She is an activist with the All India Students Association (AISA).
This text is a version of what was first posted as a status update on Shehla Rashid’s Facebook Page.