University of Hyderabad Issue: Activism or the ugly face of student politics?

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Not more than 2 days back, I was reading this comprehensive work by Ramachandra Guha, titled ‘India After Gandhi’. The book talks about the phase of late 1960s and early 1970s with an impressive detail. This phase of independent India holds a very crucial position in defining the current state of affairs in the country. Let us understand how!

I urge you to imagine a scenario in which you have a ‘strong’ government at the centre, left oriented student groups (protesters) that get activated on an overnight basis, cries of ‘fascism’ being raised from educational institutions and the central government being attacked on the subjective charge of ‘curbing the freedom of expression’. Am I referring to 2016 here? No!

Well, the scenario stated above is of early 1970s when Indira Gandhi’s government was in charge of the nation. The fact that similar means are used to prevent the functioning of a government, even today, is something that cannot be ignored and deserves a serious thought.

Interesting feature of this analysis is that over 45 years have passed but we haven’t stepped ahead a bit. It cannot be a mere co incidence that even after 45 years, the accusations are same, voices are same, institutions are same and even the organizations leading the baton against the so-called ‘fascism’ are also same. The only thing that has changed is the name and party of the Prime Minister who is being accused of adopting ‘fascist’ tendencies.

Significance of University of Hyderabad

To start with, Andhra Pradesh was the worst affected state due to the student protests’ against Indira Gandhi in 1970s as well. Osmania University and University of Hyderabad were prominent ‘addas’ of the so-called ‘activists’ of that time who never gave a second thought to their ideology before setting ablaze the government machinery. I have no reason whatsoever to accept this link as a mere coincidence. What is this similarity all about then?

It is a plot. A plot in which these ‘innocent student activists’ are like paid actors whereas the real scene is being directed by the left front and united opposition politicians. It all started with ‘Dalit’ scholar Rohith Vemula, went on to Jawahar Lal Nehru University and came back to UoH within a well specified time frame. Amidst this time travel of students’ issues from UoH to JNU and back, similar issues were raised in other varsities as well, including Jadavpur University, Allahabad University and Ferguson College. The only aim is to not allow the government to settle down. If some stray incidents are to be kept aside, a rational thinker would believe that there is nothing provocative that this government has done. This very concept of ‘extracting issues from depth’ is something that makes me question these everyday protests.

The steeping low levels of mass media

I have never in my life seen such a disgracefully low level of reporting in the media. The entire UoH incident is being ‘presented’ as a live demo of dictatorship in the country. On one hand, you find a group of students ‘claiming’ that their food supplies, water supplies and internet facilities have been cut off. On the other hand, you have university administration clarifying by stating that the mess-staff is on strike because of the recent activities of student groups in the university. And the most interesting part was that the media was not allowed inside the campus for reporting. What is this reporting all about then? What substantial inputs are these media reports based on when they make claims of fascist attitude of the government?

The entire style of media reporting on this issue is of such a nature that it apparently seems like advocating on behalf of the activists. What right does the mass media have to portray a picture of their own without even giving due time and respect to a subject of investigation?

However, in a country where Yakub Memon’s funeral procession is given wider media coverage than A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s procession, the current state of media doesn’t even surprise me.

Leftward turn of the Issues

The biggest and the most logical parallel between the issues raised in all these varsities is the ‘left’ leaning of all these protests and protesters. Even opportunist parties like INC and AAP are supporting these movements but unlike the left front, their protest is in no way an institutionalized one.

Do I say that protests should not happen? No.

All I am saying is that the reasons cited for these protests are flawed, and are in line with the protests that have happened in the past to fade away the agenda of a strong government.

The fact that JNUSU president is going to meet Irom Sharmila in Manipur and assures her of a fight against AFSPA is not only provocatively political but out of place as well. It also goes on to prove that these issues are no longer confined to students and universities. They have a wider political base.

Issues that have been existing since ages are being raised in an apparently fresh manner today. More disturbing is the fact that these issues are just being being’raised’ and left after a little hue and cry in the media. If you’re a genuine party to such issues, you cannot afford to remain silent on them for years and then suddenly wake up to them when they suit your interests.

I accept the fact that students have become victims of misconduct in UoH. But we, as a society, will have to understand that we cannot claim our rights by vandalizing public property and ‘hoolinganism’.

B.R Ambedkar once condemned the very idea of ‘protests’ and said that frequent protests show your disbelief in the safeguards of the constitution. He said it in context of Gandhian ‘Satyagraha’, fasting and other protests. Even today, the relevance of these words is striking!

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