By Uzma Shamim:
I met young people who have started organisations and projects of social significance and rather than being buoyed down by all the hassles they faced, they have become even more determined in retaining whatever they initiated. The young today do not shy away from expressing their political views while protesting. There’s greater fervour and passion in the hearts of students since independence 68 years ago. Students were the force behind the leaders when we fought for Independence, but today the youth prefers being in the forefront themselves.
Take the case of Spandana Cheruvu, who in 2013 brought up the differential treatment meted out to boys and girls in VIT. Spandana’s fight for equality is a larger representative of what’s happening in most of our educational institutions. The idea is not about demeaning safety standards set by colleges for girls, the idea is to make sure that the so called safety standards do not become a medium for the imposition of patriarchy.
Another example where students have been the torchbearers of change and protest is the Pondicherry University Students’ Movement. The protest which started on the 27th July, 2015, was aimed at the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Mrs. Chandra Krishnamurthy, who has been accused of a counterfeit CV and inefficient administration of the Central University. What the students are protesting against is symbolic of a decadent educational order, controlled unilaterally by a few people at the top whose only aim is to forward their own interests.
The voices of dissent are not just being heard in prime and well known institutes, they are also being echoed in hitherto unheard corners. While the newspaper headlines are full of FTII students rising in protest against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman, the students of Biju Patnaik Film and Television Institute of Odisha (BPFTIO) are revolting against the lack of facilities given to them and the obsolete technology they have to deal with. There have also been protests against the corrupt forces as well as the appalling quality of education at the Makhanlal University in Bhopal.
One of the most inspiring accounts of what an individual can do to bring about change is the story of Babur Ali form Murshidabad in West Bengal, called the “youngest headmaster in the world” by BBC in October 2009, at the age of sixteen. Babur started teaching at the age of nine, when one day he saw little kids working on the farm instead of studying. Babur now runs a full-fledged school which educates children whose parents do not have the means to give them a proper formal education.
Many of the protests in educational institutions have to do with political ideologies. The students of the Film and Television Institute of India stand united against the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as Chairman of the institute as they do not wish their Chairman to be a BJP worker and the fact that he may be not adequately qualified to lead the Institute which formerly boasts of being headed by internationally renowned artists. Similarly, political overtones could also be seen in the way some students of SRCC protested against the visit of Narendra Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate during the campaigning season.
One of the most emphasised pointers in Modi’s campaign and promise for ‘Acche Din’ was the empowerment of the youth. However, as we can see, there are blatant charges of corruption, inefficient administration, outdated infrastructure and discrimination in Universities and colleges across India. One of the foremost things that Narendra Modi needs to do is to build on the infrastructure, not just in the Universities that are always in the focus but also Universities and other institutions which are silently suffering like BPFTIO, Odisha.
Why I believe that the young can indeed bring about a change is because they have ideas and a very strong base of principles. Look around you. There has been a new willingness to vote, to decide who they want as the representatives of the Big Fat Indian Democracy. The young in India today are at a very crucial juncture today. They have taken up a herculean task of bringing about a gradual well thought of change. It may take years, but the hope that one day this will be a better world eggs the youth on.
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