By Rayees Rasool:
We may not be aware, but often government and politics shape the way we live.
Our education and our way of life help us in evolving as conscious members of society. Schools, colleges and universities do not merely help us in gaining a formal education but also help us in developing a sense of social responsibility. Teachers, the university atmosphere, the art of thinking and reasoning, spaces for questioning and answering moulds us like a potter shapes clay.
Governments, teachers and administration should make this environment favourable for students and facilitate their growth as young leaders.
Student politics is important for any nation. Student groups often protest, petition and mobilise for issues that are important to society. These young minds are the future of any political system that’s why politicians keep watch on them and show great interest in their activities.
Every university has student groups that work in the interest of the student community and also focus on broader social and political issues. Universities are democratic in nature and you are open to have any view on any issue. Our governments and administration should make conditions favourable for students to think rationally. They should be given space to express their views and raise their voice against any injustice. This will help any nation in building a vibrant political leadership.
Students have made a significant contribution to politics through the struggle for democracy in the world. Students in different cases from different countries have been seen to be the most vocal critics of the regimes in power. This has been made possible by providing students with space for different voices and not by choking them. They are often the voice of the voiceless.
Jawaharlal Nehru University, one of the prominent universities in the world, is one such place where student activism and politics is encouraged. Different student groups including the university’s students’ union (JNUSU) help different communities to raise their voice. They campaign for the rights of everyone from students to labourers, from the oppressed to the imprisoned. Respect for dissent and the freedom of speech has always allowed them to have diverse opinions and beliefs.
There is another university on the same planet in God’s forgotten land. The Kashmir University. The fact that Kashmir is occupied by the Indian military has affected student activism and politics also. The students’ union of the university is banned. Student activism is not allowed. Heinous laws haunt students who dare to raise their voice on any social or political issue. The union office was razed to the ground by authorities on a whim of the government. It was the time when Kashmir was all up in arms in 2009 against the infamous double rape and murder case of two young women in Shopian. The democratic space in Kashmiri educational institutes has been snatched long back.
Now, let’s look at the resemblance between what happens in Kashmir University and what is happening in JNU these days.
Muzamil Farooq Dar, a resident of Kakapora tehsil of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, is a scholar from the Department of English at Kashmir University, who was arrested by police on 23rd June 2015 night for his involvement in the protests that took place in the varsity to oppose the International Yoga Day celebrations on June 20. The arrest of Muzamil shows that the students of Kashmir are not safe from being targeted.
Muzamil was arrested only because he opposed forced Yoga Day celebrations. And the state tried to implicate him by alleging that he had militant links. The arrest of Muzamil from Kashmir University witnessed heavy protests for many days. Hundreds of varsity students boycotted the classes and held massive protest demonstrations to seek the release of their fellow student. Students protested peacefully for the demand of the release of Muzamil. But the state responded with force, and on 24th June 2015 police fired in the air to scare them. Kashmir is one place where the police and para-militarily forces can go to any extent to crush the students’ voice.
The agitation went on for long. The university ordered the vacation of all hostels and classes were suspended. Scores of students were injured. But what happened to the other cases in Kashmir happened with this one also. The incident was ignored largely by the mainstream Indian media. There were no debates on news channels and nobody spoke a word about why the university had been turned into a battleground.
Be it rapes by security forces, killings of civilians, torture by security forces, you will not see any outrage by the Indian media. We have the example of 2010 when the authorities killed more than 120 youth. The same Indian media every time reported incidents of “stone pelting.” The ‘stone pelter’ was a young boy and not carrying any gun! They hardly show state oppression. Anyone who raises any questions regarding Kashmir in the Indian media is labeled as ‘anti-national’. But the facts will never change.
Unlike the JNU event where worldwide condemnation came against the arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, KU’s Muzamil Dar’s arrest was largely ignored. No one spoke about that except JNU teachers and students.
To protect the student community and student activism, people from different walks of life need to come together and stand tall and strong against every force that will try to snatch these democratic spaces of dissent away from us. Be it KU, JNU or any other place in the world.
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