Politics is known to play an important role in the life of a student. Be it uniting students for the freedom struggle in the early 20th century, the very recent FTII, JNU, and HCU protests, or the simple act of choosing representatives, politics has always been a part of student life. A majority of universities, and also colleges affiliated to these universities, have a certain system that allows the students to choose their representatives who put forth their issues before the concerned authorities. However, not all institutions comply with these norms. The Army Institute of Law is one of the few exceptions.
In my college, not only is there no provision for students to participate in political activities, but they are explicitly banned. Carrying out any activity on behalf of a political party or any activity that is political in nature is treated as an offence and invites a fine. There is no elected student council, or any similar body, that represents the students. There are prefects, but they are usually nominated by the authorities. As a result, the college authorities take all decisions independently, with or without consultation with the handful of prefects. It must, however, be mentioned that students are given an opportunity of being heard, in what is known as an ‘open house session’, organised bi-annually.
These sessions are attended by all high level functionaries, and most of the members of the student community. The sessions comprise of students individually putting forth their issues, which vary widely, before the authorities who either give an explanation or promise to resolve them. This is a seemingly fair process, but cannot necessarily be called successful. The plethora of issues that need to be brought out are varied and it becomes difficult to satisfactorily organise a meeting for redressal or even get them heard. Apart from that, when it comes to the resolution of issues, while some are resolved, with much appreciation, there also exist problems that have never been resolved. There also exists a problem in implementation. Several times, even though certain decisions are taken through consensus, the administrative hurdles prevent their timely adherence.
Not being a government or government-aided institute, the college is well within its rights to prevent political activities. In my opinion, this can have advantages too. The classes are regular, the academic schedule is followed, and there are no unforeseen interruptions. But there remains the issue of addressing our everyday problems. The open houses though regular, are not scheduled. The management has the sole right to frame rules, amend, add, delete and promulgate provisions of the code of conduct at any time or as and when the management feels there is a need to do so, as has been proclaimed by the Code of Conduct. Joint actions such as combined petitions, agitations, and representation are also offences.
Student politics do bring their fair share of problems and that is perhaps a satisfactory reason behind the ban on political activities. But it is also essential to give the students a chance to be heard. Full blown political activities with parties, campaigning and elections may not be a solution, but certain rights like making a joint petition are innocuous. An article a friend wrote last year, that talked about the repercussions of President Obama’s visit to India could not feature in the college magazine, because it was political in nature. This was an unprecedented level that the ban had reached. A complete blanket ban on any activity that by some remote interpretation may be called political – is no solution, even in the interest of good order and discipline. It is necessary to provide for such activities in a controlled manner. The students realise many issues they face during the course of their time at an institution and must be given an outlet to voice their problems regularly so that the administration is able to keep track and rectify them in an organised and effective manner.