Few days back one of my teachers from the English department asked me to screen a short film I had made recently in her class. The video was about the land acquisition rights of the people of the Barkagaon village near Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. The government and National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) are planning to build the biggest thermal power plant in that region and the Barkagaon coal block is one of the largest in Asia. The coal there can be used to produce thermal energy. In a protest by the villagers of Barkagaon 4 people were killed and the situation is pretty tense there. The villagers are not ready to give away their lands and my video was about why the Barkagaon region should be spared from mining.
The screening was an extension of a presentation I did on Arundhati Roy’s journalistic piece “Walking With The Comrades“. Roy’s piece was about the same issue set in Bastar. My teacher asked me to screen the video and brief my classmates about Barkagaon too. I screened my video and talked about all the minute details related to the whole issue. After the video was over I prepared myself for questions and to my surprise there were none.
In my presentation I also told them that some activists in Hazaribagh who are working for a UNESCO world heritage site status for the region, as they have proofs regarding the Damodar Valley civilization being older than the Harappan and Egyptian civilization. The Barkagaon region falls under the Damodar Valley. Still, no question were raised. My video was not something out of the box. It was plain and simple and my whole intention of making it was to create awareness and pass information. My whole intention was to make people talk about it. But here, my own classmates who are students of Literature and Journalism were uninterested in this issue.
This is not just about one class or few students. Majority of students today shy away from talking about these issues. People of my age and my friends are hardly interested in a conversation about the current political scenario, basic human rights, functioning of the government, caste or religion. As college students the motives to discuss about the problems rising in our country are very less.
I’m not saying that nobody is interested, but in this Hindutva and Modi age, the idea of questioning and debate is very demanding. In the parliament we have an opposition who’s not at all challenging and what we find is that the parliamentary sessions are stalled. The government at the centre is working in full force to curb the culture of debate-discussions and questioning and the Universities are being attacked nationwide.
If we as students remain so reluctant to the working of this whole force, then we are inviting trouble. Secondly, universities are centres for debates where students from different backgrounds, studying different things, come together on a common platform and raise objections. That’s the whole idea behind universities and colleges.
But I find that this culture of debate and discussions is thriving in very few colleges and the students are not at all working as a force. It is sad and disappointing to see most of the students do not talk about the various horrific structures set in our society. For example it’s funny to find students talking about reservation but not about caste and its atrocities. I guess, caste is one the biggest drawbacks in our society and is a big force responsible in holding us back. It’s high time that students start talking about it in large numbers. Moreover in India lakhs of tribal people have been displaced in the name of development. According to a survey, out of the 85 lakh tribal people displaced from their homes, only 21 lakh received shelter aids from the government. What happened to others is unknown. The compensation received by the 21 lakh people is also debatable.
In Jharkhand, every year, many women are slaughtered in the name of witch hunting. This practice is still prevalent in many Indian states and their stories are frightening. Many of the students will be hardly aware of these facts and information, but even if the facts are presented only few will talk about it. I am not saying that each and every student should be interested with everything that is going around, but some issues demand common attention and only a major force can tackle them. And the participation of students is greatly required.
The largest student body functioning in India right now is Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is the student wing of RSS. The members of ABVP hardly talk on the basis of facts and information and are moving towards violence in college campuses. The situation demands an alternative with students coming out who should promote the idea of debate and discussion and work on basis of facts and information, students who should promote the idea of dialogue, the most essential thing in a democracy. And India as a democracy is failing.
Last year what happened with Rohith Vemula and JNU is a result of our reluctance. JNU was able to stand together as a force and tackle the situation well emerging as a winner in the dispute with the government. But what about other colleges and universities which are failing to come out as a force and counter the issues going around in our society. The social media, which has largest participation of students like me burst out when M.S. Dhoni stepped down from his captaincy or when Kareena and Saif named their son Taimur or when Pokemon Go was released in India. But social media does not grab much attention about the situations I mentioned earlier in this article. I am not saying that talking about a Dhoni, a Taimur or a Pokemon Go is wrong or unimportant, but other issues should also get the same attention as them.
We as students should work on common grounds to counter the issues prevailing in our society and should emerge as major force. But the problem is that my friends and other students are not angry with any of such issues. We as students have got certain privileges and it’s high time we start making use of them.
All major revolutions to bring change in the society have been successful because of the mass participation and we students out there are the masses. And, yes, this country needs a revolution and we as students have to ignite it.
Kanahiya Kumar, after coming out of jail in his very famous speech mentioned that we need Azadi (freedom) from a hell lot of things. That Azadi can only be attained if we students start talking about the social issues in our classes, canteens and on social media pages. If we want azadi, we need to start talking about Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh. Until then, that azadi is far-fetched dream. Only a student revolution can make this happen.
Jai Bheem! Lal Salaam!