Presently, there is a debate going on in West Bengal about imposing the Saint Xavier’s model of an apolitical student’s union on other universities. The state government in West Bengal wants to keep political parties out of the college campus.
The surprising fact is that the chief minister of West Bengal herself started her career because of her political affiliations in her college. Secondly, many of the colleges in West Bengal are dominated by the TMCP (Trinamul Chhatra Parishad) which is the student wing of West Bengal’s ruling party, TMC. This student wing not only resorts to hooliganism often, they also have a say over the authority when it comes to the date fixation of final exams even at the university level as they have political backups, particularly in case of Calcutta University. A masters course in Calcutta University, especially in few departments like Geography, Mass Communication etc generally takes two and a half years while the results may be delayed for six more months or more than that at times. The students generally do not get a chance to apply for PhD or M.Phil anywhere after masters. The only two places with the dominance of Left wing politics are the Jadavpur University and Presidency University. The present imposition of West Bengal government to take away the influence of political parties from the campus is against the spirit of democracy. It takes away the right to exercise political freedom. Also I strongly believe political affiliations are necessary for taking up issues which are collective for the students across the country. For example the protests against scholarship fund cuts from the center or injustice by the universities authoritarian policies cannot be raised by an apolitical students council. A collective effort from the students of all the universities is required which is only possible if they have political affiliations.
As the arguments of apolitical student union was put forward, the proponents have stated the example of Ramakrishna Mission Residential college, Narendrapur. Being from that college, I would like to state a few facts about how the student council worked in that college. To begin with, in RKMC a student is supposed to stay, following the rules of the hostel like going to the prayer hall in the morning and evening, not use a laptop even if you are studying computer science, not use a mobile phone publicly, wear white pants and white shirts to the college, not smoke in the hostel etc. Although the rules related to prayers were not so strict it in our times, and some might say it will be not right to criticize them as we read them and signed the document before taking admissions there. The student council was mostly formed by the students who are “good” in the eyes of the maharajas. As this was the thing, nobody had any guts to speak against the authority even if the reason is genuine.
When we were in our first year, students from 6th standard of Salt Lake C.A school came to our college campus for picnic. On seeing this the one maharaj told the teacher in-charge to not bring so many girls in the campus as the boys here are not good and they might take these girls in their rooms. As this statement was overheard by some of our super-seniors, they arranged for an agitation in the Gourangabhawan hostel. The maharaj was gheraod and questioned for his statements. While this was happening our principal maharaj arrived to calm down the situation. He came and started slapping the third year students who were in the front while others ran from the back to save their face from the eyes of the authority. Later on he said “no one has the right to gherao a monk, he might have said something wrong so I say sorry on his behalf.” Then the maharaj was taken away for the time being to another hostel. That’s how an anti-authoritarian protest was suppressed by the principal.
The second incident happened when we were in our second year and a bunch of first year just arrived. A baal brahmachari, was asked by a first year boy for a Singmund Freud’s book. He somehow imagined that this student has got some Freudal instincts for him. While the student was dressing up alone in his room, he came and tried to molest him. Later on the boys in the hostel gathered to gherao and verbally abuse the baal brahmachari. This incident was however not taken up to the media. No action was taken by the authority either. Simply the Brahmachari was taken away from the hostel to make him stay in the monk’s quarter. That was all.
During our third year, our principal maharaj changed. The rules which were just in the books came into reality. Boys used to get brutally beaten up random for reasons like loudly singing in public. They were harassed till the midnight, made to call their guardians and at times charged for drinking even though they are not drunk. The moral guardianing went up to this extent that the maharaj used to take trips throughout the hostel after dinner to catch the boys who are roaming around in the terrace, or using the mobile phones publicly. Students had been scolded for keeping a beard.
The general environment in RKMC was very scary in the end. Whenever the voices were raised by one or the other, it was suppressed by the authority. The violation of human rights which went in the name of discipline and rules was worse enough to disturb a student mentally. An institution which always get exemplified as a model which had been successful, has stories which never came out of it’s campus. It had been glorified by covering up the stories of injustice. The student council members knew it well that if they speak against the authority, they might get suspended and there will be no one to support them at their back. Hence no one had the guts to come and speak up at the forefront.
Presently when RKMC’s student council is getting exemplified, I find it is really important for others to know the real stories about an institution which has been successfully imposing it’s hegemony. Although a lot of good students come out every year to get into renowned places in their masters, that doesn’t necessarily justifies the violation of their rights and conditioning which they have to go by.