All the roads of the country right now it seems, lead to the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for April and May this year. Students and other youth movements India has seen for the past four years, in a bid to extend solidarity and try to assert their demands, came together on February 7 in the capital.
Hundreds of students from different universities of National Capital Region and hundreds more from campuses and student-led organisations from across India marched from the Red Fort to Parliament Street to protest against discrimination and lack of employment. Young India National Coordination Committee which was formed as an amalgamation of the representatives of many students’ unions and youth organisations late last year had organised the event. The march, however, brought together many more independent and smaller movements.
The march had four major and specific demands: all the vacant governmental jobs to be filled which are estimated to be ₹24 lakh; 10% of the budget to be kept for education; an end to discriminatory rules and effective anti-sexual harassment cells; and ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expressions on campuses.
However, if one takes a stock of all the issues the marchers alluded to, the list becomes fairly inexhaustible.
It is the convergence of almost every small and large issue faced by the youth and students of India for the past four years that found its voice in one way or the other. Gender justice, reservations in higher education and employment, privatisation of education, attack on the autonomy of universities and academics; the spectrum is broad.
Placards with messages like ‘End 13-point roster,’ ‘Where is Najeeb?’ ‘Dignified Education & Employment For All Women,’ ‘Enact Rohith Act,’ ‘Women Against Right Wing Forces,’ could be seen at the march.
Kanu Priya, President of Panjab University Students’ Union addressed the people present at the march and demanded an end to gender-based and class-based violence and discrimination on campuses. Jignesh Mevani, who had earlier tweeted his support for the march, called for an end to the “fascist rule” of the current government.
Kanhaiya Kumar, former president of JNUSU sounded more optimistic and predicted that the “talktime” of BJP-led government is about come to an end and there won’t be any “recharge.”
The decision to converge for the march had been announced on December 28 last year at a press conference titled Young India Speaks. Many activists, academics, and writers had supported the event in their respective tweets and messages. Arundhati Roy, for example, shared a short video urging people to join the march.
The purpose of the march, it seems, was at least twofold: to converge all the hitherto diverse students’ movements and to use the sensitive pre-election time to push forward the demands of the youth.