“Education is one thing no one can take away from you,” said B. B. King
On November 14, 2019, several students and teachers from various central universities such as DU, JNU, Ambedkar, and Jamia gathered at Mandi House and took out a rally to Jantar Mantar under the banner of the Federation of Central Universities Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA), demanding the withdrawal of the New Education Policy (NEP).
“If the New Education Policy gets passed, then that will officially give this government permission to shut down public universities and to replace them with private universities,” said Kawalpreet Kaur, President of the All India Students Association (AISA). The NEP will allegedly lead to the commercialisation of the education system, hike in fees of students, and appointment or firing of teachers at will.
The protest was also against the JNU fee hike, an issue that has not been unfolding in isolation, but something that students from several other universities in parts of the country have been protesting about. Slogans and chants were raised against the government throughout the protest. Dilip Pandey from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), D Raja of Communist Party of India (CPI), Subhashini Ali from CPI(M) and Ashok Tanwar from the Congress were also present and extended their solidarity to the cause.
Education is a way for survival in this world and unfortunately, still a matter of privilege in most parts of it. It is scary, nerve-wracking, even frustrating as students to see the most sacred spaces for learning becoming dangerous, a site for perpetuating prejudices, and another means of commercialisation. Najeeb’s disappearance from JNU or the recent case of suicide of Fatima Latheef in IIT Madras lurks as dark shadows over the education system of our country.
It is interesting how certain identity markers such as caste, class, religion, etc., are implicitly and explicitly affecting the education space which asserts itself as secular and open. Today, a person from a less privileged background might feel insecure in a class full of English-speaking ‘elite’; today, minorities such as those belonging to Muslim or Dalit communities fear being targeted amidst the hatred that is being generated in this country. Raising the fees of these public institutions amidst all of this not only betrays all sorts of equities and democratic values that it claims to provide but also makes it a place less sought after.