Over the past few months, educational institutions in India have been witnessing a gradual departure from the ideals it once upheld. Administrators of many eminent varsities have invited the wrath of the collective student community for their decadent actions.
Attacking the volatile student community and coercing them to fall in line with the policies of their unnamed masters, have been on the agenda of these persons for some time now. There is visible urgency to discourage dissent, a feeble attempt to nip them (dissenting voices) in the bud, perhaps. The government is in an active pursuit of eliminating questioning platforms and surreptitiously transforming them into pulpits proclaiming their virtues. Even as colleges dubbed too ‘preeminent’ to be engaged in active student politics are trying to break the chains and let their voices be heard, the government has come down heavily on the ones that have traditionally been vocal.
Steps being taken to rename JNU to Modi University or something along those lines in a desperate attempt to de-politicise (or better yet, de-leftise) students is the finest example of the stubbornness of the government. The installation of the bust of Savarkar mockingly close to that of Bhagat Singh, who is known to have been in ideological opposition to the former is also a badly disguised exercise serving a similar end.
Here is a collection of brief accounts from various universities throughout India where the renewed policy towards dissent has been brought to the limelight.
The students at this university (that disallows the establishment of a students’ union) were met with the worst possible form of policing as they held a protest march against the university’s association with the Israeli government. Despite the stringent campus rules that prohibits a student to enter its premises without the college ID card, the administration thought it fit to hire goons to suppress the protest.
The protesters were kept in lockdown and even the women students were manhandled and mistreated. The students observed Black Day in solidarity with the protesters urging the administration to respect their freedom of expression. They were issued show cause notices, even when their only crime was that they refused to remain mute against injustice.
The drama that unfurled at the Hyderabad campus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences is equally disturbing. The students were taken by surprise with the sudden renewal of mess and hostel fees with zero regard for the economically backward students in the college. With the shift to the new campus on the outskirts of Hyderabad, the standards of hostels and other amenities decreased considerably.
When the students at this premiere institute of social sciences responded with hue and cry, the administration decided to pay them zero attention. The situation also worsened to a point where the protesters were warned that their course completion certificates may be withheld should they continue their strikes.
All the protesters have been handed out show cause notices, have been barred from contesting in college elections and the leaders have been silenced by slapping fabricated cases on them. A similar incident is also brewing at JNU, where the students are protesting against what they have monikered a ‘draconian hostel rules’ as we speak.
This university in Bengal is known to be the only traditional ‘left bastion’ in the state that refused to budge in spite of the rampant right wing onslaught in other campuses. All hell broke lose in the premises as BJP MLA Babul Supriyo was invited to the campus. The students who protested against the entry of this BJP leader were dealt with in a true authoritarian style.
The MLA was invited there on the behest of the growing ABVP community. This hitherto dormant group have suddenly flowered since 2014, when their masters came to power. Playing victim, the MLA appeared on major news channels claiming it was the students who attacked him and if it weren’t for an official who arrived at the spot on time, he would have been grievously injured.
The students were tagged ‘unlawful dissenters’ and were threatened with dire consequences for their involvement in the protest.
All of this sounds very promising for the authoritarian, surveillance state our national leaders are envisaging. In British India, it has been recorded, the officials recognising the importance of ‘moral force,’ the first lesson in primary class text books were often – the benefits of British rule.
Following the same model, it was reported, schools in Gujarat had assigned students to prepare essays praising the abrogation of Article 370. Despite all its faults, the BJP has been following closely the path trod by the colonial masters to whom their forefather (Savarkar) had sworn loyalty.