JNU Fee Hike: The Demand For Free Education Is A Right, Not A ‘Fuss’

First, you feel happy when others struggle and suffer. But when suffering comes to you, no one is left to help.

One of my friends was highly frustrated and depressed because the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) would not declare the CGL 2017 result even after two years. He sporadically told me that not many people were supporting their protest at the Allahabad SSC office, and the mainstream media had entirely ignored their struggle.

Ironically, only Ravish Kumar, of whom this friend has always been a committed hater, came forward to highlight the whole problem on prime time news. A few days back, I saw him spreading hateful memes on JNU students and their protest against the fee hike.

The above is just one example of many people around us who are good at mocking others in pain but start crying when it comes to their own struggles. Let me also tell you that this is not an individual problem, but an organised and cultivated reality by some people to fulfil their vested interests.

The development of stereotypes, prejudices, and hate among people is their success. Social media has become a tool to further transmit this epidemic. Their success has left us fighting with each other over irrelevant and petty issues while prohibiting us from uniting on legitimate questions of education, health, and employment.

“So, why should I care? the fee hike issue is applicable to JNU or IIT-MTech students.” This is how most of us think (including the ones who are protesting now). Is this a sign that we have forgotten empathy? Or have we become too imprudent and ignorant of the future?

Furthermore, those who are busy examining the amount of fee hikes, laughing, and comparing it with the fees of other universities or their monthly cigarette bill, are only digging a grave for their future generations in terms of denial to Right to Equality.

Time also writes a history of those who maintain silence. I must also say here that everyone loves good food and sound sleep, no one enjoys being lathi charged by the police or water cannons.

But why should anything be given for free? It appears that this nonsensical argument is frequently raised by those belonging to the upper-middle class whose previous generations themselves have obtained a comfortable business/government position because of subsidised education and other social inclusion policies of the state.

Now, since they have accumulated wealth, out of which they can afford their kids’ private college fees, perhaps their brain is wriggling to hold on to power and establish a hegemony and supremacy of the rich. No doubt, tomorrow, some of these people may take up the job of questioning the right to free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years envisaged in Article 21A of the Constitution of India.

Let us discuss the broader question. Can we purchase everything with money? In other words, are we making a system, where only those people, who have accumulated over a lakh be allowed to breathe oxygen, or get paracetamol, or obtain a graduate degree?

In my view, education is not a mutual fund stock where your investment will raise profits but a natural as well as a fundamental right, along with being the most promising means to uplift the masses, and hence I firmly believe it must be fully state-sponsored or subsidised. The liberalisation of the economy does not give privilege to the nation-state to run away from its duty.

Finally, the attitude of those who manage universities and government while dealing with these students’ protests only unveils the perplexing nature of an undeclared police state sitting at the head of a suffocated democracy. Before the minds of awakened policy-makers start rusting, before the whole machinery gets replaced by those who are experts in flattering the ruling class, the people of India, especially the youth, must awaken their conscience to secure and safeguard what they have earned after a long struggle.

Featured image source: Stand with JNU/Facebook.
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