After the last year JNU incident, there is a certain naive group emerged on the social media which wants to abolish all student unions in universities. The argument that they give are, "Why so we need politics in institutions meant to study? Are the student there to do politics or to study?"
I want to start with an example of my own alma mater the National Institute of Science Education and Research. I have studied over 5 years in this institute and it has so many awesome faculties and I have very fortunate to have been with the guidance of one of the brilliant minds of the nation. But, there is also a side which is called the administration, and just like any other administration of any other college of India, the students in my college also are very critical about it. We students had our regular issues like
- Delay in releasing scholarships every month.
- Issues in Internet Facility provided.
- Funding needed for college funds not getting sanctioned.
- Non-Eatable Food in Mess.
- Choice of Elective Subjects in studies.
- Cleanliness issues in Mess.
- No Placement Cells for placement of students.
- Corruption in Administration.
and many more such usual issues like many other institutions of India. I am pretty sure every national institute faces such problems in India. Now, If we scale it down to other colleges which are not of national level college they also face the following difficulties.
- Faculties not taking classes.
- Out of Syllabus questions in exams.
- Open cheating in exams
- Cleanliness issues in classrooms
- No environment for studies.
- Corruption in Administration.
The problems that I listed above are mostly in Science and technical institutions. The Humanities background institutions faces more problems in additions to all the above ones which I will come to later on in this post. Now, the above problems that I listed are problems of Students which they face and ALL the times the administration are unable to resolve the issues of their own. There are natural and sensible reasons of why it happens specially in public funded institutions like NISER, Universities.
- The administration has a natural tendency to think that the students are their subjects because they are given the right to spend the money that public funds them.
- The administration receives salaries directly from government without having any accountability of their own.
So, the answer to those question will be straightforward. The need of the students cannot be understood by those who are not accountable to it. And to set accountability we NEED politics. So, the correct question that should be asked is, what kind of politics do we want?
Why do I say this? well, for that we must understand which kind of society do we live in? We must understand it's realities in as precise manner as possible. Whether we like it or not but politics today has become totalitarian in nature across the globe which varies in only certain degrees with respect to the place. It is so widespread that there exist NO social institution which is not affected by politics or which does not have politics in it. I gave some example of administrative politics in my institution and others. You might be aware of "office politics" too when you are working in IT sector.
On top of that, everything related to our economic development, industries, corporates, social welfare schemes, education, infrastructure development, type of market, labour laws etc. all of these things via utilising the tax payer's money is guided by political policies and practices which is made by the government of the day. The political patronage actually measures the benefit or the damage it does to a particular community. Politics control the creativity of filmmakers, singers, actors, celebrities on what there position is on a certain topic. (Ban on Lipstick under my burka by CBFC be one of the examples). It even affects everyone's personal life, "what they eat?", "how they dress?", "What slogans they raise?" etc.
If politics is so deeply enriched in our system, how can colleges, institutions and universities be an exception to it? I want to ask, "What is the GOAL of a college or a University?" To train students in a particular subject and get a job? If anyone agrees to this kind of philosophy they should come out of the ancient and myopic viewpoint that they have. Because it is NOT the goal of a University or a college or an institute. Don't lecture students on what they are "supposed to do" if you don't have a shred of knowledge of what they are actually doing. The goal of an institution/college/university is to prepare students to be ready for the unimaginative challenges that they will face in different aspect of their life and NOT to just get a job and sit like robots. And those challenges include politics which is completely amalgamated into it. Thus it is very important for an overall development of an individual's character and personality. And you must remember, building character is the FIRST STEP to nation building.
Another reason I have for politics to be needed apart from its presence everywhere is we NEED better leaders to lead the nation. Where should these leaders come from? At present, Indian political leadership largely come via money/muscle power or by lineage. Since, college politics directly links the subjects to national level or state level. It becomes a launching pads for self made leaders to be entered in political arena. We talk so much about India and pakistan. We always have, ever thought why there was so much dictatorship in pakistan despite Jinnah advocating a secular republic AFTER partition? Because of the differences in leaderships in both the countries. During 1970's when pakistan was fueled with islamic fundamentalism via it's dictators who were nothing but looters, big builders (nawaz sharif one of them) etc. Indian political arena was much cleaner at that point of time. Because the leadership in India was coming from three unions.
- The TRADE Unions
- The LABOUR Unions
- The STUDENT Unions.
Indira gandhi's congress and the Janta Government almost destroyed the trade unions in India. The labour unions are starving to death already because of their rights being snatched away and now the attacks on student unions will be the biggest mistake a nation can make. Student Politics actually institutionalise merit based search for future political leaders. You can have disagreements with any or all student leaders but asking to dismantle student unions will hence be inviting dictatorship at your doorsteps.
There are no student unions in our institute NISER, IITs, IIMs, NITs, IISERs, St. Stephen's (Delhi) and it is NOT a good thing because it does not allow some of the best minds to enter political arena barring few exceptions (e.g - +Arvind Kejriwal ) who make it against all odds and get criticized for taking up a position. Now see what the majority of 21st century politics is all about. Criminals, rapists, thugs, thieves, dacoits, rioters, uneducated, uncouth, old people enter politics. So, it is even more necessary for us to allow political thought to be nurtured in an INDEPENDENT FRAME of MIND. It is only irony that these institutions who are "non-political" take pride in political successes of such odd leaders.
The argument against my point of views are usually giving examples about the entire academic sessions going to waste to take part in political protests. Even for students who are willing to take classes are bound by their peers to participate in protests, strikes etc. I want to say to them that to remove this difficulty your pathway is not correct. The solution won't be to disallow any form of politics but to change the kind of politics that happen. Also, if a student is studying or not, let his academic performance be the judge of it and not you and me to lecture them about going to study.
Democracy is NOT about just elections and political rallies but it is also about dialogues, diplomacy, management, discussion, dissent in a peaceful manners, ideological wars in a peaceful setting and NOT using police or army men on students. The intention in DEMOCRACY should NEVER be to bulldoze opposing ideas but recognise the RIGHT of someone having an opposing IDEOLOGY than yours. The same should be for politics or universities. At present, both the national and college politics is poisoned with destructive elements like mainstream political parties, ABVP etc. This in turn also affects the academic and legislative processes.
I am suggesting an idea. We as a students should promote creativity and find new ways to protest via our writings, plays, songs, social media, internet without actually disturbing the academic discipline of an institution. Also, we must be peaceful towards others to give them a peaceful environment to study. For that to happen, an ordinance can be brought upon removing all form of grants given by a registered political party to it's student's wing. They can help in any manner possible to their students wing apart from giving any money to them.
Another thing that is needed to be done is grant COMPLETE Autonomy to the institutions which after this new regime came in the center is in grave danger. The institutional murder of rohit vemula being one of the prime example of it. There should be full autonomy to the institutions in the appointments of their professors, HODs, financial, syllabus selections, student selections etc. We MUST DEMOCRATISE our educational institute and bring in more transparency. We have too many bad appointments of VCs, HODs, etc. in institutes like MKU, HCU, DU, JNU etc. due to the political connections that they have. It is required that ALL the stakeholders INCLUDING the student community and civil society must have at least a say in these appointments. Regarding financial autonomy, I agree that it is very difficult to make an educational institute self sustaining without making it very expensive. At present the government subsidises the education of students. What I propose is, the government SHOULD hand over the money to these institutions to spend it as they deem fit with respect to their requirement. The hierarchical approach should STOP now.
I will strongly discourage the privatisation of educational institutes and use of education as a market in a free market world. The capitalists argue that in a long run it is going to help as more profit-seeking private institution enter this sector, the quality will increase and cost of education will decrease. But this "long run" argument is very vague and generations can be destroyed like pakistan due to this. Also it is an untested method and trickle down theory in my personal view is a hoax.
The misuse of police is pretty evident both in Ramjas as well as in JNU last year. The bigger problem at hand is the interpretation of history based on not facts but political ideologies. The new definition of "national" and "anti-national", the maaro pito culture, the Rape threats are all to fulfil political interests and agendas. The police is just a pawn of the political party in power which is not serving the law but the political party. If anything is to be fought against it is the institutions like ABVP which has no regard for law and order and is so high on power that every member of ABVP is honestly seen as a potential rapist at this current time.