Student Politics in Jammu & Kashmir

Kr Swarn Kishore Singh
In the later half of 1980s, after the fall of Berlin Wall and subsequent falling of communist Government of East Germany, the students of neighbouring Czechoslovakia stepped in to topple their own communist Government. The agitation began with some hundred student protestors in Prague and within no time the city was flooded with five lac protestors. The most amazing and astonishing thing about the protest was that the protestors were peaceful even after the law and order enforcing agencies attacked them and instigated them to counter them with force, but surprisingly they didn’t. They stood like a rock and were calm like an ocean with one solid determination i.e. toppling of the tyrannical Communist Government of Czechoslovakia. And it took them just 11 days to force the Communist party of Czechoslovakia to relinquish power which consequently paved way for Vaclav Havel, a playwright to become president. This protest or some call it revolution was named as Velvet Revolution, 1989.
Infact since the later part of 1960s, the student activism is one of the cornerstone of politics globally. In 1968, the student activism had reached a pinnacle, whether it was May movement of France, black consciousness movement of USA, closing of all the universities of Poland after the debacle of University of Warsaw, West Germany student movement, Red square demonstration in Prague, Battle of Valle Giulia, student politics has shown the way to the re-formation of civilisations, nations and their politics. The students haven’t been fighting just for the academic freedom or university reforms, they have been fighting for civil liberties and against communist accessions, dictatorships, women rights and political repressions of a certain class or gender.
What happened in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 is a classic example of student activism wherein the students preferred democracy over life; the tyrannical Chinese Government ordered its troops to enter the Tiananmen Square and opened fire on the students therein. Not just guns but the troops had reached the square with tanks, this was the degree of fear of students activism in the then Chinese Government. What were the students in Tiananmen Square fighting for? They were fighting for issues like freedom of press, instilling of democratic values and rampant corruption by the political leaders of Chinese Communist party. Inspite of the fact that student movements have been crushed by a lot of dictatorial establishments, this doesn’t in any case tarnish the long and impressive roster of Governments whose downfall could be attributed to major student agitations such as Venezuela in 1958, Japan in 1960, South Korea in 1960, Turkey in 1960, South Vietnam in 1963, Bolivia in 1964 and Indonesia in 1966 and many more.
In India even in the British India the student activism was having its presence felt. In the aftermath of partition of Bengal in 1905, students of Kolkata’s Den Hindu Hostel burnt effigy of Lord Curzon and boycotted examinations to protest against the partition of Bengal. Infact for Congress back then, students provided much of the manpower for mass demonstrations. Even during the anti-emergency movement, when the anti-Congress feelings were gripping the whole country, the students and their union were the front-runners for expression of those  feelings. Be it the joining of hands of the socialists and Akhil Bhartya Vidyarathi Parishad to form Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti during the emergency or the anti-mandal agitations, the students have never gone shy from coming up hard against the brutal authoritarianism of the rulers.We as a nation should remain indebted to this culture of student politics for giving us scores of brilliant leaders who started as student leaders.Student politics is something which shapes the future of a nation and sometimes even moulds it.This is the extent to which student politics can affect the destiny of a country.
Student activism isn’t something which has a limited recognition, infact it has become an epitome of political participation and are so powerful that it has dethroned some of the most ruthless dictators globally. I have myself been a great advocate of political participation of students, albeit the participation needs to be regulated one. Political participation is a broader concept which can be construed and interpreted differently by political scientists and politicians. Political participation of students is a very new concept for us, since earlier politics was more of a feud than a public thing. It has different levels, types and degrees of intensity, e.g. stoning of a Government building, reading about politics and voting are different forms of political participation. Not only the difference of type of participation, the intensity differential is also having very drastic consequences. Therefore it needs to be regulated.
We, here in Jammu & Kashmir don’t have the structural psyche to make student activism flourish. In year 1966, when the whole world was waking up to student activism, our Congress ruled state was still resistant to it. The rulers of our state found it inappropriate to let student unite and express themselves. And what they were seeking is a university and professional colleges and not the moon. We lost three students of Government Gandhi Memorial Science College, Jammu and lot of others in other districts of Jammu to the brutal and tyrannical Government. Mind you, they weren’t killed due to lathi-charge or random firing but aimed shooting on the student leaders by police officials. Here we can easily co-relate to the reaction of J&K Government to the reaction of Communist Government of China towards the protest in Tiananmen square. When their contemporaries were fighting against the new labour laws in France, May 1968 protests, we were frightened and even murdered by our rulers for raising our voices not for some international issues but for certain academic issues. Infact still there is no structure which allows functioning of student unions in colleges and universities. And even if there is a student union body, they aren’t given the ample space in administration of the institution. The environment here in the universities of J&K are very insecure of student activism fearing accountability and scrutiny by the students.
In October last year, after some tiresome efforts, student elections were held in Jammu university and even voting took place. But somehow the stakeholders conspired to make the circumstances appear like a hazard and henceforth the results of the elections were withheld which are in same state till today. It is worthwhile to mention that at almost the same time  when a case was filed before Delhi High Court for allowing a candidate to contest elections for Delhi University Student Elections, Delhi High Court without stalling the election process came up with a verdict whereby the grievance of the candidate was redressed while keeping the timetable of elections in sync. Now the question is, similar issue, courts of similar nature and stature, but why different verdicts. It seems the delay in dealing the matter is a willing conspiracy of the stakeholders so that the universities can easily fudge up the admission process, bungle the funds meant for students etc with no accountability towards the students. And as far as Kashmir University is considered, curbing of student politics is understandable but restricting student activism in Jammu and Ladakh shows the insecurity among mainstream leaders therein and the inertia of our society to reach at harmony with the idea of new and young faces leading us.
We are used to have crooks manipulating us for votes and even when we know that our harmony with this idea has its genesis in the discrimination and harassment, we are very averse to disturb this inertia.That is why a crook with wrinkles and grey hairs is preferred over a guy with clear face, clean heart and a determined mind. It is time to change, let us allow the young guns to rise up to the occasion and let us not restrict them, let us hear them out, let us allow them to perform, let us allow our youth to express, let us allow our society to grow!
(The author is an advocate and a political and legal analyst)


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