Students played a very important role during the freedom movement in India and the political changes which took place after that. Post independence, there were two big movements in the country which triggered change – one under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan and the second under the leadership of VP Singh. These two movements occurred at a time when corrupt forces were gathering strength and a need was being felt to shatter the political standstill and stagnation. In both the movements, youthful forces took vigorous part. Today, once more a standstill and stagnation is being felt in Indian politics and society, the country is in the grip of corrupt forces and is struggling with a serious crisis. In such a situation, the need is being felt once again for a big and change oriented movement and it is now being headed by social workerAnna Hazare. Seeing Anna’s commitment to change, today’s youth is not only standing by him but also seeing the dream of a corruption free India with transparency in its system of functioning.
During his campaign against corruption social worker Anna Hazare has given further strength to the enthusiasm of youth by saying many a time that youth power is the nation’s power, but political parties, for their gains, have drawn the youth in their favour in such a manner that student politics and their issues have become those of the parties. The country can become independent in the true and correct sense of the word only when students quickly pull themselves out of this state and raise their voice against the pervasive corruption in politics. Young people from all over the country agree with this point of view of Anna Hazare and there are no question marks. They are also in agreement that corruption, especially corruption in politics, is the sole source of all the other problems.
But if one notes carefully, this thinking and view was limited to speeches for many decades. And nobody was coming forward to fight against it. Whenever students wanted to come forward and fight against corruption, the political parties agents sitting in students unions not only prevented them from taking the lead, but also raised obstacles. This is the reason why when Anna Hazare started a countrywide campaign for a corruption free India, students found an option and now students, accepting Anna Hazare as the leader, are uniting for the fight against corruption.
This fight has already started in the most politically and socially significant State of the country –Uttar Pradesh. It is with this thinking that students from all the States are forming an organisation in the form of a Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Morcha ( Students-Youth Struggle Front) with and in support of Anna Hazare, and with the concept of a corruption free India, are writing the prelude as preparation for a new movement.
Turn the pages of history, and you will find that students have fought a long battle to change a stereotyped system in the politics of the country. But the difficulties of the prevailing state, are not of one or two days, but have been there for decades. So the question arises, why a movement now in the form of a students front? Why is that in Anna Hazare’s ideas alone they can see a glimmer of hope? And why is the beginning being made in Uttar Pradesh? To explain this, one will need to understand the changes which occurred in Indian politics and within it, student politics, from the fifties and sixties till today.
The changes in student politics were in fact keeping pace with the changes in Indian politics. The politics of some decades preceding the fight for Independence and afterwards, was linked to the revolutionary spirit of that fight, especially the struggle for national reconstruction. When the country came out of this frenzy, the Congress Party had no Opposition before it. In such a situation, student politics emerged as important and significant Opposition throughout the country. At that time, the Congress in a way dominated the entire country. The first challenge that began to emerge before the Congress in the country was presented by students themselves. Several instances and incidents took place even then to suppress the voice of the students, as for example, the firing upon students in Patna University in the fifties.
In this period, students were becoming an important voice for political change. In the sixties and seventies, there were student movements in Europe, especially in France. Here in India, forceful student movements were on, whether in north India to remove English as the official language or whether, as 1974 arrived, the movement under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, which marked the beginning of a struggle to save democracy. In this way, if somebody played an important role in deepening the roots of democracy in this country in the true sense, it was students themselves.
According to Umesh Singh, former General Secretary of Banaras Hindu University students union and the Cooordinator of the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Morcha set up under Anna Hazare’s leadership, “It is a fact that during the period of difficulties that arose from politics in the country, the role played by students in bringing about change came into prominence in the seventies. Students played a leading role in bringing about change and made a major contribution to ending Congress domination and bringing about a multi-party democracy.” However, it was in the same decade that the criminalisation of student politics began and casteist politics began to enter student politics. The NSUI – the Congress Party’s students unit began this and then in response and counter action the socialists student politics also turned the same way. A question arises here: the same reasons and issues exists at present too. Then should
it be understood or considered that the students movement which is about to start in 2013 has rises above partisan politics? Dinesh Singh Yadav, a prominent student leader who is also playing an important role in this movement, says in response, “Students organisations are in fact accepting that partisan politics has harmed them. If we take a current example, at this moment, there is an election atmosphere in the country, but none of the parties are including student interests in their programmes or agendas.”
Our country will have the world’s largest youth population by the year 2020. But what will we do with this tag of a youthful nation, when 26 crores youth are unemployed right now? A senior student leader from Allahabad University, Rajesh Singh, who has been struggling for the interests of students for the last one decade or so, is of the opinion that “the State’s students have now understood that the political parties have only cheated and deceived them, have used and exploited them. Anna Hazare is against those in power and other parties. Therefore, under Annaji’s leadership, we are making the present declaration keeping the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in view, that students will support whoever includes students interests in their political agenda.” According to Lucknow University’s Shammi Singh, a student leader, Anna Hazare has understood the difficulties of the country and has explained the right solutions for them, and if now young people do not stand with him, then the day is not far away when one neo-naxalism will take birth in the country and its representation will be by unemployed students.
In fact, all these issues are included in Anna Hazare’s demand for the Jan Lokpal, therefore not just Uttar Pradesh, but students from other States as well are giving their voice to his demand. If this is so, it will also be necessary to understand what happened to the actual students organisations and why did they stray from their ideals and objectives? By the time the eighties came, students organisations had fully become ‘pocket’ organisations of the original political parties. And then student leaders began thinking that cheering party leaders and seeking tickets to fight elections for themselves was their main objective. In this manner, that students politics which was known for bringing about political change, turned its face towards convenience and opportunism. Students unions began to be used as launching pads.
In the nineties two big events took place in the country –first the Ram Janambhoomi – Babri Masjid controversy and secondly, reservation of posts in the Government. The movements in favour and against them divided student unity on a communal and casteist basis. The identity politics which sprang from the conflict between religion and caste filled student politics with poison. So is this poison becoming less now? The former President of the student’s union of Maulana Shibli Nomani College in Azamgarh, Mirza Shaane Alam Baig believes that “Ups and downs do keep happening in movements. But the true purpose of a student is to secure employment isn’t it.”
If you talk about the present Government in Uttar Pradesh, it considers itself to be the Messiah of the Muslims. Recently Mulayam Singh also raised the slogan ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Musalman’. But the point is that this Government has completed one and a half years of its tenure and old appointments have still not been filled up or reinstated, leave alone the matter of new vacancies. So till when will students be deceived by it? Student leader from P.G. College, Ghazipur, Fazlul Islam, who is linked to the movement presents his view and says that “reservations will be carried out only when the appointment process is completed. Talking about the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC), all the results after 2009 are still held up, whereas from then till now lakhs of new aspirants have come. Therefore, we want to give birth to a movement that will teach a lesson to those who have cheated and deceived us. However, for teaching this lesson, we will now move forward with a leadership that has an untarnished image, and its concerns are social and not political”.
There is also the question that political parties have been using student organisations for their own interest, then why do they not want their restoration? Actually, those in power have always been afraid of changes in attitude. In Bihar, the last students union elections took place in 1987-1988, even though Laloo Yadav himself came up from student politics and was in power for 15 years. Nitish Kumar too has come up from student politics but did not get elections held for students unions. Actually, mainstream politics always fears that students can create inconveniences for ‘us’. They can oppose their non-democratic activities. Those in power have deemed them inconvenient for themselves. This is the reason why after the eighties, the majority of universities in the country have been turned into virtual cantonments. Students unions began to be dissolved. The former President of the Kashi Naresh Government Post Graduate College, Bhadohi, Manish Pandey, who is also connected with the movement, believes that “the ‘hartals’ (strikes) and ‘dharnas’ (sits-in’s) and demonstrations that were held in the campus were turned into the form of a law and order problem. This is the reason why after that phase IAS and IPS officers in large numbers began to be made Chancellors, because law and order had been made the biggest issue or topic on the
In fact, these movements that took place in universities were not an issue of law and order. Mostly the movements that germinated on the campus were related to the decline in standards in the field of education, they were a voice that arose against ignoring students interests – but were given the tag of a deteriorating law and order situation. Actually, Governments attacked the united power of youth under a very well considered strategy. The NDA Government formed a committee through the medium of which it spoke of educational reforms and investment. The committee said student politics should be eliminated from campuses. Similarly, the University Grants Commission (UGC) formed the Mahmudur Rahman committe, in which it was said that because student politics obstructed the studies of students, a stop should be put to student union elections.The Governments were looking at student unity as an anti-power force, therefore they first inserted criminal elements in it and then, defaming them, began putting restrictions on them.
Taking this forward, Suresh Yadav, the former General Secretary of the Allahabad University students union said, “In fact, these were people ‘imposed’ by anti-social elements, therefore they were cut off from the students. When the Government began ‘eliminating’ them because of their opposition, the students too did not put up much resistance. ”
In fact, behind ending student politics there wasn’t any purpose of improving the atmosphere for studying. If that had been so, then universities in Bihar and Jharkhand, where for years there have been no students unions, would have set records by now in the field of education. Actually, this was a conspiracy to kill intellectual opposition in the form of youth force, and under a strategy all the political parties got together and finished off students unions.
Another question arises that those Governments which remained opposed in this way to student movements, how can it be hoped from them that they will accept such attempts immediately. Vikas Tiwari, the Coordinator of the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Morcha (Umesh Singh is the other Coordinator) and a senior student leader says in response that “Actually, student organisations no longer have any dialogue with the public and political leaders played a role in ending this dialogue. They have never ever said that student power is national power.” Former General Secretary of the Allahabad University students union, Suresh Yadav, says that “Wherever in the world there have been student movements or youth movements, they have never been on the issue of students, they have always been for change in society”. Whether it was JP’s (Jayaprakash Narayan’s) movement or it was a movement under the leadership of V. P. Singh, there was mobilisation against corruption and in that students had an important role. Be it the students movement in France, be it Egypt’s student movement, or the recent movement for a separate Telangana State, all these movements were not held for an increase in any fee or for an increase in seats. All of them were socio-political movements. According to a student leader from T.D. College (Ballia), Shriprant Singh, who is also associated with this movement, “Governments want that if students bring these issues and problems into ‘existence’, there will be difficulties in completing their plans. But now we have no fear of this, because we are starting this fight before the Lok Sabha elections, due to which the gaze of the country will be on us. Secondly, we are starting this under the leadership of Anna. He is touring the entire country and making the people aware, and with this we will be able to join in dialogue with people in the entire country.”
In fact, after Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement, the country has not witnessed any major students movement. Therefore, people are looking to this movement which is about to begin with even greater hope. According to Umesh Singh, the coordinator the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Morcha (Vikas Tiwari is the other coordinator of this Morcha), “Looked at comparatively, the vacuum that was there in JP’s time, the current vacuum is much bigger and larger than that. Today, the share of GDP which is being spent on education, the same share is being spent on the security of very senior leaders security.”
Actually, there are such issues prevailing in the country today which have been preparing the background for a movement for years. Certainly, in coming times, the entire section of youths will look with hope towards this new movement being started under the direction of students. In words borrowed from a ghazal by Dushyant Kumar, ‘Ho Gayi Hai Peer Parvat Si..’ ( the tyranny has grown into a mountain ), to melt which there was urgent need for such a step, the results of which will be far reaching.