A Declaration, A Pledge, A Caveat: A Voice from Jadavpur

 

Image result for raised hands

They want to curb our voices, because they are scared. They want to silence us with missiles, for they realise the power of unity. They want the world to understand that students aren’t meant to raise slogans. That students are, after all, sent to colleges and universities to study, only. They say, therefore, that students who look the authorities in the eye and protest against the injustice meted out to them have nothing ahead. They want people to believe that students have no role in movements; that they have no central position to play in politics. Why should students be involved in politics, they ask? Why should they be part of protest rallies when they’re meant to be in classrooms? Why, they ask, should a student have the courage to challenge a man in power? Why should a student dare to ask questions?

They forget how student movements across generations in our country have made governments fall, how the youth have always had the courage to bring down fascist, authoritarian regimes.  They have forgotten the power students possess.

You have definitely heard about the ongoing protests in Jadavpur University. You have read newspapers that report “gheraos” that lead, according to them, to the “suspension of classes”. It is justified for you to nod your head in despair over your morning tea, exclaiming how unnecessary such protests ultimately are. It is okay for you to condemn students asking for their basic right to form unions, one guaranteed by the constitution of the country.  It is okay because you are led to believe false notions by the state. You are forced to see what they want you to see: a bunch of jobless students agitating because they have no better thing to do.

You must have seen images of students protesting against the decision of the State Government which in an attempt to silence the voices of the student community altogether, has issued what was first called a Government Order and later a Gazetted Act, the primary intention of which is to replace student unions in colleges and universities across Bengal with a “Council”, meant to be “devoid of any political influence”, hence curbing the voices of the most important section of the society: the youth.

The Act, imposed on us by the State Government, curbs not only our right to form a union but also our right to voice our opinion.  Jadavpur University has always had a legacy of democracy and peaceful elections. Thus, the logic put forward by the Government along the lines of violence during student elections falls flat on its face. Jadavpur has never witnessed any sort of violence or disharmony during elections. While the government has tried time and again to champion the idea of a “Xaviers” model, which we think will effectively ruin the autonomy of our university, we, as students of a University that has an environment of democracy and open debate, see more than ever the necessity of putting forward a model based on Jadavpur University, where free thought still prevails, unlike most other places in the country.  We, at JU, believe that this law will not only harm the environment of free thinking within the campus but also affect the basic functioning of the University.

The Act proposes to bring about one Council to replace the three Unions that exist for the three faculties- arts, science and engineering, an idea that is extremely unscientific, to say the least. It is impossible for one council to tackle the issues of all the three faculties, consisting of at least forty odd departments. In addition, it proposes the presence of nominated members in the Council, instead of elected representatives who run our union, hence imposing on us an undemocratic and unacceptable act that the student fraternity does not embrace.  It is unscientific, proposing one class representative per class, without taking into account the strength of the class. We feel that such changes will bring about a situation where our individual problems will not have enough scope to be addressed and important issues at large will lie untouched.   At JU, the student fraternity at large realises that the Council will destroy what we have most often associated with Jadavpur: a sense of democracy, tolerance and concern for everything that happens around us.  The Act intends to turn student representatives into event organisers whose sole purpose is to welcome freshers and organise college fests. We have seen how a student union is way more than just that. A student union is our platform to exercise our rights and voice our opinions. It is a platform through which we can directly confront the administration whenever we are done wrong.  It is a platform through which we can fight for one another, holding each other’s hand in a firm grip. It is way more than a union room, made of four brick walls.  The union, to us, are the voices of dissent that have the power to change everything wrong with the system. The union, to us, is the support that a fresher gets from his seniors during the admission process. The union, to us, is the relief with which the parent of an outstation student can return home, because a hostel is arranged in almost no time. The union, to us, is the phone call that a student can make to her senior to talk about the problems she faces in the campus and outside it.

The implication of the Act, however, is more dangerous that it seems. The state consciously attempts to blindfold us politically, to make it easier for them to serve their purpose of handicapping students altogether.  The West Bengal Colleges and Universities Act has the power to prevent a student from studying in a college simply because he can’t pay as hefty a fee as another student, in the absence of a union that would fight for the right to access to education for all.  It has the power to impose on the campus the presence of moral policing which brings about a direct attack on the freedom of the students. It has the power to bring in more and more self-financed courses that charge enormously high fees, often preventing deserving students from getting admission in the University. This Act, is in fact yet another step towards the main objective of selling education in particular and corporatisation in general. This Act is one of the most regressive, undemocratic decisions that a government has ever tried to impose.

We have pledged to fight together the law that attacks campus democracy. We shall fight till our last breath to save the Union that is ours.

We shall determine politics, in a world where politics determines our future.

 We, the students shall not conform to the impositions of a government that intends to curb free speech and thought in order to serve the ulterior motive of privatisation of education.

We stand strong, united, in the face of overwhelming crises to combat the attack by the state.

“Solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

                                                                                                                        — Shinjini Mukherjee

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Platos Caves and Platos Caves does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.]

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