After massive irregularities including mass copying and paper leaks were reported in a recruitment exam for non-secretariat clerks and office assistants in Gujarat on 17 November, students from across the state have been protesting and demanding that the exam should be re-conducted.
The agitation is underway in the capital city of Gandhinagar and with political leaders like Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel joining the protest, Vijay Rupani’s BJP government is under pressure.
On 5 December, the government announced that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was being formed, which will probe the alleged irregularities in the Gujarat State Subordinate Services Board (GSSSB) exam. The students, however, are unimpressed and say that the protest will continue till the exam is annulled and a re-exam declared.
Police Lathi Charge Protesters, Detain More Than 800 Students
Pointing at the injuries on his arm, Manilal, a protester from Sabarkantha, recounts the police crackdown in Gandhinagar on 4 December, “The police lathi charged and beat us. They say they did not beat us, but my injuries are proof. They surrounded and beat us, and then they say that nothing happened.”
According to a report by The Hindu, dozens of students suffered injuries as the lathi-wielding police chased thousands of students creating a stampede-like situation in the capital.
More than 800 students were detained by the police for participating in the protests.
‘SIT Not Enough’
“The proof which the government authorities and the police should find is being collected by the students instead. So, what is the government doing then?”Mehul Parmar, protester from Ahmedabad
Rohit, a protesting student, who has come to Gandhinagar from the district of Aravalli to join the agitation, explains why the formation of the SIT isn’t enough, “The exam papers had been leaked, and the media has been given proof of this. We are students, we cannot wait for a year for the SIT to make a decision. The government is wasting our time.”
Kandoriya Meeruben, a protester from Junagadh, adds “An SIT was announced so that we wrap up the protest and go home. We don't want an SIT first, we want the exam to be cancelled first. After that, the SIT can go ahead and those found guilty should be jailed.”
Political Support From Jignesh Mevani and Hardik Patel
The protest has received an added political impetus with politicians Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani joining the agitation.
Speaking to The Quint, Mevani, an independent MLA from Vadgam in Gujarat said, “The state government held a press conference with some student leaders and tried to show that the students have no remaining objections. This was done even though the students’ protest is still ongoing. Till the time CM Vijay Rupani announces a re-exam, this protest will continue.”
Gujarat’s Junior Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja has stated that the government has ruled out the option of cancelling the exam and conducting a retest, but can the continuing agitation by the students force the government to change its stand?