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Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Do you know about the Navnirman Andolan? Gujarat 1973-74? Okay, you would not know... but PM Narendra Modi, he must know... because he was a part of it...
A student strike against a fee hike in hostel food, became such a massive agitation against corruption across Gujarat, that in 3 months it led to the fall of Congress CM Chimanbhai Patel and his government.
Emergency and Students' Protests
In 1975 too, during the Emergency, as a student and RSS pracharak, Modi organised protests in Gujarat, spending months underground.
At the same time, in Delhi, his late colleague, Arun Jaitley, then a firebrand ABVP leader and DU Student Union President, was jailed for leading anti-Emergency protests.
Across India, thousands of students, many inspired by Jaiprakash Narayan, were on the streets – among them young Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh – all youth leaders then.
Click on the player below for the full podcast.
It's in a Student's DNA to Protest, Agitate, Express Dissent
So, what’s my point? The point is that for students to protest, agitate, express dissent against what they see to be wrong, is in a student’s DNA! When they are young, idealistic, sensitive, aware of what’s going on around them, and have a strong view about it, when they are full of energy, and unafraid, then, of course, they will PROTEST!
In fact, if something questionable was taking place in the country, and I was vice chancellor of a university and my students stayed SILENT, I would be worried. Because it’s the job of our universities to produce responsible citizens, and so, when faced with wrong-doing, they must protest. Peacefully. It's their right, it's their duty.
JMI, JNU, AMU Often Called 'Anti-National', Top Government-Ranked Central Varsities
And so, it is no surprise that Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), which was the hub of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, has been ranked Number 1 among Central Universities by the Ministry of Education. And, no surprise either that JNU and Aligarh University, both also regularly in the news for student protests, are at number 3 & 4 on this list.
Measured on parameters such as student diversity, quality of faculty, student-teacher ratio, campus infrastructure, quality of research, job placement – these universities scored high in all of them.
And yet, a few months ago, this is what we saw in Jamia – police assaulting students in the university library. Similar police violence was seen Aligarh Muslim University too. And this is what we saw in JNU – masked attackers targeting students and property, while police did nothing.
Students from Jamia and JNU are currently under arrest, under laws meant for terrorists. Some have been charged with sedition, some accused of conspiracy and sparking the violence in Northeast Delhi in February this year.
Former Jamia Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung, speaking to The Quint defends Jamia’s student protests – he says Jamia produces educated, responsible citizens of India, not mechanical robots. And so, if they want to bring something to the government’s attention, they will.
Jamia – First Nationalist College Set up Without British Funding
To those who give Jamia the tag of ‘anti-national’, Najeeb Jung points out that 30 Jamia students made it to IAS this year. And that Mahatma Gandhi pushed for the founding of Jamia in 1920 – the first nationalist college set up without British funding. After which came colleges like:
- Gujarat Vidyapith
- Bihar Vidyapith
- Maharashtra Vidyapith
- Kashi Vidyapith
- Bengal National University…
and students at each of these campuses took part in every major freedom movement.
In fact, the role of students from colleges across India in the freedom struggle are well documented:
- Fergusson College, Pune
- Presidency College, Vidyasagar College
- Bethune Women’s College in Bengal
- Punjab University Lahore, Madras Christian College
- Ravenshaw College Odisha
- Osmania University, Hyderabad
- Central College, Karnataka
- Maharaja’s College, Karnataka
- Ramjas College, Delhi whose students hid Chandrashekhar Azad in their hostel for several months
- Delhi’s Hindu College
- St Stephen’s College – it was CF Andrews, who taught English at St Stephen’s who was sent by Gokhale to South Africa in 1914, to ask Gandhi to return to India.
Yeh Jo India Hai Nah... the Less It Listens to Its Students, the More It Fails as a Nation...
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… whether it was a 100 years ago, in our freedom struggle, or 45 years ago during the Emergency, or just months ago, during the Anti-CAA-NRC protests, whether it was Modi and Arun Jaitley then... or Safoora Zargar and Meeran Haidar today... students have been India’s conscience keepers, and they must continue to do that.
Dissent is not dangerous, it is constructive. Peaceful protest is not sedition, it is badly needed in a democracy. Universities that produce students who speak their minds… we cannot label them as ‘anti-national’.
- Did 19 year old Amulya Leona deserve 110 days in jail for shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’? Her call for kinship among South Asian countries was idealistic, not seditious.
- Did Rohith Vemula deserve to be targeted for being an active Ambedkarite in Hyderabad University, should it have cost him is life?
The less we listen to our students… the more we will lose our way as a nation...