Dr Kouser Fathima
JNU row has highlighted the importance of student movement in a democracy. A healthy democracy allows debate, discussion by its citizens and students in particular.
Students being the future of the nation should be encouraged to question and debate norms of the society.
Student organisations from ages have always been in the forefront of raising controversial issues which are otherwise brushed under the carpet.
Student bodies have actively been involved in matters related to both social norms or political equations. Both pre and post independence the student bodies have played active role in politics of the nation.
They’ve been criticised at times while on other occasions, they have been encouraged for their role but it has not dissuaded the student bodies from being actively involved in political movements.
During the pre-independence era, student organisations such as All India Students Federation (AISF) and National Students Union of India (NSUI) played a vital role in mobilising youth against the colonial rule.
In post Independence India, student bodies played crucial role in various protests, most significant among them being their participation in student agitations against the emergency, the protest against Mandal commission and Anna Hazare movement more recently.
With 50% of Indian population in the age group of 30 years or younger, active participation of student bodies in politics is expected.
All political parties have student wings in universities, so the foundation for proxy wars between parties is laid in colleges and universities. During political crisis the student bodies are misused by parties to fuel an agitation and create a bigger crisis.
This has led to many academicians strongly criticising student politics in universities but political analysts are for the continuation of student bodies. Argument put forth is that the student bodies provide a platform for the youth to address, discuss and debate national issues.
These student bodies have played important roles in highlighting various social issues and have repeatedly raised voice against capitalism, poverty, casteism and terrorism.
The American ambassador Richard R Verma has rightly said that universities are laboratories of thoughts and with diversity comes different viewpoints, which is also a part of democracies.
A mature democracy should welcome different viewpoints, encourage students to question and not be curb their enthusiasm.
With competitive education system in place, many college students are now only forced to concentrate on securing higher percentage in exams to ensure admissions in better universities and searching lucrative jobs both within and outside the country.
At times the student movement gets misguided due to undue political interference, there’s an urgent need to control such interference.
Anti national and anti social activities should be curbed but few incidents should not be used to curtail the freedom of student bodies at large. These students are the future of the country and that’s where the future political leadership is groomed.
Forcing ideologies and manipulating their views for political gains will surely backfire. Proper guidance and able handling of student issues will help in creating a positive environment for nation building.
Anti national activities should not be tolerated but undue political interference should be avoided. Law should be allowed to take its course but media trials and hounding of students would be deterimental to the nation.
The author is a Bangalore-based psychologist