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Essay, Paragraph or Speech on “Students, Politics, Vandalism” Complete Essay, Speech for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Students, Politics, Vandalism

Where Are We Moving ?

Those who remember bloody episodes of student politics across Indian universities during the 1970s and 1980s may be forgiven for thinking that the gruesome killing of Prof Sabharwal in Ujjain is not so much a marker of a new crisis of India’s next generation, as much as it is a grim reminder of all that we had chosen to forget. Earlier student politics, for all its violence, still had the veneer-of a cause attached to it. The discontent it expressed was social; the pieties it espoused still made some gestures to social transformation, vaguely connected to the J.P movement, anti-Emergency sentiment, Left politics and other social causes.

But the veneer of idealism dissipated quickly. What was left was a legitimization of violence, politicized campuses, collapsing institutions, a close alliance between crime and student politics and the student leader as the epitome of someone leading an assertive and meaningful life. Once-impressive universities, from Allahabad to Rajasthan, Lucknow to Mumbai lay in ruins, their problems compounded by an anemic faculty culture that could scarcely command respect.

That this politics persists is not surprising. When, as a member of the Lyngdoh Committee, one thought of student politics, two conclusions jumped out. The first was that the size of universities often had a bearing on the quality of politics. The larger the university, the more the number of affiliated colleges, the higher the stakes in student politics. The system of affiliated colleges is, with some exceptions, a disaster for wholesome student politics. The second was that the quality of student politics was a function of the quality of the university, not the other way round.

However, the apex court has tried to put a curb on the whole chain of the relationship between the “students” and “politics” through its recent interim order. The interim order of the Supreme Court on student union activities is important not so much for what it says but for what it doesn’t. The apex court has remained silent on persistent demands from sections in the country that student bodies should be free of larger political activities. The message is clear; such a demand is untenable. The court order does not state that student bodies should be kept outside the sphere of political influence.

This is unlikely to please students in the country. But in the midst of their displeasure, they would do well to think of the implication of such a regulation. Can, and should, students be asked to remain indifferent to the many political developments both within and outside the country, especial’ when these developments have a bearing on life itself? The question is all the more pertinent because the Indian Constitution allows students to directly Participate in elections — the most important political activity in the nation. 

If students are not to remain indifferent, then they will have to respond to these issues. And how can student bodies respond to political issues in an apolitical manner? Since the response has to be political, it follows that the students will act in accordance with one or other school of political thought as represented by the political parties. This automatically leads to their involvement in the general political situation. For instance, the issue of reservations cannot be settled in a meaningful manner by keeping the student community outside the scope of discussion. This is so because the issue of reservations concerns the student community and their participation in it can only be along political lines prescribed by the parties.

Politics is a dirty word for the urban upper middle class. Hence, it is natural that it would refuse to recognize such an argument. The middle class insists that students, even after the age of 18 — the voting age — should be kept in a cocoon, untouched by the world they live in. In other words, they should grow up with only their personal future in mind and with no idea about where the world around them is headed. This is a dangerous mindset and it can lead to the rise of fascism. A democratic society demands conscious citizens and that consciousness cannot grow by reading alone. Its growth demands active participation in union activities. The result, otherwise, is often disastrous, particularly if an apolitical student decides to turn political in later life; his armchair views then become a hindrance and a cause for embarrassment for all around him.

Much is being made these days of vandalism on the campus, particularly after the death of professor H.S. Sabharwal in the hands of some student activists in an Ujjain college. Such a tragedy cannot be condoned. It is nobody’s case that it should be. But such vandalism cannot be said to be the general rule on the campus. It is true that, at times, students turn against particular teachers and the unions take up their case but it is often found that the teacher is to be blamed. Even in cases where the union is found to be misguided, it is not the process of politicization, which should be blamed, as no responsible political party gets involved in such things.

On the issue of student politics, some may refer to those students who choose to remain active politically, but in an ‘independent’ capacity. In this context, it should be mentioned that this term is a misnomer. These students may be ‘independent’ in that they do not owe allegiance to any ,political party but can they say they do not subscribe to any political view ? Or are they ‘independent’ because they come from backgrounds that discourage direct involvement in politics? Interestingly, these ‘independents’ are almost all virulently anti-left in their political outlook.

The distance between students’ minds and real political and social issues paved the way for lumped elements to enter student politics on campuses. These students easily formed a clique with like-minded students and due to the power of money and the support they received from local leaders of different political parties, they easily projected themselves as leaders of the students and guardians of students’ rights. But the reality is different.

These so-called leaders knew nothing about the ongoing struggles related to different socioeconomic issues, moot issues in national and international politics, etc. They got ready made fuel from their political high command and spoke according to what they were fed. For example, if you questioned these leaders about the issue of Iraq they would merely utter terrorism as an answer. They cannot speak even a single word on the issue of suicides by farmers. They knew nothing about the Israel-Lebanon issue or the Kashmir issue.

As far as the demands of students were concerned, these leaders were always betrayed by the just demands of the students at both the local college level and the university level (like demanding a reduction in fees, protesting against the bureaucratic attitude of authorities, etc.) In reality, these leaders could not become the real vanguard of the students as they were related to those political parties and leaders who were directly or indirectly involved in or supported issues like fee hikes, the bureaucratic attitude of authorities., the corruption of funds, etc.

In this scenario, student elections become merely a show of money and power by different political parties. The issues of the students could never be addressed. Real issues and real leaders were always being snubbed and overshadowed by the power of money and by the rubbish politics of leaders of the political parties.

The Lyngdoh Committee

On the directions of the Supreme Court, the Human Resource and Development Ministry had set up a committee headed by former Chief Election Commissioner, Mr J M Lyngdoh, to formulate the guidelines for the conduct of student union elections in educational institutions across the country. The report specifies that there should be yearly elections, no donations from political parties, a limit on poll expenditures to 5,000 Indian rupees, a candidate age limit of 17-28 years and a ban on printed posters and banners. In addition, candidates should be regular student of an institute, have a minimum attendance percentage of 75 percent and no criminal record. In light of these rules, interference by political parties and outside individuals would definitely lessen. Students serious about student issues who can pay the poll expense can get a chance to become a real representative of the students.

With a limit on campaign expenditures, door to door campaigning would almost be required, and would definitely be concerned with real issues. The presence of huge posters, the usage of open jeeps and luxury cars during campaigns, the high power mikes and loud speakers all made the show glamorous. The phenomenon will definitely fade out after implementation of these rules. Another important point stressed by the committee is that no candidate should indulge in an activity that aggravates caste, community, religious or regional conflict, which definitely points toward the saffornisation of politics by different political parties on the issue of castes and religion.

Supreme Court Order and Few Concerns

The recent Supreme Court order is on the Lyngdoh committee’s recommendations and concerns elections to student unions. Perhaps the most important observation made by the committee is that a student must have a record of 75 per cent attendance to enable him or her to contest an election. This would ensure that students who are serious about their studies would only be entitled to hold office. Nobody can quarrel with that. Not all of them had stuck to politics in later life but their commitment can never be questioned.

The stipulation that political parties should not fund union activities should also not cause much of a problem in this state. Traditionally, the various student organizations here have depended on donations collected from students themselves. These days, there may be cases of funds corning from the top but this is never done directly and it is not clear how such a practice can be avoided. But it needs to be noted that neither the Lyngdoh committee nor the court has put a ban on spending. It has only imposed restrictions on the amount and the source. Student body elections have been seen as part of a larger electoral process and such a view has restored the spirit of democracy. Moreover, the restrictions on expensive printed posters should once again encourage budding artists in the student community. The interim order takes one back to a time when idealism still reigned supreme. Student leaders like Pratul Lahiri, Azizul Huq and Saibal Mitra were certainly a cut above the rest, as was Biplab Halim a little later. Money power was not in play then and if it has become a permanent fixture in student politics today, then the order should take care of it. The leftist organizations, in particular, should feel happy about the interim order. So should the Naxalites.

After these rules and regulations are implemented, we can hope that a disciplined student politics will concentrate on student issues and that the depth of concern with other social issues will increase. In the absence of these regulations, we can easily find out leaders like Shashi Ranjan Akela (responsible for the death of the professor) who do politics not for just student issues but only to sustain their hegemony over common students and local college authorities.

These days it is claimed that better career opportunities are keeping students away from politics. This sounds a bit strange. Did the activists of yore take to student politics because there was nothing else on offer? To suggest this would amount to humiliating those who had a mission in life. Today, when the economic crisis is actually deepening, there is need for a new leadership to emerge among student activists. The birth of such new leaders would require cleaner labour rooms and the Supreme Court order has perhaps sought to ensure just that.

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