“Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high, where Knowledge is free..”-Rabindranath Tagore
Gone are the days when ‘Education’ enjoyed the naïve reputation of being noble and transcendental. With the rising awareness and the growth of the new media, namely the internet, the blindfold is out in open. It has been established that Politics and Education are intertwined in ways than one, and the latter almost always is forcefully molded to suit the former.
However every force has an equal and opposite reaction, and thus, the pressure exerted from the power holders, will always be responded with equal vigor by the ones on the receiving end. In this case, the students – a multitude of students.
The past year saw many such benchmark instances of student movements, where the students took the reins of the system in their hands, with the aim of safeguarding their education and rights.
The appointment of former TV actor and BJP politician Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) led to a wave of immediate unrest amid its students and the professors. They have been on a relentless strike ever since the appointment, with one immovable aim-the immediate resignation of their inept chairman. The multiple suspensions and rustication warnings from the authorities has remained ineffective in budging their indomitable spirit. The shared sympathies and support of various celebrated personalities has helped, transcend this college movement to the nation-wide topic of debate, ranging from the drooping standards of this world class institute, or the saffron ideology which might penetrate the institution’s pedagogy.
Another such bulldozed decision which met with the strong repulsion of students and teachers, was the implementation of the Four Year Undergraduate Program (FYUP) in Delhi University in 2013 .The program fell flat on its face since its very inception, the curricula was resented both by students and teachers alike. Multiple protest rallies of teachers, students ensued, which finally led to its ‘roll back’ in the year 2014. However, in the year 2015, the university introduced the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), which is seen to be the soul twin of FYUP, clubbed in the three years framework. Whether CBCS meets the same fate, is yet to be seen.
The agitated students of Jadavpur University in September 2014 managed to resonate its ‘cacophony’ through its campus and beyond, ‘HokKolorob’(Bengali: ‘Let there be Cacophony’), the motto of the protest became the trending topic all over. The protest primarily was to demand a proper investigation of the molestation of a female student in the campus. On 16th September the police, marred the peaceful ‘non violent sit in demonstration’, in the university. This ignited the students, who then demanded the resignation of the Vice Chancellor – Abhijeet Singh. For over four months the classes were suspended, students took to streets, dancing, acting, singing the tunes of protest. After four months of this agitated atmosphere, with the intervention of Trinamool Congress, the Vice Chancellor stepped down.
In March 2015 Jamia University, pioneered the #PadsAgainstSexismCampaign in Delhi. A group of four female students, started this movement anonymously, without any permission from the college authorities. They went about sticking sanitary pads with a quirky yet scathing one liners about the disturbing gender dynamics of the country, on the walls of the campus. Though, the pads were eventually taken down on the orders of higher authorities, the movement managed to create quite a stir in the masses about the prevalent rape culture and the stigma attached to menstruation.
Sadly, all these instances show that it isn’t the “heaven of freedom”, Tagore had wished for. Here the “knowledge” is not free. Here “clear stream of reason” had lost its way generations ago.
But, “the thought” and “action” is not dead yet. The spirit and the will to struggle is still alive,and as long as there is education, there will be students, restoring one another, in each of its tough times.
And as long as this symbiotic relationship ensues, India can heave a sigh of relief.