“Individual Freedoms are not subject to parental approval, my lords!”: Students Protests in HNLU Echos Millenials’ Aspirations

Ajinkya

Even the HNLU students didn’t know, they were echoing the voice of a generation, or that it would be heard. Nevertheless, they have left behind very important questions that the people must be asking.

Millenials and Education As I am writing this article, I am watching presidential election speeches of JNU. I am amazed but I cannot relate to the atmosphere. This feeling of is shared by Most of the GenX and GenY people, from the upper class upper caste background have received their education from the privatized institutions opened after the economic reforms of ’91. Protests or any democratic processes are not even part of the institutes most of the students are taking education from. Though HNLU has democratic traditions, it could not be compared to the legacy of JNU. With a history of student protests, HNLU has never been a matter of public attention as it was recently.

HNLU: Classroom example of Corrupted Education Systems HNLU is a public university whose students’ body comprise of small number of students who could get through an entrance test called CLAT, and who could pay around 10 lac Rupees (mostly through expensive education loans) for the undergraduate course, with exception of the people from reserved category. Though, its education standards have been falling down since some time, the Vice Chancellor Dr. Prof. S.P.Singh could easily get his tenures extended repeatedly. Story goes around as how he once tucked himself in the half khakhee pants to attend an RSS event in Raipur. Not only have the RSS members have visited the college, I have attended Think India’s “Guest lecture on Nationalism” while in the university, where in the name of academia, an ex-defense officer pulled an Arnab Gowswamy like show.

The University had been run autocratically by the Vice Chancellor with assistance from his chamchas in the staff, who were the same people accused by the students for sexual harassment, corruption and moral policing. This gang of chamchas would regularly treat students and other faculty members with show cause notices on most frugal matters, fire/suspend them on account of their vindictiveness too. The one accused of sexual harassment have declared multiple times in his crowded classes, “Complain against me if you please, all the matters would come to me for redressal”. The members of gang have been on board the Internal Complaints Committee, Proctorial Board, been the Nodal officer for RTI in the University and the wardens of the hostels as well, sometimes, one person holding more than one positions. Thus the impunity has been shared by all the members in the gang, pertaining to the other matters they have been accused of.

Female Students & Pinjra Tod For the women students, this all came in addition to what they have already been facing within their own families and in the society as well. Previously when they attempted to paste posters in the college to send the message, the posters were taken down by the administration stealthily at night, before anyone could see them. Atmosphere had been successfully created to dismantle every voice asking for justice. Pinjra Tod protests came in during the gravest of the times, when the female students decided to say ‘No’ in unison, without feeling the need of justifying their choice of battle. For women, Boys joined in only by the midnight of the first day of the Pinjra Tod protests, and other issues also came up.

Pinjra Tod has been maligned at every institution where it took place. The classic question that is brought forth before protesting girls is that, why they wish to go out at night in the first place? Aren’t they happy being caged, safely? The HNLU women answered this question with the issue of library. It would have been “too radical” to say “I want no in timings because it is wrong to cage me in the first place”. People would have pointed fingers on their characters otherwise. The trick didn’t work, and a person like Retired Justice Katju declared that the girls only wanted to “mingle with the boys” as the values of society are changing and they cannot wait till marriage for sex. What if the girls only wanted to feel free within the campus of their own university? What if they wanted to sit on the lake side, writing poems or narrating stories? There are more than one thing that can determine happiness of humans and freedom is one of them. While the topic of Sex is fairly tabooed, it is very readily used by the society to discredit any group of persons, especially women.

Dirty Politics From the long time, whenever the demand of the in timings was raised with the ex-VC, he would always say that he would first take parental consent. Now after the protests, some of the demands have been met conditionally, the protests have now stopped. Undergraduate students, coming from apolitical backgrounds and raising issues which their parents won’t even support, could only do as much. There has been no assurance of firing the staff members accused of corruption, sexual harassment etc. Maybe, multiple complaints by students is not enough ground, even when the Principal Secretary, who himself took the credit of “outing the corrupt VC” to the student is the Care taker VC himself. Regardless of the hardships suffered by them, Shubhrastha, well known for being the voice of BJP jumped in to declare that HNLU protests were strictly “apolitical” and ABVP students were part of it. Ironical as much it may sound, no organizations affiliated from any political parties exist in HNLU. While she was only concerned about how other political figures appreciated the students’ struggle, and wanted to score in favor of ABVP, she had next to no concern about victims of sexual harassment, as its mention was missing in her special video message about HNLU on twitter and from her pinned tweet as well. It only shows how desperate a political faction was, from the “apolitical” protests. The student leadership was also “recommended against” the support they were being given voluntarily by the political leaders, especially from the “left”.

Students and Struggles Protesting people in our country are often viewed only as disruptive forces, never as the vanguards of the democracy. As a matter of fact, precious time of students has been wasted in demanding things that should have already been there. Who should the students be hold responsible for that? Since the JNU protests, it is almost a practice to blame students for disruption or to question validity of their demands. Why are the fingers of civil society not raised over the governments, who prefer their ideologues over competent academicians to head the universities? The NLUs, in the light of repeated accusations of maladministration in many of them, have been jointly demanding the status of “Institute of National Importance” for a long time, but do the rulers care about anything other than the Jio institute primarily, along with a few well known IITs? This is the situation of students in the public institutes; the conditions of students in privately owned education institutes could only be imagined. If the adults are taken as completely responsible for any wrong that they might commit, why are they not been allowed to make full avail of the freedoms of adulthood, and asking the parents for their life decisions instead? For how long and how strong must the students protest, to get their very basic concerns being addressed?