In the last few weeks, students from various universities across the country protested against the CAA, especially in the Humanities and Social Sciences institutions. In a few institutes like AMU and Jamia Milia Islamia, the police had to enter in the university premises to control the situation. Many protesters including students, who pelted stones on the law enforcement agencies, were injured during the police action.
This has led to severe criticism from the liberal intellectuals; most of whom argued that the students have the right to protest, and the student movements led to reforms in the society, make the world a better place to live, lead to revolution, and what not.
It is true that the student movements had led to socio-political churn in the society, and along with the civil society had made significant changes in the society. But, it is not necessary that every student movement leads the society in the positive direction.
There are examples where the student movements have pushed the society in the backward direction; instead of bringing positive changes. Taliban, which means “students” but “two students”, was a student movement, started to reform the Afghan society.
In the late 70s, just three decades after partition, Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was started by the students of AMU (the head founding being a Ph.D student from the university) with the aim to make India dar al-islam (lit. territory of Islam).
The students from various colleges and universities enthusiastically supported the persecution of Ahmadiya community in Pakistan. The idea of Pakistan itself was proposed by Chaudhary Rahmat Ali in the early 1930s, who was a student at the Cambridge University at the time.
AMU was instrumental in pushing for the ‘idea of Pakistan’. In fact, the role of AMU in Pakistan movement was so instrumental that Jinnah once famously called AMU, “the arsenal of Muslim India”. The portrait of the Qaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah still hangs on the walls of AMU.
And finally Naxalism, the universities across India, especially the leftist bastions like JNU, Presidency College, Kolkata, Jadavpur University, Kolkata are among the recruitment hubs for Naxal and Maoist movements.
The violent Assam movement against the ‘foreigners’, which was extremely xenophobic and violent in nature, was also led by All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
Following the Jamia incident, the teachers, students, and the left-liberal media establishment also voiced dissent against the police entry in the university, which, according to them, is sacred space. And therefore their argument is the police should not enter in the university no matter what, even if some illegal activity is going on the university.
But, the fact is, in many universities of the country like JNU, Allahabad University, Jadavpur University, where unlawful activities have become common occurrences, police are forced to enter the university.
In the late 70s and 80s, Jadavpur University in West Bengal became a hotbed of Naxalism activities, the Vice-Chancellor of the university had been killed by the Naxals. Many students, sympathetic to Naxal cause got the training to make bombs.
Allahabad University, which used to be ranked among the best universities a few decades ago, became the centre of unlawful activities like bomb-making, hooliganism as well as murder in student body election in the last few years. The government gave police an order to enter the university to prevent unlawful activities and slowly all criminal activities were stopped with police vigilance. In BHU too, the government used police force and PAC to prevent unlawful activities by students.
The university spaces are sacred; no one could argue against it, but if the students and university administration allow the local miscreants to enter the university, the police would have to enter the university space to control them. Therefore, if the students and university administration wants the space to remain sacred, they must not allow anti-social elements and anti-social activities inside the university.
Similarly the student movements are mostly for the betterment of the society and for liberal values, but that does not mean that the student movements are ‘holy cow’. Many student movements like SIMI, Taliban have gone in the wrong direction. And the support for Naxalism, Maoism, and xenophobia could also not be justified.