I have never had the chance to participate in campus politics as a student as both the universities or campuses I attended for my graduation and post graduation were politics free zones. My second post graduation in Malta gave me the opportunity to indulge in the same but the issues and ideologies were not something I related with.
This resulted in days when I used to meet my former schoolmates who were studying in Kerala talk about issues between SFI and KSU etc, and about university politics; while I kept quiet and listened – The few occasions when I actually had nothing to say. Politics for me at that stage was just the backbiting and maligning campaign that some “cool” kids used to practice in order to turn my then girlfriend against me.
It should come as a surprise that Kerala had such a vibrant political culture while its immediate neighbors Tamil Nadu and Karnataka seem to have almost none (The 2 states where I studied). Could it be linked to the almost blind “fan” following of the actor turned politicians of the state? Or is it the fact that the students go to college with the intention of completing their course and getting into the workforce in the prescribed time frame? Or is it that the state governments have taken away the freedom of expression from their students? Could it also be that the students themselves have no political inclination?
Whatever the reason may be, the recent incidents at JNU have clearly shown one glaring fact that no one including the self proclaimed “Lone Crusader” of India, Arnab Goswami fails to point out – The student politics of our country need a complete upheaval.
Let us get 2 facts straight before I begin my ramblings –
- I completely condemn the incident at JNU. Right from the anti – India sloganeering to the inaction of the university elders leading to intervention by the Delhi police. I will be writing about why I feel that this was a case of immature idiots versus matured morons later.
- I believe that students should be able to formulate political views and express them in campus. This is essential in encouraging students take a stand on social issues and also to easily identify and groom students with leadership qualities.
Now towards the upheaval of the current system. In order to ensure a healthy political atmosphere where exchange of ideology is encouraged and guided, we can start by applying a few of these rules or guidelines.
- Political parties should be banned from student campuses. In no way can any students union be linked to any political party. There cannot be any official endorsements or funding provided by any political outfit to ANY registered students union. Ideologies may overlap or be completely copied from existing parties but there can never be any official or unofficial support provided or requested from either side.
- Every campus should have a panel which audits every registered student union. The audit body will not only look into financial operations of the student union but also investigate all activities, affiliations, propaganda, policies and general activities of the organization. All meetings of the student unions will have to be registered and minutes of the meeting shared with the audit panel. This audit body will be a completely neutral body with both elected and appointed members at the discretion of the Principal/VC of the college or university.
- Every student union will be autonomous to the campus they are a part of. There will be no longer a District Head, State Head, and National Head of any student union. Every student union will be registered and be limited to the college or university campus. No higher body will exist above the registered student union outside the campus. It is true that student unions in various colleges will be united by common ideologies. Although it will not be shunned upon, it will not be legally recognized or encouraged.
- The management of the campus will be held responsible for all student union activities. Along with the elected head of the student union and the audit panel, the administrative head will also be equally held responsible for any activity conducted by the student union. This does not mean that the administrative head will have the authority to curtail any activity proposed by the students union but will have to ensure that no activity disrupts the main purpose of the campus – education.
- Student Union powers will be restricted. No longer should any student union be allowed to call for a hartal or bandh within the campus. The student union will not be able to disrupt the regular functioning of the college or university in any way. Protests and sloganeering will not be outlawed as the Right to Protest is one of the cornerstones of a fully functioning democracy. All issues shall be addressed through debate and dialogue. Issues of national importance can also be protested against – but in the form of blogs, white papers, street plays, videos, tweets, seminars, symposiums and any other activity that reflects who they actually are – students.
- Mock parliaments to be set in every campus. Elections are a central part of any democracy. But the true meaning of democracy is how things are done after the elected candidate reaches office. This is what the students need to learn. Right now with the political parties running the show the students are just used for campaigning and the actual functioning of an elected body is pushed down their throats. This is what needs to change. We need policy makers from these elite campuses and not foot soldiers.
- Study classes and certificate courses for elected representatives and key members of student unions. Many times students are led astray by their lofty ideas. The idea or philosophy tends to overrule legality and constitutional rights and freedoms. Universities and campuses should have academicians, activists and political commentators (Never politicians!!) conduct these courses so that the students are exposed to a variety of opinions from various angles and their political ideology encouraged. These will result certificates issued by the university and will also form a minimum benchmark for contesting in elections.
- All funding of the student union will sole responsibility of the particular student union. This is one of the main ways where ideologies are influenced and acts of political gain are orchestrated – funding and finances. To negate this aspect all the finances needed by the student body will have to be raised by the members of the union and all accounts have to be maintained without fail. The audit panel will also audit these records and any malpractice will be seriously dealt with. No donations will be allowed and all finances raised will be through student activities, sales, events etc.
I understand that what I have suggested might be brushed aside as aspiration of an individual with Utopian thinking. Unfortunately, our current system is in need of dire and immediate change. We as a country should take responsibility for grooming our future politicians, and not let the current lot of politicians influence them.