Student’s movements are always almost counted as dispersed reactions to only ‘campus issues’ by the mainstream media and the government. However, we should keep reminding ourselves that students are a crucial part of the society and the unrest within the community is actually suggestive of the larger socio-political unrest in the country. This year the Indian educational campuses erupted in protest and directed our attention to the declining social, economic, cultural and political inclusivity in the country which is precisely why they were targeted by the fascist government. Let’s have a look at the resistances they have put up in the face of systematic silencing of dissent.
The Anti-Fee Hike Protests
1. Jawaharlal Nehru University
The students of JNU took to the streets as the authority highhandedly decided to increase the hostel fees of the otherwise subsidised university. The mess bill that was previously ₹2500 was hiked to ₹5500 as the university authority also directed the students to pay an additional sum of ₹2500 for the workers which ideally should be paid by the former. On a regular basis, the students have been paying ₹1500 as hostel fees per semester, adding to which the amount now stands exorbitantly hiked.
JNU that houses students from marginalised sections of the society have collectively decided to hold a strike for complete rollback and at the same time due to lack of any communication on the part of the VC has also boycotted the upcoming semester examinations. Meanwhile, the protests that had erupted on the day of the convocation had brought JNU to the limelight again after they gheraoed the HRD Minister in Vasant Kunj for 8 hours. This was followed by their call of marching to the Parliament that saw huge participation from the students and the teachers alike. The protesting students were brutally lathicharged. The police manhandled students with disabilities as well, scrapping their basic rights as citizens. This was a watershed moment that sparked and organised protests in various parts of the country to safeguard the idea of universal access to public education under the constitutional Right to Education.
The AIIMS Resident Doctors Association opposed the government’s proposal to review its tuition fees for the students and the user charges for certain diagnostic procedures like blood tests, X-rays and OPD charges for its patients.
3. IIT Bombay
The IIT Bombay for Justice, an independent collective that was formed as a protest organisation for the institutional death of Fathima Latif in IIT Madras, had become exceptionally active in creating solidarities across IIT campuses in India. It consists of the students belonging to the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Students Organisation, Ambedkarite Students Collective, the North East Collective and the other students on campus. They function on non partisan lines and have actively voiced their solidarity to the JNU anti-fee hike movement and the draconian National Education Policy, 2019 that seeks to bring public education to the brink of privatisation.
M-Tech fee hike as decided upon by the IIT council members went up to 2 lakhs that was previously 50,000 rupees and they had also planned to scrap the MTech/MPhil fellowship of 11500. The protests are ongoing as the authority has taken no definitive stand and has only mentioned a ‘partial rollback’. However, the students had successfully managed to achieve the fellowship hike in PhD that had increased to 31000 rupees from 25000 rupees, on the basis of an independent mobilisation.
4. Indian Institute Of Mass Communication (IIMC)
IIMC also protested against fee hikes and the increase in hostel and mess charges. After peacefully protesting for 14 days against the hike, the students could successfully bargain with the authority and the latter agreed to accept the demands of the students. The students joined the protests after completion of their semester exams and refused to boycott their academic activities. The institute had recently hiked the annual fee for Hindi and English journalism courses from 79000 rupees to 95000 rupees and even more for several other departments. The protests saw the circular of the hike being taken back and more attention was directed to the vacancy of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that wasn’t filled this year, hence revealing the unequal access to specialised education in India.
5. Presidency University And Other Universities In West Bengal
The SFI in West Bengal had been exceptionally proactive in mobilising students against fee hike, corruption in admission procedure and undemocratic practices in campus. They have given call for ‘Save Democracy Save Education’ in line with the protests in Delhi. The Presidency University authority had shown complete insensitivity to students’ concerns and until today the governing body has no student representative. The newly elected students’ union now gears up for student’s representation in the governing body. The hike had been effectuated by the authority two years back wherein the union fee was increased from 300 to 500 and the subsequent years also saw a hike in the counselling fee and an application form now costs 500 that was previously 200.
Anti NRC CAA NPR Protests
6. Guwahati University
Assam had been the earliest site for protests against the CAA since the time the Citizenship Amendment Act was at its inception. Assam that has a history of ethnic politics and violene saw unmeasured agitation in the last few months. Guwahati University had been the epicentre of these protests. The North East Students’ Organisation had been exceptionally vocal in the protests and in Guwahati the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU), one of the major constituents of NESO, held a demonstration at Raj Bhawan.
Besides Assam, student’s organisations in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram also joined the protests. The major areas of dissent as expressed by the AASU was that the Bill would intensify the immigration of Bangladeshis into their lands that would threaten their socio-cultural, economic and political fabric rendering them minorities in their own lands. The Bill also proposes to relax the time of residence for granting of citizenship from 11 years to 6 years. The slogans of ‘BJP go back, RSS go back/ Narendra Modi Murdabad/ Withdraw CAB/Assam Rejects CAB’ made the headlines.
Students from Tezpur University, Dibrugarh University and Cotton University also joined the protests. After the passage of the Bill that introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act to the political landscape of India, the AASU along with other students took part in the ‘gana satyagraha’ in Guwahati. In Latasil, the police brutally used violence to quell the protests and detained over 2000 protestors bringing Assam to a standstill with complete internet suspension.
7. IIT Guwahati
As the students in Assam resolved to fight BJP’S undemocratic politics, the students from IIT Guwahati also joined the protests. They took out a torch rally from the main entrance of the premier institute opposing the Act. This saw participation from various quarters of the student’s community as well as the professors who called the Act ‘unconstitutional’ and ‘communal’. A large number of students from polytechnic institutes also boycotted their exams and staged a blockade at various places and more than 100 students were arrested.
8. Jamia Millia Islamia University
JMI had witnessed unmeasured violence amidst the anti-NRC-CAA protests and had given a clarion call for the youth to join the movement on a national scale. JMI was in the midst of a peaceful protest against CAA and while they were returning back to their campus, police opened tear gas, flash bombs and lathicharged the protesting students with instances of the former barging inside the washrooms to attack women students, libraries, mosque, hostels and so on.
The democratic university space was mobbed by the Delhi police to rampage and terrorise to such an extent that students who were injured were dragged out of hospitals and were detained. The impunity with which the police violated the university space could be viewed through the narratives of the students who are now terrorised and had been forced to vacate the campus to return home, and in some cases, even missing their examinations.
However, JMI though bled that night is far from broken. It is out on the streets and had reclaimed their rights as citizens and the protest also garnered support from the parents of the aggrieved students. The JMI authority however had assured a fact finding report on the role of the police and the students also received support from human rights lawyers activists and journalists. The Delhi Police has been criticised by multiple parties for their inhuman handling and rioting but that had hardly deterred them. They could still be seen indiscriminately detaining students the moment they would step out in the streets to protest. The incident that had occurred at JMI also saw some intriguing participation of female students who led the protests at the forefront and other feminist platforms gave a call for complete destruction of the ‘Hindu State’. JMI left the nation jolted and had made its mark in the history of protests. An all India strike was declared on 19th December that saw the young generation taking over the streets collectively.
9. Aligarh Muslim University
The same night JMI was rampaged by the Delhi Police, AMU was also attacked by the rioting UP Police. AMU was protesting against the police brutality that had occurred at JMI. They had organised peaceful protests in the hostels and police later barged inside the campus at night and turned violent at the students using stun grenades. The police left the students seriously injured and parts of their bodies amputated. The university area that turned into a war zone now bears a desolate look with students being forced out of their hostels and the internet suspended.
The students nowhere to go had to end up in Delhi clueless as to how they would go back home as none of them had their tickets booked. The university authority had been equally callous as they were the ones who had called the police to the campus and had taken the side of the fascist government. AMU saw solidarity from different quarters of the student’s community and the citizens of India from Delhi to Kerala.
10. TISS Bombay
The IIT Bombay For Justice along with students from TISS and other universities had also been highly active in expressing their disapproval of the Act and the police brutality over students in Delhi. Where IIT had received spontaneous student’s participation from the APPSC, NEC and several students against the NRC and CAA, TISS found it difficult to organise protests as the students didn’t receive faculty support for organising protest in campus. However they individually mobilised themselves and joined in numbers on 19th that saw participation of eminent personalities as well.
11. IIM Bangalore
The protests at IIM Bangalore was starkly different as the authority didn’t cooperate with the students and the latter had to abide by the prohibition orders from the Bangalore police. The students and the faculty alike staged a silent protest with blank posters and flowers. As they were prohibited from sloganeering and poster writing, their posters were empty. They entered the campus one by one and to express their solidarity, they left their shoes as mark of support along with the blank posters and flowers that signified peace. The highly symbolic protest in the face of heavy police deployment stands out as it marked the relentless efforts by the youth to take down the fascist regime and resistance a duty.
Movements Against Campus Violence
12. Delhi University
The current DUSU led by the right wing ABVP, without the permission of the authority, had installed Hindutva propagandist Savarkar’s bust in the Arts Faculty along with those of Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh citing that it was the long pending demand on the part of students. This saw huge outcry from the leftwing student’s organisation and the NSUI. The latter’s state president however blackened the face of Savarkar and garlanded the busts of Bose and Bhagat Singh. Confusion reached its height when police had to be deployed in the university area as the space erupted with protests from both the left and the ABVP, with the latter being forced to remove all three busts at midnight in secrecy and calling for stringent action against the NSUI. ABVP however threatened that it will place Savarkar’s bust with due permission from the DU authority in full pomp and show at the ‘right time’.
The aftermath of the rape and murder of Priyanka Reddy saw widespread protest in India. But the women students of Delhi University and Ambedkar University decided to reclaim the night by occupying the university spaces and the metro stations in order to signify their protests through an all night gathering. It saw a fairly strong turnout.
JNU in the midst of zero cooperation of the authority and the systematic targeting of activists in campus with few of the latter being ordered ‘out of bounds’, tried unique methods to keep up the spirit of resistance and preventing dwindling of numbers in the ongoing anti-fee hike movements. The JNU authority besides ordering a hike in the mess fee had also ordered for hostel curfews that were previously non-existent and dress codes.
The moral policing on the movement of students within their own campuses resulted in the latter locking out university departments and boycotting classes. The night time protests are spectacular in the sense that this time they had organised the ‘Guerilla Dhabas’, as dhabas were also targeted by the authority as those places had for time immemorial been nestling revolutionary talks ideas and activities after the day’s work had been wrapped up. Since most of the dhabas had to down their shutters post 11 at night, the students themselves crowd funded eatery joints in the campus. The women students at JNU had been at the forefront of the strike, dharnas and organising the joints as they collectively reclaimed the night now marking more than 50 days of protest through music discussion and art. The hostel curfews had been unanimously rejected and the spirit of resistance flowing through the campus.
14. Pinjra Tod
Pinjra Tod had for long marked its presence when it comes to voicing dissent, every moment the university authorities had tried to clamp down students movements in campuses. Earlier this year the DU authorities had send directives to the Central Library to close down at 8 pm well against its promised curfew timing of 12 am. Pinjra Tod voiced its concern for the disadvantaged female students who had to bear the double burden of unrealistic curfew timings in hostel and few numbers of seats reserved in the hostel, now also had to face library curfew!
There are students who have to undergo a lot of difficulty to access higher education and as a result of the new directive, their access to the same would be checked. In response to such arbitrary orders, Pinjra Tod organised an all night sit in protest with books in front of the Central Library at the Arts faculty to voice their dissent.
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The organisation also organised an open discussion titled, ‘Bus Teri Meri Chal Saheli: Reimagining Public Space’, at Ambedkar University. The important questions raised were the implications of greater mobility of women, whether the mobility through making transportation free for women in Delhi would also break through class caste barriers, the urgency of public funded institutions in the state in this era of neoliberalism, and how would the same public space that had been routine sites of gendered violence be redesigned and systematised with accordance to the needs of women and provide them with free access and safety.
15. NRS Medical College Kolkata
Earlier this year, the medical students of NRS Medical College was attacked after a patient died in the hospital. Two medical interns were seriously injured after the patient party attacked them as the latter thought the elderly passed away due to medical negligence. Following this, the NRS students staged protests crippling patient services. This was followed by their colleagues from other government hospitals to also shut down their departments.
The doctors demanded the Chief Minister to intervene and assure safety of doctors on duty and meet the injured. The doctors also demanded for the removal of the officer in charge of the police station under whose jurisdiction the college functioned as the former failed to take any steps in the first place. Later in the day the CP(I)M backed Service Doctor Forum issued a statement calling for suspension of the outpatient department at all private and government hospitals. The shutdown resulted in a whole lot of chaos with patients lying untreated at the emergency wards at government hospitals. When the CM refused to meet the doctors, the Medical associations across the country threatened to strike on 14th June, over unsafe working conditions in hospitals.
The AIIMS Resident Doctor’s Association declared a strike as directed by the Indian Medical Association. Most of the hospitals displayed black badges in protest across India. Resident doctors on duty worked with bandages on their heads as a symbolic protest. The refusal from the part of the state to consider the grievances of the doctor saw resignations of over 400 professors in solidarity with the students. The protest ended only with the arrest of the assaulters and the assurance on the part of the CM that their bail pleas had been rejected.
16. Aarey Protests In Bombay
As civic authority in Mumbai allowed the felling of trees at Aarey Colony that is popularly known as the lungs of the city, citizens of Mumbai including students protested against the move that would cut down 2700 trees for the construction of metro car shed. Protest was staged by hundreds of residents who had gathered to stop the municipal bodies from hacking down the trees. Mumbai police imposed section 144 in the area and arrested many and the local court sent some to judicial custody. Most of the applicants for bail were students who were peacefully protesting and were detained for the same. Students from TISS and Mumbai University took an active part in the protest.
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However, after some of them were detained the university authority didn’t show any concern towards the students. With examinations pending the students who had spontaneously gone for protests especially women, complained of being manhandled by the police. The students had sent petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case against felling of trees. The SC later constituted a special bench to hear the case. As 29 of the protestors were slapped with non bailable criminal charges, they were also labelled as ‘Maoists, Missionaries and Mollahs’ by certain section of the social media.
This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to this list are welcome in the comments section.