By: Prapanna Lahiri
The question whether students should be allowed to take an active part in politics or they should be kept at arms length from politics has always been a burning issue in popular discourse. It has remained a vexed question with arguments on both sides of the opinion divide. Those favouring students’ participation in politics argue that students as the backbone of the society must be allowed to have their full say for the welfare of the student community, for betterment of the society, for prosperity of the nation and for lasting peace in the world. Those against this viewpoint argue that students have nothing to do with the politics of the country and they have to devote their full attention to their physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual growth.
More realistically speaking, students should be allowed a say in matters affecting their interest, in regard to their problems and in getting those problems solved in the right way. Gone are the days when people thought a student’s life was the life of penance and hardships. The students must be involved in their own affairs and the best way of teaching was the one that is participative with dialogues and discussion, since every student is guided by some inspirations and some sentiments. Politics is defined as a science which deals with the promotion of the general welfare of the nation and its people. Since students are an important organ of the society, welfare of the student community ensures a better society. Therefore, per se, there should not be two opinions regarding the desirability of students taking part in politics in so far as studying and understanding the laws which govern the prosperity of their country is concerned — provided, of course, that they are old enough to study with profit. Many path breaking sociological or political ideas originated in the community of students in the universities.
The scenario in India:
Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller scholar describing his stay with the students of the Nalanda University, the ancient seat of learning, wrote that he was impressed to see that students had the full right to express themselves. They did not have to follow the teacher; serving of teacher does not mean captivity of the intellect.
Indian politics today has earned a reputation for being associated with all things negative. The country’s politics has lost much of its dignity with common scenes on prime television, of our elected representatives indulging in unruly behaviour within the legislature and hurling abuses at one another. Where is the respect for democratic principles and regard for the constitution? Politics, of late, is identified with agitation and unconstitutional methods. Similarly, students’ politics, has also adopted destructive means. Many students tend to undermine their studies disregarding attendance norms and think that copying in examinations is their right. Students’ politics has also been vitiated by meaningless violence, at times.
The bane of political influence on students has been intrusion of party politics into educational establishments. Politicians have started misusing young blood to meet their selfish ends. Many positions of office bearers of the student bodies are often found to be occupied, for political reasons, by students who had passed out and/ or had already left the Alma Mater. Such students’ politics, driven overtly or covertly by politicians, has often come to mean agitations, constitutional or otherwise, either against certain measures which the government of the country has thought fit to adopt or in favour of certain measures which the government chooses not to adopt and which the agitators think it ought to adopt. Politics of this kind has to be differentiated from movements on genuine students’ issues.
Instigating students into politics of agitations may escalate into ugly and undesirable violence while involving students in non violent constitutional agitations necessitates knowledge, necessitates acquaintance with the forms of Government in the country and understanding of the socio-economic dynamics of the country. The mind of the student is not sufficiently developed for this.
However, a welcome trend visible these days shows that the lure of plum jobs and foreign degrees have taken many students away from politics. Students are increasingly concerned about utilising their valuable time for studies and concentrating on building their career.