Sunday, March 6, 2016

Should students (be permitted to) involve in politics : 1

I heard it when I was a student and I hear it again now. 'Should students be involved in politics?'
Thanks to JNU, this question has come up again. The only difference these days the version sounds more like 'Should students be permitted to be involved in politics' 

Before I proceed on discussing the issue, let me qualify three things 
1. When I mean a student, I refer to someone, who has touched 18 years of age, for, at 18 they become eligible to vote. 
2. And when I say involve, I do not mean involvement in anti-national activities. 
3. And when I say involve, I also do not mean involving at the cost of their academic pursuits.

And on JNU. Apart from my view that that the entire episode is an attempt to divert public attention from more pressing issues on the economic front, I know very little of what actually happened in JNU. Nevertheless, it is tough to skirt the issue while discussing  about students and politics.

We are told that in JNU
a. Students were involved in seditious activities
b. Students worshiped Mahishasur
c. Students demanded serving beef. 

My view on these three issues are
a. I certainly condemn any anti-national stance. But, whether something seditious actually happened is for the courts to decide. I do not want to jump into conclusions based on doctored videos or data on number of used condoms and chips packets. 

There is no one way to define Nationalism. Nationalism to me is about people - not just land and boundaries. Land and borders are means - not the end of nationalism. Also, there is a sea of difference between being anti-national and being against the policies of the Government of the day - even if they are elected by a massive and brutal majority. Governments and those whose who hold the levers of the government are not Gods and are not above criticism. The legal position is that even judgments of the highest court can be criticized. The verdict of the courts cannot be disobeyed. Judges cannot be criticized. Motives behind the judgement cannot be questioned, but yes - Judgments can be criticized. And it is constitutional right of every citizen to question, criticize, chide, protest and demonstrate (loudly if needed, but non-violently) against actions of the Government that are perceived to be against the interest of the citizen. But, what actually happened in JNU and whether what happened was seditious are facts that we will know only over the course of time. 

b. As a practicing Hindu ( a phrase that I learnt from the Hon'ble HRD Minister) , I am perfectly okay with anyone wanting to worship Mahishasur or Mahabali or even Ravana - or remaining an atheist. The Asur communities revere Mahishasur and consider the Durga puja as a period of mourning. Mahabali is celebrated in Kerala. Ravana is worshipped by a brahmin sub-sect in Madhya Pradesh. Infact, while I would condemn Ravana for usurping Sita. I would in the same breath condemn Rama for a) suspecting the fidelity of his wife b) ditching his pregnant wife just because someone in his kingdom suspected her. I enjoy reading Ravanakaviyam as much as I enjoy Kambaramayanam. That does not make me a lesser 'Hindu' than anyone. And even if it does, one does not care.

Religion is a personal choice and the relationship between an Individual and the Supreme being an unique and personal one. Anyone who had taken an effort to read and understand the Upanishads would understand that this religion is wide and open for people to question, deliberate, discuss , disagree and ponder over. The strength of the 'Hindu' religion is its plurality - something that Abrahamic religions do not have. We have to cherish this plurality. In fact, it is an important duty to free the religion from these half baked belligerent, bigots of the parivar who in the name of protecting it , bring in so much of disrepute. 

c. I strongly support vegetarianism and would want all animals - including cows to be protected. But I know that food is a personal choice.  When, as a nation, we have no qualms about exporting beef, we should no qualms serving it to people who choose it.

So, apart from the fact that the second and third accusations actually sound amusing to me, there is nothing more on the JNU episode. 

Now, coming back to the question - should students be involved in politics, there are broadly four arguments that are advanced by people who oppose student involvement in politics.
1. Politics will spoil students - it will destroy them, make them corrupt. Sly politicians will use them for furthering their causes. 
2. We subsidize the education with our taxes - not their politics. So they better behave.
3. They are in colleges to study - not to participate in politics
4. If they involve in politics, they ruin the hopes that their parents and society have on them.

We will look at each of these in some detail in the next post.

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