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Here’s Why We Should Have No Illusions About Student Unions

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Justice Markandey Katju writes that the student movements that start enthusiastically often end up as a damp squib. Most of these students have no scientific understanding of historical processes, but are only well-meaning youth with little in their heads.

The Students Solidarity March in Pakistan has whipped up a lot of hoopla and brouhaha not only in Pakistan but also in the Indian subcontinent. The sight of the leather jacketed Arooj Aurangzeb singing ‘Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai’ has created great excitement, as if a revolution or some great change was on the doorstep, like an Arab spring.

While I support the movement, my own view is that this burst of youthful enthusiasm will last only for a month or two, and then end up as a damp squib, like the Anna Hazare anti-corruption agitation and the anti-rape (Nirbhaya) agitation in Delhi. Then it will be business as usual. It reminds me of a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Most of these students have no scientific understanding of historical processes, but are only well-meaning youth with little in their heads.

The ‘revolutionary’ heroes of the 2016 JNU ‘Azadi’ Movement in Delhi ended up by being exposed as careerists seeking to advance their political careers, Kanhaiya Kumar by contesting the recent Indian Parliamentary elections (in which he lost badly), and Shehla Rashid by joining the newly-created Shah Faesal’s party J&K People’s Movement.

While I generally support Indian and Pakistani youth in their demands, I have no illusions about them. While many pose to be modern minded and revolutionary, in fact most are casteist and communal, with feudal mindsets.

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It was students of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, Pakistan who lynched the liberal Mashal Khan, it was some students in Tamilnadu of the vanniyar or thevar caste who physically assaulted dalit students, and it was Rajput students who attacked Dalits in Saharanpur, UP.

I can quite accurately foresee the future of these agitating students. They will end up seeking cushy jobs in the civil services, or in a multi-national corporation, or as Professors, or abroad in America or Europe seeking a green card. That will be the end of their revolution and ‘tamanna’ for ‘sarfaroshi’!

The Students Solidarity March demands legalizing students unions. I too support this demand. But I have no illusions about students unions. Most of the student leaders in these unions are affiliated, or will get affiliated to some political party, and everyone knows that the leaders of these parties have no genuine love for the country but only an insatiable desire for power and pelf.

The student leaders will undoubtedly follow the example of their gurus in later life. Many of these student leaders are hardly students, and often remain ‘students’ well into their middle age. Some are rank goondas. That is what I personally saw when I was a student of Allahabad University (1963-67).

So good luck to these students. No doubt ‘hungaama hai barpa’ because of their brave ‘revolutionary’ activity, but I fear it will end not with a bang but a whimper.

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