Ban on Students’ Union in Kashmir is Democracy Denied

SYED TAJAMUL IMRAN

The student engagement in political paradigm of every society is important; student groups often perform important functions in a political system like mobilizing and organizing protest, petition, or lobby for political change. There was a time when politics was associated with only the middle-aged and senior citizens but with youth playing dynamic role in nation building especially in the developed societies of the world. It was the youth of France who led the freedom campaign of Algeria in the streets of Paris.

Kashmir as we know has been a turbulent political zone and on account of lingering conflict, has always hogged limelight for all the wrong reasons. With the onset of violence in late 80s the student politics was banned in Kashmir. It was banned as there was looming threat that students could be great catalysts for resistance and revolutionary forces. Pertinently, the Kashmir University Students Union has been banned intermittently since the armed rebellion of the late ’80s. Also, Student politics in Kashmir’s academic institutions has been a subject of debate for quite some time now.

Although, for temporary span of time the ban was revoked in 2007, it was imposed again in 2009 by the NC-Congress coalition, after students protested against the double rape and murder in Shopion.

This restriction on student politics has come at a time when role of Modern student activist movements vary widely in subject, size, and success, with all kinds of students in different kinds of educational settings participating, including public and private school students; elementary, middle, senior, undergraduate, and graduate students; and all races, socio-economic backgrounds, and political perspectives. Student politics and union culture is important to this dimension.

Pertinently, Omar Abdullah lead National conference has tried to activate some sort of student politics among the mainstream of Kashmir as has been the case with Rahul Gandhi lead congress though they have not achieved much success. Their lead student unions have had a temporary presence at the campus of Kashmir University without much success. On the other hand, the basic union in KU have never been allowed to flourish because of fear of Those in power.

But the manner in which oppression has been unleashed on student politics especially student unions has imprinted negative ramifications and casted more anger in the hearts and minds of the youth.

In one such big event, on May 17 2010 Kashmir University witnessed noisy scenes when students boycotted classes to protest against the demolition of Kashmir University Students Union’s (KUSU) office. The Varsity on that day made it clear once again that no student politics would be allowed in the campus.

At around 11 pm, a team of KU authorities, led by the then chief proctor Afzal Zargar and deputy proctor Nasir Iqbal, confronted dozens of angry students near Iqbal Library, who raised anti-authorities slogans and booed the decision to demolish the KUSU office. The students alleged that they were thrashed and threatened by the heavily-armed police and the authorities. The students organized a three-hour sit-in against the incident.

“The authorities started demolishing the office on Saturday evening when the students had left the campus. On Sunday, they razed it to ground,” said Amir Bashir, a student’s representative from Media Education Research Centre (MERC) and also a member of the KUSU had told media at that time.

The students alleged that authorities did not take them into confidence before demolishing the structure. “We were not taken into confidence before demolishing our office. We had recently started a membership drive. Many identity cards and other papers were lying in the building.”

Banning student politics by no means is an answer in a democratic society. The unions have many advantages and play a crucial role in forming policies of government in different countries. In modern democracies the representation of masses in general and youth in particular is vital so it is necessary that every citizen should on a proper representation in democracy, which vitalizes the role of student unions.

A common Kashmiri student questions that when in Delhi and other states Student union politics is flourishing, what hampers the practice in the state?

Every student has to pay the membership fee. Students pay fee for their activities out of their own pocket weather in colleges or in universities. Different Degree colleges have their own unions. Elections to student’s union are held every year, early in the session. First, a number of members of the Executive are elected. Then these members elect the Secretary, the President, the treasurer, and other office bearers of the union from among themselves. In this way, it is formed the cabinet of the union. It functions under the general supervision of some Professor-in charge nominated for the purpose by the Principal of the college.

Kashmiri student gets perplexed why same manner cannot be adopted in Kashmir and educated youth given a chance to express them.

The lack of any organized platform is one of the basic reasons of lingual and regional and other disparities in the state of J&K. An organized student’s activism can mobilize the students not only in the valley of Kashmir but also in Chenab valley and plains of Jammu. Students Activism can bridge the gaps between mountains of Ladakh and meadows of Kashmir it has the potential to connect rice fields of Jammu with the distant and remote parts of Gurez.

Even the Political theorists and scientists have repeatedly argued that democratic politics is not only about the ritual of elections, political canvassing etc. or appealing to dumb audience  but refers to the dialectical environment of debate, discussion, dialogue and dissent in a peaceful setting. The intention is not to bulldoze opposing ideas but recognizing the rights of others to have differing thoughts or ideologies than yours. The same should be the case for politics in the universities and colleges, according to these political pundits. Presently our legislature has become hub of amusement and quarrel. No parliamentary language is fallowed nor is there any respect for rule of law. This adversely affects the legislative process and academics so promotion of quality student politics/Activism is need of the hour.

Also in the recent JNU Row there was a perception that Union Home Ministry wanted to unleash a dictatorial and tyrannical crackdown on dissenting voices and students in Delhi, they should not make Kashmiri students convenient scapegoats, stigmatize them and ruin their careers and all this was aggravated due to absence of quality student politics and student union in the Kashmir.

The need of the hour is to promote student union politics and allow student union participation so that situation does not turn into worse.

‘Syed Tajamul Imaran’ is a Student activist, President at All J&K Students Union (AJKSU), an MBA, With the Dream of Breaking the Status Quo. He can be reached at syedtajamul09@gmail.com.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    Kashmir has witnessed unrest without any student union being allowed to function. It would be surprising if the government lifts ban on students Union. The present repression and violation if human fundemental rights would spur protests from all sections of society. In this situation, it would be too much to expect government’s recognition of students unions in colleges.