Armed Police Stop Solidarity Protest at Lucknow University
‘The state has failed to provide employment’
After Bihar, and the brutal crackdown on students in Prayagraj by the police, Lucknow University students organised a protest in solidarity with fellow students in Bihar and in Prayagraj.
“We stand in solidarity with all students who have been beaten by the police simply for asking for employment,” said Sadaf Tasneem, student leader who was part of the protest.
Talking to The Citizen, Tasneem regretted that the police did not allow the students to complete the peaceful march that they had organised.
Along with other student organisations like AISA, NSUI and the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha, a protest march was held at the Lucknow University campus on Thursday. The protestors collected at gate number one of the University and were marching towards a nearby crossing to burn a copy of the notice issued by the railways.
The notice threatens to ban students from appearing in future examinations and appointments in the railways if they are found participating in student protests. The students in Lucknow were stopped outside the university gate itself by an armed police force whose strength outnumbered the protestors.
Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University says its a shame that there is no one to address the plight of students. The students are justified in voicing their problems, and protesting peacefully.
“The state has failed to provide employment. The youth is jobless and restless. It is the right of the students to be concerned about their future and to demand proper education and employment from the government,” says Verma.
“The student protests can pose serious problems for both the state and central governments similar to the farmer’s movement. Because both farming, and unemployment amongst the youth are national issues that can quickly unite protestors countrywide,” fears Ambrish Kumar, senior journalist and former student activist.
The Lucknow based Kumar is reminded of the 1974 student movement and how it had shaken those in power at that time. Pooja Shukla, 26 a LU alumna, Samajwadi Party member and activist for student rights told The Citizen that the student protests did not begin three days ago in Bihar, but at the University of Hyderabad.
In 2015 the university had stopped paying Rohith Chakravarti Vemula his monthly stipend. This was done because Vemula was part of a student organisation on the same campus called the Ambedkarite Students’ Association. Later he was suspended from the University of Hyderabad and in 2016, the student took his own life. Vemula’s suicide had led to nationwide protests against discrimination of Dalits by the state.
Says Shukla that the student movement has been simmering ever since 2014. Numerous hurdles are faced by the youth today like fear of doing away with reservations, hike in education fees, restriction on topics to be studied and disemployment.
The student movement had spread to various campuses around the country in 2016, and Vemula’s suicide has not been forgotten by the student community to this day.
Indian Railways is one of the world’s largest employers with 1.4 million people as its workforce. The railways conduct the world’s biggest online recruitment to hire employees, and railway jobs are one of the most sought after jobs. Railways is the backbone of the government as well as the economy. However, students who appeared for exams for a job in the railways as far back as 2019 have not heard from the authorities.
The students want to know whether the railways will provide them employment or not? “The present government is not in the habit of answering any query of citizens. It knows only to force shut the voice of the people and to intimidate citizens by using force,” Shukla says who is known for her fearless talk on issues of national interest.
Shukla shot to fame in 2017 after she was caught waving black flags at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath when he visited the Lucknow University. Shukla was protesting against a program that was organised for the RSS with university funds. After her complaints were unaddressed she decided to wave black flags at the Chief Minister.
Shukla was also arrested for voicing her concern over the Citizen Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens in 2019. Youngsters like Shukla are in no mood to suffer injustice any longer, and are ready to fight for the future.