NEW DELHI: This conclave is taking place at the time when student and youth have been targeted and attacked by the government and when the entire country is facing a war like situation, be it on students, farmers, laborers, youth. It seems a war zone has been prepared alleging and hunting the universities and students of this country for various reasons. And I think today it is an unprecedented situation which has never been seen before, be it from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Jadavpur to Film and Television Institute of India, from Banaras Hindu University to Patna, from Hyderabad Central University to JNU to everywhere. All the consolidated universities of this nation have been targeted in a way where you have restrictions on your thoughts, speech, songs, writings… everything. So a situation like a cantonment and a jail like situation has been created by the government, where students are being treated as prisoners, where if they talk about something, they are being called ‘anti-national’ and if they demand to form a student union or democratic rights then students have faced open firing at BHU. This has happened in Patna as well where even the state government did not do or say anything about it.

Hence the situation is entirely unprecedented -- the way anti-democratic practices and the constitution has been made fun of. When in constitution fundamental terms like ‘Secularism’ does not seem to exist for this government, or perhaps this government has deep seated hatred towards secularism and democratic executions in every way -- be it ‘ Gharwapsi’ or ‘Love Jihad’ and even for the minority section of this nation be it Christians or Muslims. We can very well make out from this that democracy is under threat. There seems to be a threat to this government when university students raised their voices on the basis of certain scientific, logical questions, on the prevailing hierarchy system, patriarchal society, and caste system.

Moreover the biggest problem this government has is ‘why are the students not accepting the “status quo” or why don’t the students bow down before the rules and regulations of this government’? ‘Why can’t the students behave like the rest of the “obedient” students’? Why are the students raising their voices for the attacks on youths, farmers, labourers of this country? According to this government, a student should obediently finish his or her studies, become whatever he/ she wishes to, clerk or whatever in the future and take a neutral position. Moreover the most hurtful part is, these people try to poke the sentiments of caste, class and hierarchy.

All of you have seen the truth and proof of all the atrocities the students have faced. When the students were caged, imprisoned, faced water cannons, lathicharge but have not feared from anything and have stood for up for the rights and spirit of democracy and the constitution. So as far as these restrictions are concerned on freedom of speech, writings, songs etc -- all these challenges are now being aggravated. In today’s time we can perhaps state that it is not a ‘declared emergency’ but an ‘undeclared emergency’ which is not very different from what happened in the past. So when the entire youth of this nation demands their rights to live and basic necessities, respect and dignity -- which this government does not accept -- it is about the larger struggle.

And so far the budget is concerned be it for education, health, livelihood, employment, there is a huge cost cutting. Like we have three sectors in education -- ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services), schools and higher education. So in ICDS, from where we are quite well linked and tied up, even in villages, where our parents and families have been running ‘Angan Varis Sewa’ and children from 0 to 6 have been taken care of for a healthy lifestyle and for a better future. So we can see that this government does not have any plans for such ICDS; there is huge budget rationing.

The women working out there on ground level be it, ‘Asha behenjis’, mid day meal workers, ‘Angan vari’ workers are more or less treated as bonded laborers. Mid day meal workers are just been paid Rs 1000 and ‘Angan Vari’ workers 3000 per month and so are others. Also the situation in the schools, especially government schools is no better, where they have been targeted to ‘Defame’, ‘Demolish ‘and ‘Diminish’. The intention behind this notion is nothing new for us. How will the universities like Amity, Sharda, Lovely come into being unless these government institutions are diminished or demolished? How will their idea of neo liberalism survive unless these three notions would play their role for government institutions like JNU, HCU etc. to finally shut down? It is a preplanned notion of hypocrisy which all of us can very well comprehend.

So today when we are talking here, it is quite unfortunate to state that this regime has a great fear of the youth and students of this country as they are forcibly trying to inculcate a feeling of nationalism, using syringes and paramilitary forces. If we want that nationalism spirit in our spirits in a true sense, then we need to accept that there are poor and underprivileged people living in this country, and atrocities on women still prevails from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh to Maharashtra to Delhi. Till date, these places face massacres of Dalits, tribal and minorities, for whom there is no scope of justice. If we would not recognize, introspect and improve on all these things, we cannot call ourselves patriotic and our nation can never climb the ladders of success. The situation in which these children study in government schools, they can barely think of pursuing any higher education.

After this if I can say, this whole system is corrupt and if I may ask who is responsible for this prevailing corruption? I think it’s the structural policies of the government, the neo liberal policies are responsible for it and not people who are working at the lower or ground level. Because if we say so, it would be unreasonable as the big shots of this country -- the ‘Mallayas’ who are behind the big scams and blunders -- are at the closest reach of the government. I think to execute and enforce all the laws and regulations is the sole responsibility of the common man, poor or oppressed class. There is no law of the land as such for these ‘Mallayas’ and big shots of this country. So this double standard of the government of being different with different people of the society -- being different for the poor, different for the ‘baabujis’, different with laborers; this needs to come to an end. They need to rise up from this hypocrisy and develop secularism and democracy.

There is a group across the board fighting for the people at universities, for societies, forming these trade unions, fighting for this entire nation. In spite of all these, ‘lathi charge’, imprisonments and harassment are continuing. We need to take this fight further by preaching it among people. This is our responsibility when there are attacks from all four sides to our democracy. I think this is the time when the students have much more responsibilities to save this democracy and I am hopeful in a way that the entire nation is coming together and fighting against all these anti-student policies of the government and challenging them. When this government is scared of mere students, I can declare that come what may or whatever happens -- ‘lathi charge’, firing, imprisonments, hunger strikes -- we are not going to give up and will challenge this government till the end.


(This is the text of a presentation made by CHINTU KUMARI at the “Idea Of India” conclave on “Two Years Of PM Modi: State Of The Nation”. It has been transcribed, translated and edited by DEVIKA SAHNI)