Why is any protest against a perceived or genuine grievance carried out? It is primarily to highlight the grievance and bring it to the notice of authorities and public in general. The aim being to put pressure on authorities for the redress being sought as part of the protest. Nobody resorts to a protest just for self-satisfaction where it goes un-noticed. The protest in Jamia Milia University by its students was not against any issue related to the university as in that case perhaps a protest within the campus would have sufficed. The protest by students was against Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). The protest organisers and protestors wanted to bring it to the notice of government and general public. Therefore it could not be done sitting inside the campus.
University authorities have stated that the protest by students was peaceful and within the campus. It is possible that the start point of the protest was inside the campus where students were mobilised by the organisers. It will be safe to assume that University authorities were aware of the protest and it had their approval. If that be so, it may be prudent to assume that university authorities would have made proper arrangements for security and control of the protesting students to ensure that things did not go out of hand and remained peaceful. The onus of ensuring that the protest did not spill on to streets outside the campus or infiltrated by outsiders also rested on the university authorities.
There is another very important issue here. If university authorities, starting from Vice Chancellor, were aware of the reason for the protest and the perceived fears of Muslim community, then were any efforts made by the university to discuss and explain the CAB to the students? In all probability no such effort was made despite the fact that the university has thousands of students with majority being in the age group of nineteen to twenty four years. There was an imperative need to educate these young minds on the need and contents of the bill instead of their acquiring half-baked knowledge based on perceptions developed from the over active and dubious social media or statements of politicians. There is a strong case here to assume that either university authorities failed in their duty or they deliberately did not do so for obvious reasons?
It is very clear that the protest was never planned to be held within the campus. After the initial mobilisation of students the protestors did came out of the campus and that fact is not disputable in wake of overwhelming evidence on show. It is irrelevant at this stage whether the students merged with outside protestors or vice versa. In all probability that was part of the plan of organisers who were local politicians from AAP and Congress apart from student union leaders. So the University Proctor claiming that students were protesting within the campus is a falsehood aimed at showing the police in bad light. Since there were female students involved in the protest, did the university make any arrangements for their safety or advise them of the perils of being part of a violent protest?
There has been a lot of hue and cry on how students had to suffer police brutalities including use of excessive force. When a small pose of policemen is facing hundreds of protestors who are pelting stones and petrol bombs at them, what are they supposed to do? When protestors start torching public buses and vehicles, is the police not expected to act? If reports are to be believed a couple of buses were damaged even before the passengers could alight. Is that not inhuman on part of protestors that included students? When police acts in such an eventuality it has to be decisive and effective in its actions else the situation will never come under control. In such a scenario, where protesting mobs are on a rampage, should the police first ask a protestor whether he is a student or an outsider before it takes action? If a female protestor is part of the mob, is a policeman expected to wait for a policewoman before he acts? Is that practical in that situation?
Live television coverage showed that once the police acted, a lot of protestors ran into the university campus to take shelter. They included both outsiders and students and in chasing them the police had to enter the campus. Surely at that point of time they were not expected to wait at the gate and submit an application to the Vice Chancellor or Proctor for permission to enter the campus. Moreover if university area can be used for protests, it is logical that police will enter it if protests turn violent. So any umbrage on part of university authorities or students in this regard is unfounded.
It is indeed a sad day when young citizens of the country take to streets on an issue that most of them have no knowledge about at the behest of some politicians and their own union leaders who use them to further their own agendas. It is not a secret that most student unions are heavily politicised and are controlled by different political parties depending on their affiliation. That is the bane of university and college student unions. Students have become easy cannon fodder for such political machinations. Some students use these unions to further their political careers at the cost of other students and at times the wellbeing of the institution itself. Surprisingly university authorities turn a blind eye to such political interference and influence that can only be counterproductive.
Students are welcome to protests like other citizens of the country as part of their democratic rights. However for the protest to be meaningful they have to first understand the issues involved so as to make an informed choice of whether a protest is required and the redress sought. Joining a protest at the behest of politicians or student union leaders is not the right way to go as that leads to their exploitation. They have to ensure that their protest is peaceful, no public or private property is damaged and common citizens are not inconvenienced in any way during the protest. Last but not the least, the protests must not affect their studies as that should always remain their prime focus. Unfortunately the protest s in Jamia Milia were against all these fundamentals as perhaps is the case with most university protests across the country today.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.