Students are always seen to have shown the courage to put the State Power to test, worldwide! Whenever the rulers forced the people to show loyalty to the State, students have made it a point to express strongly their desire to enjoy Freedom. For them, Liberty has always been the most precious thing…
Irrespective of time and place, authoritarian rulers have made attempts to influence the Educational Institutions in order to ensure the support of students. It is because they know that the Educational Institutions are the main source of Independent and Liberal thoughts… it is, hence, important to control them. Universities, thus, became the main target of dictators, who wanted to suppress the voice of Opposition. Before the Second World War, the Fascists or the Nazis had taken absolute control of the Universities in Germany and Italy…
History suggests that the dictatorial rulers have ultimately failed to control the students’ emotions. Education generates consciousness, and consciousness motivates students to enjoy Liberty. That is why the students have always challenged the authority, and exposed the ugly form of the Ruling Class.
From Chancellor of the Habsburg Empire Klemens von Metternich to British India’s Lord Curzon, and from Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany to Benito Mussolini of Fascist Italy… all the authoritarian rulers had tried to hegemonise the students with their ‘Nationalist‘ ideologies! They even introduced new laws in order to bring the youth under their control. One still remembers the incidents in Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital of Beijing in 1989, and the students’ protests at the University of Dhaka during the regime of General Hussain Muhammad Ershad in Bangladesh (from 1983 to 1990). A year after the Global Community marked the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 Students’ Unrest in France that had triggered the fall of then President Charles de Gaulle, students of Indian Universities have been targeted by the supporters of the ruling party. Violence has rocked Jamia Millia Islamia University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (both in New Delhi) and Jadavpur University (in Kolkata) in recent times, reminding people of the history of Students’ Movements across the globe (especially in the second half of the 20th Century).
From 1815 to 1848, Metternich’s influence in European politics was unquestionable. He used to think that Freedom could not be demanded, as it comes from the Authority. He had introduced a strict censorship system, and banned discussions on political issues at German universities. Even, he had changed the History syllabus! Although Metternich had enjoyed success for the time being, his move angered the German students. Later in 1848, a revolution triggered the fall of Habsburg Empire and prompted Metternich to leave Austria for England. Thereafter, history did not trace him…
The Nazi Party had a huge support base in Germany in 1942. At that time, students of the University of Munich formed ‘The White Rose‘ – a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in the Third Reich led by Professor of Philosophy Kurt Huber. Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, Sophie Scholl and other members of the group managed to reduce the strength of Nazi propaganda machine through their booklets.
Again during the American aggression in Vietnam in late 1960s, students of Ohio-based Kent State University launched an Anti-war Movement by forming an union, named ‘Students for a Democratic Society‘. The Police, there, had to use bullets to bring the situation under control. Some students sacrificed their lives… but, their movement forced then President Richard Nixon to withdraw troops from Vietnam in 1973.
Anti-Vietnam War Movement by American students
In 1976, Coloured South African high school students in Soweto launched a peaceful protest against Apartheid and against the Afrikaans Medium Decree of 1974 that had forced all Black schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50-50 mix as languages of instruction. Indigenous languages would only be used for religious instruction, music, and physical culture. After the Police gunned down some students, school students in other parts of South Africa, too, joined the movement. The Global Community condemned the brutal attack on the African students that time.
India, too, experienced a number of Students’ Movements in the past. During the Great Calcutta Killing of 1946, students of the University of Calcutta had played an important role in maintaining Hindu-Muslim peace and solidarity in the eastern part of India. They also staged protests during the Vietnam War, with posters reading: “Tomar Naam Amar Naam: Vietnam Vietnam” (in Bengali), which literally means “Your Name, My Name: Vietnam Vietnam” in a rhyming fashion! Later, the Indian students were seen engaged in movements concerning different political and social contexts.
Aishiee Ghosh attacked at JNU, New Delhi, 2020
Kanhaiya Kumar, Aishiee Ghosh and others are products of the Global Students’ Movements who have always opposed the aggressive (or perverted) concept of Nationalism promoted by the State. As the Future of Civilisation lies in their dreams, a question naturally arises: Should they be allowed to keep on dreaming, and strive to achieve their dreams?
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