While we were still reeling from the uproar of the divisive politics of the CAA and NRC, an armed group carried out what possibly was an orchestrated attack on the students of JNU. What may have been yet another attempt to clampdown a student protest soon amplified the voices of the youth and in fact, strengthened the movement, overall.
Before it even became an act, the biggest threat to the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the government’s unconstitutional stance on it, were students. At the forefront of the anti-CAA movement, students from the most esteemed universities in the country became the face of dissent against a government complicit over its majority rule in the houses of parliament.
What is clear from their participation in demolishing totalitarianism is that we have our students to thank for keeping our democracy intact.
In May, 2019, the BJP won with a clear majority of 303 seats in the General Elections. This ensured there be no oppositional representation by any other party to debate and discuss important issues. And in the last couple of weeks, we have been acquainted with how dangerous this political scenario has become.
But in the absence of a political party strong enough to oppose controversial bills, students have become the only hope for dialogue and balanced political discourse in the country.
Where an opposition could not even imagine out-voting the controversial CAA, the students of Jamia, JNU, AMU, DU and more have been raising relevant concerns of its unconstitutional nature and economic consequences. Thanks to students movements, discussions over the need and legitimacy of divisive bills like the NRC and CAA have become mainstream discussions compelling the average Indian citizen to at least think, if not take sides.
Students achieved what an opposition couldn’t possibly have. And the reason is the absence of an ulterior political motive.
While a political adversary would align with the causes that could benefit them in the longer run, students act towards the greater good. Embroiled in scholarly literature and worldly happenings, students have the awareness and intellect to resist carefully crafted political propaganda. They won’t tip-toe around issues that really matter and will say it like it is looking fascism in the eye.
In the past, we have seen the opposition at the forefront leading student movements against the establishment. However, our weak opposition parties, especially the Congress have shown a glaring absence where they were needed the most. Instead of depending on political alignment, however, students have taken matters into their own hands and demonstrated the sheer power of the people.
While the government is celebrating statues and presenting the public with neatly packaged Xenophobia, students are discussing real problems like the economy, unemployment, inflation, women's safety and so on.
For instance, a couple of months ago, JNU erupted into demonstrations protesting a massive hike in the college fees. Predictably so, these were labelled as yet another display of apparent ‘anti-national activity’ by the establishment. However, the demonstrations raised vital concerns over the government’s complete oversight on the issue of education and subsidy in our country.
Not once have educational policies been explicitly discussed and debated by the government, especially after coming back into power in 2019. Students however, have been fighting the fight to make education accessible to all despite economic barriers.
Textile Minister Smriti Irani once said, “Educational institutions should not be made rajneeti ka akhada as it affects the life and progress of our students.” This WhatsApp uncle ideology reflects the sentiment of an establishment fearful of the power of dissent through reason, in an age where only the loudest voices get heard.
However, armed with music, poetry, and witty placard slogans, students have been the only ones working tirelessly to maintain the good health of our democracy.
The difference between our leaders and dissenting students is a vast scholarly accomplishment. And that in itself makes them the most formidable opposition to the government.
Students have faced the direst consequences and detainment throughout the past few weeks of demonstrations. And that simply is testament to the fact that they are a threat to the majoritarian government and the only hope we have in the form of a pillar standing strong and holding the ceiling of democracy.