Should university campuses, be allowed to be converted into the battlegrounds for fighting ideological wars? Should educational institutions, be used for furthering agendas of political parties? Is not allowing opening of offices of political parties with rival ideologies in universities in ‘conflict situations’ as dangerous as planting landmines within campuses with potential of exploding any time and any moment?
I am not an educationist armed with jargons and clichés to debate on these questions from an academic perspective – I leave it to scholars, political scientist and educationists in the universities to ponder over. However, these posers engaged my attention on reading a couple a news items; on December 8, a newspaper heading read, “Congress sets up base at Kashmir University.” The Congress leadership claimed that it had so far recruited four hundred and seventy five boys from Kashmir University campus. The dent that the party made in the University is credited to the visit of the scion of Nehru-Gandhi family to main the campus of the University at Hazratbal shrine. A few days earlier another news item read that the NSUI (National Students Union of India), student wing of the Congress party has set up its units in Kashmir University, Governmental Medical Colleges and affiliated colleges in Kashmir and intensified recruitment drive in educational institutions of the state. Close on heels has been the PDP chief to attract students towards her party- she called for ‘allowing student bodies to function in Kashmir University. The roll of students in various universities in the state is over a hundred thousand, out of these thirteen thousand are reading in main and extended campus of the Kashmir University. “
Of all the Universities, the Congress party seems focused more on the Kashmir University main campus, once counted politically more sensitive. It draws strength for intensifying its recruitment program from the belief that the student community is tired of the leadership outside electoral politics and schism within the camps seeking ‘right to self-determination’ and ‘azadi’.
I am not here to join the moral debate if students should be dragged into politics or not. Or, if seducing students into political parties has a moral sanction. This debate, I leave to moralists. Student activism having a long history in Kashmir, I will try to look at the emerging scenario of politicization of the campus from historical perspective and leave conclusion to my readers.
Students political activism the state dates back to forties, after 1947 student along with other dissenting voices were stifled. It was reborn in 1964, after the birth of Jammu and Kashmir Students and Youth League, with Late Sheikh Ghulam Muhammad, Anwar Ashai and Abdul Rashid Kabali in the vanguard. The League was front ranking organization during 1965 and continued to be so far many more years to come. It suffered on two counts, one it collided with the then top popular leadership and one of its leaders falling in clefts of the agencies. This was followed by mushrooming of students organization – but most of the students organization had their patron in Plebiscite Front President Mirza Muhammad Afzal Beg. The student’s organizations were overwhelmingly affiliates of the Plebiscite Front. In sixties neither the Awami Action Committee nor Jamat-e-Islami had student wings. However, ideology of Jammat had crept in the University and other educational institutions through Islamic Study Circle. But largely remained away from political activism.
Pro plebiscite student dominated the University Campus and colleges in late sixties. However, there was no unit of the Front or its affiliate student organization at campus. Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah patron of the party was averse to politics on campuses and students indulging in politics. He in fact opposed his lieutenant Afzal Beg for pushing students into politics- There are many instances substantiate this assertion.
In 1971, the Congress after the death of G.M. Sadiq made its debut in ‘campus’ politics by sponsoring some boys of the University and Engineering College on education tours to Afghanistan and other parts of India. It also provided financial aid to students from the consolidate fund of Chief Minister, some leader students were given petty contracts in PWD. But despite concession it succeeded in recruiting about a scores of boys for NSUI- that had its office in Hotel Lala Rukh. Patronizing of these students by then education ministers had caused clashes in the campus- the worst of all was students disturbing farewell party of the then Governor Bhagwan Sahay. He was heckled and humiliated. No VIP after this incident visited campus for years- and no convocations were held for many years. The NSUI in Kashmir died its own death after the resignation of then Education Minister.
After dissolution of the Plebiscite Front, student supporters of this organization last their sway in the campus and boys affiliated to the newly born Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League dominated in the campus. In fact, student candidates supported by this organization won the first direct election for the University Union. The league with some of its prominent members like, Hamidullah, Musadiq Adil, Bashir Tota and Aslam Wani remained prominent on campus scene during seventies. Nevertheless, important to note is the League also did not open its office in the campus.
In late seventies and eighties the campus scene was dominated by students affiliated with the Jamat-e-Tulba,- in fact this student organization with Ayub Thakur, Syed Yunus Gilani, Sheikh Tajamul Islam, Muhammad Altaf Shah, Farooq Wasil, Nazir Ahmed Sheikh and Hameed Marazi in the lead virtually was working as the Students Union of the university. It had a greater say in the affairs of the students than their predecessors affiliated to Plebiscite Front. The Tulba had established an office within the campus. It shot into prominence in 1981, after it organized protest against some blasphemous reference to Prophet. Its activities had become a cause of concern to the government but it disappeared from campus after it was declared as student wing of the Jammat-e-Islami. Except one or two incidents in seventies, the Kashmir University Campus has been largely free from student clashes. The University has no history of communal or ideological clashes. The question however remains if political parties should open their offices in campuses.
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