In 2003, a two-member bench of Kerala High Court passed a judgment in a case filed by a college ordering that anyone disrupting the teaching and learning process in a college should be treated as mere objects and be removed from the campus. Soon, many colleges joined the league.
Images of idyllic campuses and like the ones in the 1980s emerge in all discussions. Meet-the-candidate and university union elections set the ball rolling. College magazines and arts clubs were full of life and creativity. Some of the finest young talents in literature, art and cinema were the products of that era. Semester-pattern had not been introduced and the academic structure and content were not so time-framed and complex. There were only three streams-government, aided and private registrations. Self-financing institutions had not surfaced. Colleges could pattern their year with panache.
There was tremendous activity on most campuses. Political activity was aplenty. Discourses and voices were multiple. Examinations, fee structures and sports and youth festivals were filtered through the scrutiny of the student community.
Even government and VCs felt the heat. Debates and interventions created not just leaders but PROs, peacemakers and policymakers. They went to inhabit law-making bodies -- from the panchayats to the assembly and to parliament. Flashbacks are a narrative strategy but flash forwards, too, are necessary.
Times have changed. With the introduction of the choice based credit semester system (CBCSS) pattern and the self-financing institutions, colleges and universities have a frightening load on their agenda. Examinations are lagging, and naturally, the results, too. There is frustration all around. In some areas, there is a talk of victimisation in internal assessment and in some cases, the pressure of weak communicative and learning skills pose hurdles in the presentations, assignments and umpteen examinations. Dress rehearsals for NAAC accreditation have added extra tension for the management, faculty and the student community. There is no time, space, energy, innovations and spontaneity.
Political activity is a continuous process evolving through learning, debating and dialectics, leading to a progressive campus. Heterogeneous ideas can be yoked together but violence and communalism should be eliminated.
Vibrant political activity should return to the campus. Elections, college unions, teacher-student cooperation and interface should change the ambience. All old models would be easily consumed by the neoliberal-minded. Therefore, innovative and constructive interventions should prevail.
So should a sense of mutual trust. If the teacher can – the students certainly can have their share of political activity- but surely responsible student politics is the need of the hour. Banning is not the answer. It is high time also stakeholders sat together to moot a pattern that would suit the ever changing campus scenario.
To use a post-modern cliché, the warring forces of signification should be set in motion. There should be free play of ideas, discourse and creativity. The academic, political and the aesthetic should synergize the campus.
The farm scientists argue that rubber in Kerala created monoculture, but the campuses in Kerala should have a variety of groups and organisations working together agreeing and disagreeing. These polyphonic discourses in the long run would exorcise the apolitical demon.
Ideology is not about half-realised allegiances and beliefs - it is about the assimilation and generation of a new political culture, where sloganeering and violence would take the backseat. The potential of agitprop and strikes should harness intellectual parameters to create a paradigm shift in student activism.
All political activity on the campus is culturally and academically inclined and hence its transparent and all-encompassing nature is the best antidote to drugs, corruption, communalism, ragging and gender discrimination. The Gandhian and Marxian-inspired student uprisings are (were) mostly contextualized. Kerala ought to have its own model of student politics: one which incorporates and appropriates a glocalised pattern.
Whether it be the philosophical and educational perceptions of Frere and Illyich or the student vibes in Paris or the latest anti-Nazi demos in the US- the campus remains both a sponge and hotbed of the novel and the revolutionary. Laws, governments and fiats should not extinguish the fire within and without. Judicial pronouncements are mostly college-specific but it is only natural that it will acquire a general status. It is high time the government intervened to legislate and legitimise and throw open the campus to a more egalitarian, democratic and progressive ambience where student politics/activism is not an abominable “commodity” but an intellectual “idiom” ready to explode and regenerate a rigid and lethargic community.
The raw power of youth when unleashed on the campus needs to be channelised and refined and student politics alone would provide the alchemy of that change.
(K.L. Vivekanandan is general secretary of All Kerala Private College Teacher's Association)...