Philip G. Altabch observes: “Student unrest has been one of the India’s most serious educational and political problems. Student agitation in India has caused State Governments to fall and it has forced the Central Government to revise its language policies. Students have paralysed Colleges and Universities and have caused serious damage to public facilities as well as to educational institutions”.
The Social Compositions of the Students after Independence:
Soon after Independency the Government started giving more importance to education and hence vast educational opportunities were created for all the sections of the people, without any discrimination.
Those sections of the people which had ignored education or were deprived of educational facilities during the British rule, started availing of the same after Independence.
This resulted in a change in the social composition of the students. Students belonging to almost all the castes, classes, religious groups, tribal groups, linguistic, ethnic and racial groups are found studying in schools, Colleges and universities. Education is no more the monopoly of the upper classes and the upper castes.
The Harijans and Girijans, Hindus and Muslims, Christians and Anglo-Indians, the rich and the poor, the so-called ‘forward communities’ and ‘backward communities’ go to the same educational institutions. Education has become completely secular today.
The depressed classes and communities are provided with special facilities to avail of educational opportunities. The student mass is mostly heterogeneous, especially in the cities. This heterogeneity has also contributed to the growing unrest among the students.
Student Unrest and Political Parties:
Student unrest has been closely associated with politics in India. It cannot be completely divorced from the political movements and machinations and manoeuverings. After the Independence no attempt has been made by any political party, including the ruling party, to depoliticalise the youths and to disaffiliate them from the political activities.
There has been no attempt to make the students feel that Independence has been achieved and there is no need for political activities by the youths. On the contrary, the political parties have found that the student force constitutes one of the most powerful instruments to achieve their political ends.
The political parties have started taking more interest in student activism for their political gains. Political parties have started their own youth wings. Almost all the political parties have their own youth organisations now.
For example, Congress (I) has its National Students’ Union of India (NSUI), the Bharatiya Janata Party, has its Janata Yuva Morcha, the Communist Party of India (CPI) has its All-India Students Federation (AISF), the Communist Party of India, Marxist (CPM) has its Student Federation of India (SFI), the Janata Party has its Yuva Janata, the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) has its Muslim Students Union of India and so on.
Even the regional parties also have their own youth wings. In addition to these, the Rashtreeya Swayam Sevak Sangha (R.S.S.), which was started in 1925 and the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad which originated in 1949 — the two other prominent organisations also have been attracting good number of youths. Of the non- political student organisations, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) seems to be the largest one.
It has more than one thousand branches spread over almost all the major States of India and its activities are found in more than one hundred universities. The ABVP claims itself to be a non- political nationalist student organisation committed to the cause of the unity and welfare of the educational community of India. The ABVP seems to have a great appeal for teachers also. It has gained ground in a number of universities.
The student unrest expression politicians very often use the students for their political ends and cause student unrest. Hostilities between political leaders and parties and similarly political conflicts, rivalries and differences of opinion have often been expressed through student agitations.
Political parties with ulterior motives often fabricate student problems and champion such causes. Educational and student problems are often taken in hand by the political parties to serve their political interests. Some instances may be cited here.
The DMK and ADMK (the two prominent parties of Tamil Nadu) have been supporting the anti-Hindi agitation to stabilise themselves and to win students to their sides.
The late Devraj Urs and his group supported the Expo-70 agitation in 1970’s to topple Virendra Patil’s ministry in Karnataka. Opposition parties supported the Nav-Nirmana Kranti of the students to topple Chimanbhai Patel’s ministry in Gujarat.
Similarly, the students with the help of the opposition parties brought down Abdul Gaffor’s ministry in Bihar. The students took an active role in the J.P. movement which was supported by all the democratic parties to topple Mrs. Gandhi’s Government just before the emergency.
The students are highly vulnerable to political influences. They are prepared to defy authority and to wage battles against the established order. As Peter Worsley has pointed out those students have few family or financial responsibilities. They risk less than other social groups in espousing causes hostile to the established interests of their society.
“Students haw the time and the intellectual inclination to attend to the politics of their country. They are one of the few social groups available for political action.”
Peter Worsley writes: “that in most of the countries of the world students regard themselves as the’ vanguard of political action, with a special responsibility for advocating the interests of social groups who are unable to protest.
The growth of student protest movements is thus loosely related to the emergency of political problems and cleavages within the existing political and economic order of society.”