Of Students Taking to the Streets
This refers to the column ‘Food for thought, published on June 30.
Being a student activist does not mean having some political aim or being anti-national. Student agitations signify unity, passion, desire for change and are tools to undo the wrongs done by the politicians. Sometimes when the citizens including the intellectuals do not do or cannot do, what needs to be done, the students have to take charge.
The world is witness to many significant student protests and agitations. People have not forgotten the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, where people — mainly students — raised their voice for greater freedom of speech, representation, public involvement in decision making besides other demands. Though it was suppressed in a very inhumane way yet it it managed to pave the way for reforms in China.
The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong of 2014, better known as the ‘Umbrella Protests’ is still fresh in our minds where despite Chinese assurance not to interfere in the election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, the Communist party announced its decision to screen the candidates nominated for the main post of the Hong Kong Government making clear their objective that they can put whoever they want in charge of the semi-autonomous territory.
Similarly, one can cite many examples of protests where students have taken crucial roles like the protests of the 1960s in the US against the violation of civil rights and war in Vietnam. Mention can also be made of the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989 in Czechoslovakia, and the protests in Myanmar in 2015 against the appointment of military representatives to the country’s Parliament or the very recent (April 2018) protest in Bangladesh against the move to reserve 56% of civil service jobs for the families of veterans of the 1971 war of Independence and the disadvantaged minorities. Thus it has been seen that students are the indispensible part of any protest or agitation across the world. Students have the capacity to draw public attention to the political, social and environmental issues and help create movements that may even destabilize the Governments. Here it is appropriate to quote American author and historian, Timothy David Snyder, who said, “If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it.”
The future success and survival of our race not only depends solely upon the older generations but also on the young generation who are the future leaders of tomorrow. They have to take the responsibility to determine the course of the country’s future.
Dayal S. Sandhu,