Campus Politics in Kerala and the Recent High Court Ruling

Having first hand experience of the hooliganism that goes by the name of campus politics in Kerala, I welcome the recent High Court ruling that calls for an end to campus politics. I am strongly of the opinion that courts should only interpret laws and not create new ones, and so ideally want the government to bring in a law that frees our campuses from the clutches of criminal politicians and makes them an abode of learning, discussion and diversity. In the interim, though, I believe that the court’s ruling will serve to bring relief to students in the state.

Students enter campus at an age when they are naturally rebellious towards elders, have disdain for discipline, and not yet wise enough to distinguish right from the wrong. This makes them cheap, useful and dangerous tools in the hands of unscrupulous ‘leaders’ who use them as expendable fuel for their own political journey. Sincere students who are truly committed to the ideals their parties claim to stand for, are spent very early in the game. Those that survive to become successful political leaders themselves are ones who are quick to learn the art of self-serving manipulation. Wise and responsible students who would actually be able to make a positive impact on the campus and society are denied this opportunity because the political puppet-masters who control campus politics have no use for them and will ruthlessly check their rise.

Violence is the hallmark of campus politics in Kerala. Destroying public property is the most widely practiced form of protest
Throwing stones at police and passersby, blocking roads, burning buses and destroying shops are essential elements of student protests in Kerala. (image from a report on the Hindu)

In addition to destroying the future of those who are naive enough to play into the hands of political bosses, campus politics the way we practice it now is oppressive to those who want to steer clear of this pitfall and stay focused on their studies. The way of colleges strikes is not of those who want to register their disagreement or disapproval boycotting classes as a way to capture the attention of the authorities in charge. In fact, if those who are actually part of these strikes boycott classes, it will only help classes run more smoothly and effectively, and so they will never be missed. This is why they use intimidation and violence to prevent other students who have a sense of responsibility to the society, their parents and themselves, and diligently pursue their course from doing so, thereby infringing on their right to freedom and education that is guaranteed by our constitution.

I believe in freedom of individuals, even if it be the freedom to ruin their lives through foolishness and indiscretion. So I would have objected to the high court’s ruling if it were not for the gross assault on the liberty of students who go to college to study and freely interact with others rather than be pawns in petty power struggles. Given this reality, campus politics is actually a violation of the right to liberty enshrined in our constitution, and the high court is right in banning it through an interim ruling. Since we are a democracy, the legislature is well within its right to bring in laws to regulate campus politics in a way that safeguards the rights of all students, and then restore it to our campuses if deemed necessary.

Political polarization that results from alignment of students to political parties with predefined positions and vested interests is detrimental to free thought process and open discussions that would make campuses cradles for fresh ideas, empathetic citizens and leaders with an open and inclusive vision. As voters and empowered citizens of this democracy, it is our responsibility to ensure that any step taken by our representatives will be in line with the purpose of educational institutions and uphold the right of students to study in an environment that is free of fear and violence.

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