It was 1995. I was a young student back then in Pune University.
The University ammended the ATKT rule reducing the number of papers one could carry forward to the next year.
We called for a strike.
My first strike and I took a very active part in it.
The strike started with us, students, shutting down classes and sloganeering against the College Administration.
Within hours the strike spread to other colleges.
The next day around 10,000 of us were gheraoing the Vice Chancellor’s office and shouting slogans against him and the University, the numbers were growing every hour.
It was then that a bunch of students came in wearing white clothes.
There must be around 20 of them. They started screaming about “Panun Kashmir”, “Kashmir Humara hain”, “Kashmir Ki Azaadi Chahiye”.
We were quite taken aback. This had nothing to do with our strike. But they were obviously capitalizing on the platform that we had created and using it for their own gains.
The Cops who were there for protection of the University were standing and watching.
It was just sloganeering and no physical damage was being done.
We stopped shouting. A few of us went to the Kashmiri Activists and told them to take their protests elsewhere.
They refused and continued. We stood and watched them as we halted our slogans and grinned at them shouting themselves hoarse.
After some time these 20 odd protesters got tired and went away.
Our strike continued for ten whole days after this.
We never saw those guys again on any other day.
They were royally ignored and not supported.
They didnt get the attention they wanted to seek and frankly we were not there for them either.
No arrests were made. No one was charged for treason. There were no Media reports and debates on Patriotism. And none of us were called Anti-National.
What started as a Students Strike ended as a Student strike with our demands met.
Looking back at this incident, I realize, that its not important what the strikes are about. Its not about how legitimate the demands are. Its not about what slogans are shouted.
Its all about how a strike is handled.
By those who are striking and by those against whom the strikes are made.
Had any of our Student Leaders been arrested at that time for any reason and charged under something like sedition, I totally believe that, Pune would have had a huge problem on their hands.
The Government and the Administration at that time were mature enough to show restraint in handling the strike. That has to be appreciated.
Had the current incident of JNU students also been handled in the same manner perhaps things would have been different today.
There were a small bunch of students shouting Anti-India slogans.
Had those students who were shouting those slogans taken to task by the University Management, would this issue have gone so out of hands?
Was a crackdown with Para military forces going into Hostels, really necessary?
Was such a knee jerk reaction of beating up Teachers and Media people, who had come to watch the Kanhaiya hearing, outside the courtroom, really needed?
The entire JNUSU has been branded as Anti-National by the self proclaimed Patriots and Nationalists on the basis of a few slogans shouted by a few students.
What could have been easily sorted out in a simple and peaceful manner has turned out into an all out war.
Today, around 40 Central Universities are showing solidarity towards the JNU students union.
Other Universities are now striking and shouting slogans to support the JNU students who have been arrested left, right and center.
What could have been a simple case which could have been handled by the University Administration has become a National Slugfest.
This can mean only one of the two things.
Either the present Government has no clue and is completely incompetent in handling sensitive issues with restraint and maturity.
Or the Government was deliberate in cracking down on the students with such force, which can only be generated out of a strong inclination towards Insensitivity and the “My Way or the Highway” syndrome. Some might call it a “Fascist” approach.
We as the people need to figure out which of these two options suits the Government the best, in our way.
In either case, being Incompetent or, being Insensitive, cannot be considered as qualities worth applauding.
Disclaimer: This post in no way supports the Anti-India slogans shouted by some of the students. Arrest them for all I care. But dont arrest the innocents. They are students … not Terrorists …. or Lawyers and MLAs 😉