Lead wider national movement: Medha Patkar urges students

Hyderabad, April 3 (IANS) Activist Medha Patkar, who was on Sunday denied entry into Hyderabad university, said students should lead a wider national movement on various issues.

She said students of various universities and colleges should come together by not only forming a joint action committee but should devise a joint strategy to take up various issues including discrimination in educational institutions on the basis of caste and religion.

She advised students to take up issues like privatisation and corporatisation of education, for free education from KG to PG, the Narmada movement, against atrocities on women and other social and economic issues.

Patkar was stopped by security personnel at the main gate of University of Hyderabad as she wanted to enter the campus and address students demanding justice for Rohith Vemula, the Dalit research scholar who committed suicide in January.

Condemning the restrictions imposed on entry of activists, media, academics and others in the campus, she demanded that Vice Chancellor P. Appa Rao be immediately removed for the worst kind of handling of the situation created by action against Vemula and four other Dalit students and for the police brutalities on protesting students on March 22.

She claimed that Vemula’s “martyrdom” has given voice to all those facing discrimination and it inspired the students’ movement.

Voicing concern over the current unrest in various universities across the country, she said students were only agitated but also ideologically committed as evident from Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s speeches.

She said Kanhaiya Kumar and Vemula in absentia were showing leadership qualities by bringing up their vision.

“They are defining what is justice, rashtrawad (nationalism), freedom and education,” she said.

Patkar noted that the message has reached all campuses, whatever may be happening in social media.

She alleged that the situation created at the universities through casteism and communalism was a conspiracy to divert public attention from the real issues of life and livelihood and for the government to continue its agenda of globalisation and handing over of state resources to corporate.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan activist said the rulers through student organisations like ABVP were using caste and communal factors to create divisions within universities.

She said the ABVP could never occupy whole of the students’ movement space because “there are radically thinking and ideologically committed students who want true freedom, true development and truly equitable and sustainable society in this country”.

Pointing out that the education sector was already suffering due to wrong policies and privatisation, commercialisation and corporatisation, she said the new “Brahminist” attitude will aggravate the situation, hitting hard Dalits and other disadvantaged sections of the society.

She said a situation was deliberately created at JNU because the BJP did not like domination of student organisations having Left to central-left ideology.

“There has been many incidents of violence, corruption and sedition but no arrests have taken place. But now when students are agitating, immediate action is being taken because the state wants to add fuel to the fire, instead of resolution of conflicts,” she said.

She said Kanhaiya Kumar and other students were arrested and jailed before conducting an inquiry as to what slogans were raised and who raised those slogans.

Asked about the allegation that some students in universities were supporting anti-national activities, Patkar said the BJP, which has an alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, has no right to say this.

On parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, she said many organisations were opposed to death penalty.

“We are against terrorism, against all forms of violence and also against death penalty,” she added.

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