Students, agitation and symptomatic treatment

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Close on the heels of the news report that Meitei Mayek text books for BA Manipuri course are not yet available even though academic session for the same course has already commenced, the State today celebrates Manipuri Language Day in commemoration of the day when Manipuri language was included in the 8th schedule of the Indian Constitution.

It was in 1992 that Manipur language was included in the 8th schedule along with Konkanki and Nepali by the 71st amendment of the Constitution of India. Manipuri language was included in the 8th schedule not on the own volition of the Government of India or at the behest of the State Government.

Manipuri language was given a place in the particular schedule after a long, sustained struggle by the people of Manipur, particularly students spearheaded by the All Manipur Students’ Union or AMSU in short.

Very few public grievances or common aspirations of the people have been addressed or fulfilled without days, months and years of agitation.

An interesting picture emerges if one juxtaposes these hard facts with the recent order issued by School Education Department which threatens disciplinary action against students who take part in ‘non-academic activities’.

If again one takes into account the time and context of the particular order, the phrase ‘non-academic activities’ explicitly implies all sorts of agitation like bandhs, sit-in-protest, gheraoing of Government offices, human chains et al.

No doubt, students should concentrate their time and energy on academic activities including extra-curricular activities.

Students particularly high school students and younger ones should be kept away from the so called non-academic activities.

But in most cases they don’t come out to streets on their own volition.

They are invited by the Government, its awkward decisions, misplaced policies, failures and irresponsibility.

Mass transfer of teachers in the middle of academic session is a case in point.

At such circumstances, students come out to streets and protest, not because they have any tendency toward agitation but they are compelled.

This point must not be lost to the decision makers.

The instruction that students should not waste their time and energy in non-academic activities is understandable. It is for their own good.

But students are not immune to the socio-economic and political upheavals witnessed in the society.

Being the most sensitive and inquisitive section of the society, any social unrest or political turmoil is first registered in the conscience of student community.

Did the successive Governments ever review the State’s human rights record?

Did the successive Governments (before 1992) ever work for inclusion of Manipuri language in the 8th schedule?

Did the successive Governments ever attempt to repeal AFSPA (excluding the seven Assembly segments from where the infamous military Act was repealed after massive violent agitation)?

No.

When the successive Governments are characterised by such sheer irresponsibility and callousness, the Government cannot expect citizens including students to confine themselves within their routine activities and classrooms.

It would be weirdest to imagine Manipuri language in the 8th schedule without sustained agitation of people (including students) although the State Government is celebrating Manipuri Language Day.

No doubt, it is best if students concentrate all their energy and time in academic activities.

At the same time, Government should tread carefully so as not to invite students to streets.

It is also equally important for public and student leaders who orchestrate mass agitation not to drag out young students who don’t understand the issues at hand from their classrooms.

However, the Government, at the moment, seems to be inviting another round of agitation (by students) as it has not yet taken up any concrete action to make Meitei Mayek text books available to BA Manipuri students.

The attempt to confine students to classrooms in the face of such callous and irresponsible successive Governments is at the best only a symptomatic treatment.

Source: The Sangai Express

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