Thursday, June 12, 2008

REMINISCENCES AND OBSERVATIONS OF AN INSIDER TURNED OUTSIDER, –P.N.Gopikrishnan–

I was a college student in mid eighties. Through three campuses my education process completed. All the three colleges are situated in Thrissur , the mid district of kerala. Out of the three, two were arts colleges the remaining one is a professional college. The first one was under the management of CMI sect of Christian church and the last one was managed by SNDP. The professional college was a govt. college.
There is no point to hide the names of the colleges. The first one is Christ College, situated at irinjalakuda, a small but old town in thrissur district. The second one is govt. engineering college, one of the old professional institutions of kerala. It is situated in the out skirts of corporation of thrissur and the last one is Sreenarayana College, bearing the common name of the colleges under SNDP management. It is at nattika, a coastal village of thrissur district. I was completed my pre-degree course (1983-85) from Christ (now there is no such course remaining in whole kerala. We, those who went through that course became ‘museum pieces ‘after the introduction of ‘plus two’ course instead of pre-degree course). After that I joined govt. engineering college for studying B tech (mechanical) on 1985. I myself dropped it after going through its first two semesters and again started my studies by joining Sreenarayana College for BSc (physics)(1986-89)
My experiences in student politics may conclude as follows. In Christ, most of the students were belonged to upper middle class. Since I have no statistical evidences to prove my statement, I have to correct it as the cultural traits of the college were of upper middle class. Of course there were students from other social classes and from’ lower’ castes, somehow they became absorbed sooner by the ‘aristocratic’ upper middle class culture. The prominent students’ organization was the kerala students union popularly known as KSU. It was, now also, a child of the Indian national congress party. Though students federation of India (SFI) , lesser in number but in front in vigor, attracted many with their performances in conducting processions and sloganeering, they could not get many seats in elections. There was some presence of student wing of naxalite party also. They never participated in elections but made campaign for boycotting the elections. There were strikes regularly according as the call made by state leaders.
In engineering college, the presence of students’ politics was so meager. Day to day activities of political organizations were little and the leaders had no charisma as in the arts colleges. Their presence felt only on election campaign. Many calls for strikes were not conducted there. If any was planned to conduct, it was limited in the form of demonstration. During my study years there, the call for strike against allowing poly technical colleges in private sector was made. Though it was a subject more related to professional sector of education, there was no such movement formed in engineering college. The arts and science colleges , though they had no such direct link to the issue, were fired out to unlimited strike ,making it as a public issue about the system of education.
In s.n college politics was very crude. Almost all the strikes ended in violence. It is not sophisticated as Christ College. In its activism, it was diametrically opposite to engineering college. In S.N.College , S.F.I was the prime organization. During my study period, they bagged almost all the seats in elections. But in physicality, remember it was one of the major factors in the political air of that college, A.B.V.P was a good opponent. You know it is the clone version of R.S.S or B.J.P (who knows the difference between them?).
When we observe the nature of the external appearance of the manifestations of student politics, it was almost theatrical with some folk elements in it. The processions, the sloganeering, encounters all makes a presence of society in it. There were no individuals. It was a herd with some leaders and disciples. There was blood, but not pain. There were slaughters too, but it was counted as a sacrifice, more than a crime. The theatre always released the primitive feelings of the herd and the world before became one with two colors- black and white. The political awareness in the depth contained two groups- we and they. With these dual simplicities they surely achieved something by questioning a grown up world equipped with police, syllabus, teachers etc. with out much knowing they were the ideological apparatuses used to sustain status-quo of the society. For eg, the strike against allowing poly technical colleges under the patronage of private sector, was a triumphant one. Through road shows, the S.F.I leaded struggle caught the attention of public and T.M.Jacob, the minister for education in those days was forced to with draw the decision. On those days the word victory meant physical victory than a moral or ethical victory.
But, with all its freshness of youth, it actually was a satellite politics. Student organizations are the recruit centers of political organizations. it acted as an infantry to the wishes of political organizations who were involved in the power race.
After the nineties things were changed a lot. The order of the world was also changed a lot. The pilgrim centers of the ideologies transformed. The one and only U.S.S.R collapsed in to memory. The sacred word revolution was grabbed completely by technology. In kerala, the era of self finance college was inaugurated. T.V. spread vastly.
All these made a new society with new concerns and new memory. New social units were formed.
T.V. addressed and emphasized a unit of society called family. It made the family in to a unit of media society. Mobile phone emphasized the unit called individual and the computer made the strong base of a new individual as well as the unit called institution. The new student started moving through the new relations defined by these new units. The primitives of him\her cut down considerably. The folk treasures swept away by the urban folks of chats and sms. The arena of action just shifted to discourses on seminar hall from the theatrical activities of street procession. The body language of the student underlined by a hard fist and a deep throat stepped down and a confidential voice containing various cultures of different languages and different thought schools stepped up. The un combed hair and the bearded face was buried by a well defined smile. The herd of males led by the male were almost vanished and a new transparent like individuals appeared in the bodies of both male and female. The exuberance of communion was gone and mere intellectual as well as emotional solitude waved its flag. Their prime concern was for a legitimate space than a street to perform. They are more ideological than the emotionally led generation. They talked about gender discrimination, sexuality, caste problems, and environmental issues without any ambiguities. The one and only class struggle decentralized and transformed in to many. Woman became the major factor of a campus intelligentsia. They some how felt as a part of a global campus.’ the earth ‘came to the portfolio of student without romantic aura and the unquestionable status of ‘ the native land ‘was crushed. They made struggles for specific issues than a common one. In kerala a major struggle exempla ting this new awareness was conducted in the University of Calicut against the abusing of P.E.Usha by a fellow employee, a union leader. It was against ‘progressive left’.
Yes. The colleges like Christ and engineering college were changed a lot in their political content. Professional colleges are plunged in to deeper political activities since technology got an ideological status. The struggles in the domain of free software have its strong centers in professional colleges. The students belonged to the regional engineering college, calicut gave many contributions in the struggle of’ unicoding’ Malayalam. They developed a user friendly Malayalam software ‘ varamozhi’. The recent cultural-political task carried out by them was the development of ‘ vritha sahayi’, a software to detect meters of Malayalam poems.
But what happened to colleges like Sree Narayana College? They became many in one. That ones studying self finance courses and the others studying conservative courses. The first one is ‘ brahmanic’ in which entry is limited to those having money power. The others are ‘ dalits’, having no such money power. These ‘new dalits’ are objects of structural violence. If they are trying to enter the land of ‘new Brahmins ‘the whole mechanism of the society will wake up and the punishment will give immediately. Recently a poor girl, Rajani.s.anand tried to enter this sacred place but got punishment. She, without having money to remit the higher fee of a self-financing college committed suicide by jumping from the top of a building, portraying the fall of a system to abyss. But, no strikes or street firing struggles are formed. The student community witnessed it as in a film . some, the ghosts of the past politics satisfied after throwing stones to some banks for denying loan to rajani ‘s study.
O k. its too long. The blind believers have gone. New apostles have appeared. But the experience of a student politics, a real one, is still strange. Because man/woman can not live by mere fables, not by concrete theories even though he/she is a student.

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