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BEYOND POLITICS

Everything is political, believed the Sixties. This belief not only animated the students’ and civil rights movements of the time, but also intellectual and creative life in general. But what was crucial was a larger philosophical and critical understanding of the vital difference between “politics” and “the political”. “Everything is politics” would have been a very different proposition from “Everything is political”. The problem in Bengal today is that this crucial difference has been forgotten. In fact, the larger sense of the “political”, abstracted from affiliations to a party or even the State, would make very little sense to most students who play an active role in “student politics” of whatever hue. So, keeping in mind the disturbing implications of the Garden Reach incident, it is doubly unfortunate that the suspension of student elections in the state has itself become a matter of party-political rivalry now, with the education minister and members of the Opposition fighting over the move in terms that owe direct allegiance to their respective parties.

This is a waste of an opportunity to genuinely rethink the entire tradition of the politicization of colleges and universities in the state. And this rethinking must happen within the concerned institutions as autonomously as possible. It must be the result of hard thinking on the part of students and teachers, rather than descending upon them from above, as an order from the government trying to pass itself off as advice. Such a top-down approach to the tranquilizing of student politics can only result in greater politicization of student discontent, from a sense of being denied their adult, democratic rights. This is unfortunate too, for the Lyngdoh commission had provided sound recommendations on desirable modes of unionization and election in institutions of higher education. A concerted effort on the part of the government to let these institutions think of ways of implementing the recommendations would have been the best way of bringing about the necessary change. Cutting out party-political affiliations and interventions, maintaining peace and transparency, and the formation of representative student bodies based on intellectual vigour and leadership abilities were at the core of the commission’s vision. It is time to return to these ideas and think through ways of realizing them from within the purview of academic priorities and scruples.