The following is an Opinion Editorial written by Rahul Maganti, a fourth year student of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering & Material Sciences about the recently organized anti-war rally against War and Genocides in the IIT Bombay campus. Rahul also goes on to talk about the current state of Student Activism on Campus and gives his views on why it should improve.
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Chief Editors: Anshul Avasthi, Chirag Chadha
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. – Desmond Tutu
This quote, which I first read back when I was a child, has since remained close to my heart. Being “neutral” is as good as being silent. When people consciously don’t talk about the injustice out there in the world only because the buck hasn’t come to them yet, they are only being complacent and giving an excuse, not a reason. Many people would rather talk about the injustice of one kind, while deliberately ignoring another simply because it is far from home. When I was inviting people to this march, a lot of them asked me difficult questions. “What do you intend to achieve with these kind of marches and protests? Will you be able to stop the genocide in Palestine by Israel?” asked a friend who apparently aims to serve the country in the capacity of a Civil Servant some day. I deal with his question in the later part of the article by discussing how such protests/marches actually create an impact.
[pullquote]Many people would rather talk about the injustice of one kind, while deliberately ignoring another simply because it is far from home.[/pullquote]
Activism can actually change the policy decisions of the country. Many important struggles and movements in India and across the world have been spearheaded by students, and have effectively made an impact on the social, cultural, economic and political conditions. The Student Movement in London against the steep increase in fee and the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US are among those that have impacted the society. The 1975 anti-Emergency movement was given a particular direction by the students from Universities like JNU and DU. Very recently, the 2012 Delhi protests against rape and violence against women were again led by students. As for the political angle, you can take a cue from the students of Osmania and Kakatiya Universities successfully fighting for a separate statehood of Telangana. The Govt. of India, which didn’t allow discussion on Gaza in the parliament, voted for Palestine in the UN only because of the pressure exerted on it through the protests in various parts of the country.
Speaking about injustice and writing about it is one way of doing activism. Going on to the streets protesting against the injustice is an altogether another level. This is something I realised thanks to a friend of mine who made me understand that you need to act to earn the right to speak and criticize. [pullquote]Speaking about injustice and writing about it is one way of doing activism. Going on to the streets protesting against the injustice is an altogether another level.[/pullquote] The idea behind any march, protest or demonstration is to bring about awareness for the issue and also to create a space for dialogue and discussion. We need not be on the same page, but a dialogue should at least start. Unfortunately, we lack such an atmosphere in the campus. The indifference to social, political, cultural or economic issues is such a sad state in a place which houses ‘smart people’ and the ‘cream of the nation’. The issues concerning larger humanity should be discussed, deliberated upon and debated.
March in Solidarity With Gaza
With the genocide in the Gaza strip by the Israeli Military killing 600 people and as many as 100 children among them, a few like minded students came together to march in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine, who have been at the receiving end in the past fortnight. We initially wanted to hold the march on 21st of July and asked the DoSA and the CSO for permission. The DoSA readily agreed to the request and directed us to the CSO. However, the CSO told us that he would not give permission for the 21st, since this was the first working day for newcomers and this would send a ‘wrong’ message to them. We couldn’t understand what “wrong message” meant. Standing in solidarity with the oppressed and the victimized sends across a wrong message? Trying to create a space for dialogue/discussion of a humanitarian issue sends a wrong message? However, he granted permission for the 24th of July on the condition that the rules and regulations of the institute would not be violated and peace and tranquility of the campus would be maintained.
After the necessary campaigning, we also came up with hand-written posters. Such a unique thing is rare in the institute. Our main focus was to show solidarity with Gaza. But we took up other issues also like Boko Haram, ISIS, AFSPA, Referendum in Kashmir, since we believe that if we protest against one genocide we should condemn the history of genocide too. So, marching in solidarity with Gaza is equivalent to marching against the history of genocides.
We received a last minute mail from the Dean asking us to hold back the march, and he alleged that we were taking partisan stands. We only sought to side with the oppressed, the victimized and the people who are being bombed. Why is that wrong? Taking sides is absolutely fine in a democracy and we also respect the people who take an opposite side. But, taking sides cannot be banned. As I have stated in the beginning, there is no such thing as a neutral stand when people are dying. We chose to take a side – of the innocent children, of people who are dying in hospitals, schools, streets. Some people may disagree with us. But then, let us have a democratic debate.
Exceeding our own expectations, around 50 people, including a handful of professors, joined the march. We marched right from Hostel 12 to the Main gate and demonstrated the hand-written posters. They read, “Border Struggle is not the solution. Class Struggle is the only solution”, “Repeal AFSPA”, “We need referendum in Kashmir”, and “Save Gaza and Palestine” among others. Some students addressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dresses.html”>dressme.co.nz/ball-dresses.html”>dressed the gathering at the Main gate, and everyone dispersed after singing the song, “We shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger. With this march a great success, we hope to see activism pick up in the institute in the near future.
The views expressed in the article are solely of the author and should not be taken as facts endorsed by Insight. For suggestion and/or discussions feel free to contact the author – Rahul Maganti