Politics And Academics Challenge Of De-linking

 

Mukti Rijal

A World Bank study on higher and tertiary education in the developed and developing countries published a few years ago mentions about the rampaging student politics  in Nepal.  It mentions how the student democracy entrenched in the public colleges has paralysed academic space in the country.  The study especially refers to the student union election that has a damaging effect upon the calendar of operation of the university and the constituent colleges.

Right reflection

The bowled over and high profile student politics that has gripped the public campuses in Nepal especially due to the upcoming union elections correctly reflects the assessment of the above mentioned World Bank study.  

Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal  ‘Prachanda’ had  observed in the Senate meeting of  Tribhuvan University held  recently  that the election of the student unions  was  needed  because the political parties  have gradually faced with the shortage of the political functionaries to be adsorbed in the full fledged party politics. According to Prime Minister Prachanda, the student  union elections in campuses provide a breeding ground for the leaders of the political parties.

 In fact, the top-notch student leaders like Bal Krishna Khand, Gagan Thapa, Yogesh Bhatatrai, Shankar Pokharel, Ghanashyam Bhusal and Rabindra Adhikari are some of the
bright stars in the firmament of the Nepalese politics. These former leaders of student unions have transited to the full fledged political life and earned their good name. They provide drive and zeal to the national politics and represent the voices of people effectively in a dignified manner.

 Needless to say, the student politics in Nepal provides a mirror image of the national party politics.  This is also true about the student politics in most of the South Asian nations
like India and Bangladesh where the students are beholden to the party politics.  In India the cadre-based parties like BJP and CPI (M) tend to indoctrinate and educate the students in the core ideology they pursue and deploy them as if they were their own functionaries and activists.  Whether it is to stage protests and call strikes or vandalise public assets and outsmart, if not intimidate the opponents, students are pressed into actions.  They are used a means through which political parties find it easy to reach their messages out in the society at large.

 In Bangladesh   student outfits working as proxy agents of the political parties--like the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Awami League--often get locked into pitched bloody battles at the beck and call of their respective parent parties.  

 Even the engineering and medical colleges are not spared from the nefarious and destructive designs of the party politics.  

In spearheading and intensifying hartal and band  effectively  they play the foul role in this part of the world. Some times ago, the CPIM affiliated student union not only had shut down of the Jadavpur university--one of the elite and reputed technical universities in India, but also  vandalised its precious and  invaluable assets and property.  The reason why they resorted to such destructive acts was to protest the Mamata Banerjee headed  state
government’s    action against  a   teacher for his alleged indulgence in lampooning  the chief minister through the release of a cartoon.

 Similarly, students in the prestigious central universities in India like Jawaharlal  Nehru University and Delhi University indulge in strikes acting as agents of the political groups.  

The above cases illustrate the nominal samples of the student unions’ excesses  and egregious acts  motivated by covert  political intent.

Dr.  Rajesh Tandon, an Indian scholar  and reputed civil society leader  in New Delhi, is recorded to have remarked some times ago that  no single case of  strikes, protests and disobedience in India over the last  many years  was  found provoked or resorted to  with an intent to exert pressure for improving the  academic ambience and situation. They were all meant for serving the political ends of the parties they were wrapped up with.  This is very much a fact of reality in the case of Nepal where political parties openly plot the design and press the students into actions as champion vector of their slogans and stances.  

The political parties have a vested interest in choosing the candidates for the election of the student unions.  And even the faction-ridden party leaders openly canvas and plead to ensure that the student leaders loyal to one’s own group or faction were fielded and voted to the executive leadership of the college unions.

Political meddling

 According to the schedule, the Student Union election is going to be held in the campuses next week, but some groups of the students are fielded into action to disturb the elections.  They have opposed the provision related to age bar of 28 years arguing that this denies the right of students who have crossed age bar to take leadership role in the student politics. This   offers a very strong case of political meddling and influence in defining the reality of campus union politics.

 The major student unions affiliated to the big parties have been alleged to have maneuvered to   admit the bogus or counterfeit students in the campuses  with a view  to capturing  the union elections and outwitting  the rivals.

What is interesting to note that the student elections do appear as if they were fought on national political issues and concerns, not on the ones related with the interests of the student community  in particular and others in general.  The meddling of politics in the academic world has fouled the quality of education and management in Nepal as both students and teachers are dictated
and motivated by extra-academic interests. The de-linking of the academia from politics, therefore, offers the major challenge to improve and develop academic system in the country.

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