KARACHI: The politics of violence seen on campuses today is not the true essence of student politics.
This was unanimously agreed on the second day of the Festival of Ideas 2014 organised by Khudi Pakistan in a session on ‘Why are we not reviving student politics’. The festival was taking place at the HEJ auditorium in Karachi University on Saturday.
The discussion started with a small documentary, ‘Street Fighting Years,’ focusing on the birth and death of student politics in Pakistan. From here, moderator and student activist Rab Nawaz posed a question on the importance and current discourse of student politics.
Jami Chandio of the Centre of Peace and Civil Society said that the trend of student unions is diminishing globally. Its need is no longer acknowledged as experienced till the 1970s because of the parliamentary shift in the nature of politics as opposed to the former course of resistance politics, he explained.
“The notion that ‘a student is not a student unless he is involved in politics’ was not only popular during my time in university but it was largely practiced too,” said Dr Mutahir Ahmed, a professor at KU’s Department of International Relations.
With the discussion moving on to the violent practices of political parties inside campuses, Khurram Ali of National Students Federation said that violence was initiated by the state itself after the ban on student unions in 1984. “The admission mafias and student groups involved in extensive cheating is not what student unions are for,” said Ali, adding that these unions comprised elected representatives of students so that they could play an active role in the university’s wellbeing.
Chandio further reiterated Ali’s point of view that crime was strategically brought into campuses in the 1980s so much so that political parties had to adopt it to survive. But he had a solution on how to get rid of violence. “We can make use of cyber space to decide our future discourse. We are no longer as vulnerable as we were before,” he said.
Citing examples from Balochistan and Sindh, Ahmed said that a large number of men being gunned down today were active participants of student politics in their time. “Nothing happens in isolation because, at the end of the day, it is the student fraternity that gets to benefit from these efforts.”
People resort to violence when they are pushed beyond their limits,” added Ali. “If student politics is to be revived as per its ideology, there will be no question of violence seeping into it.”
Ahmed agreed and added that student unions, in essence, have nothing to do with state politics. However, there is a need to distinguish knowledge from information, he pointed out.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2014.