2014 – The ‘Hok Kolorob’ Protest in Jadavpur University is fired up when the authorities fail to comply with investigation requests after a female student is molested in campus.
2015 – FTII students go on an indefinite strike for 139 days protesting against the appointment of actor Gajendra Chauhan as the Chairman of the new Governing Council.
2016 – Rohith Vemula, a PhD. student of the University of Hyderabad commits suicide after the University in 2015 stopped paying him a fellowship of Rs 25,000 per month based on allegations of him raising ‘issues’ under the banner of ASA.
2016 – The famous JNU row is ignited in ‘solidarity’ with the struggles of the Kashmiri migrants at the Sabarmati dhaba in campus.
2016 – Non-Kashmiri students of NIT Kashmir protest for their safety inside the campus after the clash between Kashmiri and Non-Kashmiri students on March 31, 2016.
In a country of 1.2 billion people where more than 20 million students enrol in higher education every year, there are bound to be more than just a few disputes. These disputes start with a small but significant controversy and grow into a storm sweeping the nation like the ones mentioned above. Bordering on young adulthood, students in under-graduate, post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral studies, whilst being the backbone of the nation, are vocal and opinion-oriented with their needs and claims which include equitable treatment, exams and results on time, need for classes, scholarships, actions against ragging, abuses by teachers and authority figures, and so on. The authorities do not take this attitude lightly and let these rebellious activities to be agendas fuelled by political parties. While student politics has been an intricate part of India since the struggle for independence, such associations today are ‘undesirable’ in the eyes of those authorities. What we fail to understand is many of these students’ demands are actually quite legitimate and require attention. Perhaps the energetic youth cannot deal with these problems in the manner the authorities want them to, but is that reason enough to deny them justice?
Issues get out of control only when we let them in a state of great agitation. So why not deal with the early symptoms of the disease? Why let an issue take the shape of a protest? There must be a better way to deal with such issues.
For starters, a Quasi-Judicial body must be formed to deal with various students’ affairs. Delicate as they are, students’ affairs demand special attention and most importantly, a quick resolution because an entire batch of students cannot give up their careers only to stand in a lifelong queue for their turn for justice. This Quasi-Judicial body should be made statutorily mandatory for all the universities. It should be comprised of at least two authority figures, at least one student representative, and one magistrate of that area. Based on the number of students, more than one institution of an area can have a common Quasi-Judicial body. It should meet at least twice every month to settle those disputes which cannot be normally handled by the University disciplinary authorities like the proctor/warden, etc., be it students versus authorities or students versus students. Parties must be heard and the Quasi-Judicial body should have discretionary power to set-up an investigative committee for a dispute.
We have seen the establishment of many Quasi-Judicial bodies in India over the years. Some of the important Quasi-Judicial bodies that are already present in India include National Human Rights Commission, State Human Rights Commissions, Central Information Commission, State Information Commission, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Competition Commission of India, Appellate Tribunal for Electricity, State Electricity Regulatory Commission and Railway Claims Tribunal, etc. It is imperative to note how efficient these bodies are, not just in addressing to specific issues, but also in reducing the burden of the Indian Judiciary. These bodies help declutterring the stacks of various issues piled up on one another and offer a road to speedy justice. It is also simple for the ones seeking justice as the aggrieved know that on which door they should knock.
I believe that if such a simple system is followed to look into students’ affairs, it will only be a matter of time before students see this alternate path to justice and do not seek to protest ‘in an undesirable messy fashion’. Like Albert Einstein put it, “Out of clutter, find simplicity.”