Eleven Lucknow University students, including two girls, have been cooling their heels in a district prison for about a week. They committed the ‘crime’ of showing black flags to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and holding up his fleet of cars for six-seven minutes during his recent visit to the University.
The lower court denied the students bail – it is believed the prosecution was instructed to oppose bail so that these “disturbing elements” learnt a lesson. The police has lodged the case under serious charges of rioting, causing hurt to deter policemen in functioning of their duty and assaulting policemen on duty.
None of these students had indulged in stone pelting or any other violent act. In fact, there are pictures showing policemen beating them up.
Yogi Adityanath reacted strongly to the incident. In his speech at the University, he described them as “ugravadi,” or terrorists, and wanted to know from officials how the students had gotten close to his fleet of vehicles.
Of the students jailed, four are from the CPI(M)’s student wing, the Students Federation of India (SFI), six are from the Samajwadi Party, while one girl is a sympathizer. Only the SFI protested the jailing of the students.
Surprisingly, the Samajwadi Party hasn’t uttered a word in support of their students so far, considering it has a number of youth organisations, like the Samajwadi Chhatra Sabha, Yuvjan Sabha, Mulayam Singh Yadav Youth Brigade and Lohia Vahini.
Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had once upon a time supported these student leaders – but that was a long time ago, even before the 2012 Assembly polls when he was battling against Mayawati’s BSP regime. These student organisations were instrumental in helping Akhilesh emerge as the youth face of the party – they helped him lever himself to the top job when he sought to portray himself as a young person who understood the needs of young people in the state.
In fact, many of the party’s frontal organisations had been manned by several student leaders, leading to considerable friction between Akhilesh and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav.
But Akhilesh Yadav seems to have completely forgotten these students today. No Samajwadi Party student wing leader has organized even one protest against the police’s uncalled-for action.
This incident calls for an examination of student politics in Uttar Pradesh. Mayawati never allowed student elections to take place during her regime, from 2007-12. The Congress’ NSUI has been defunct for years, only contesting a variety of students union elections but hardly bothering to agitate on any matter that involves students.
Of course, things were different in the good old days. In the 1980s, all the major political parties used universities as a talent pool to nurture future leaders.
Two Lucknow University student union presidents, Arvind Singh Gope and Brajesh Pathak, have been playing active role in UP politics for the last 15 years. While Gope was minister in Samajwadi Party governments in 2003-2007 and 2012-2017, Brajesh Pathak has been BSP MP both from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha . Presently he is a cabinet minister in the BJP government after being elected from Lucknow.
Of course, both these student leaders-turned politicians never stood by students protests after they joined the active politics.
A new chapter in the decline and fall of Lucknow University is being written these days.