Quit India Got Students on the Streets as CAA Has Now – The Citizen

Posted: December 29, 2019 at 8:41 pm


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The strains of the Indian freedom struggles picked up dramatically when Gandhi made the call 'Quit India'. Till then, it seems to me, Gandhi was soft peddling/ negotiating/ speaking, but his patience was being misused. So he decided that now, there will be more than local satyagrahas and dialogues, and that he will generate what in fact could become conflict. Hence the 'Salt March' and the 'Civil Disobedience method, where picking up a state owned product like salt as a form of breaking the law changed the course of the freedom movement.

Of course many people have written about Gandhi's skills and intuition in knowing what would be the mesmerizing project or process. Picking up salt from the beaches, easily accessible over miles of coast, and in some sense privatizing a state owned essential commodity was nothing short of genius. But there was more to the Quit India Movement.

It was a peaceful resistance to the state and galvanized another section or slice of the Indian population- these were the students. Quit India resonated with them in ways beyond the various satyagrahas and other efforts. Students all over India, used the slogan 'Quit India' and marched and held meetings and gave the movement an extraordinary strength and voice. Simultaneously they, the students got politicized. The two words- Quit and India had the tang in them which touched the spirit of the young.

So while the act of civil disobedience spread, simultaneously India's students rose to the call Quit India in a way similar to what we see in India today. For students to rise as a political force there has to be a morally compelling call which can be adopted across difference. In India we are blessed, at the same time stressed by enormous diversity- language, religion, practice, everything varies to multiple amounts/ numbers.

Quit India resonated with the students, -strong, full of power like the voices today resonating, Azaadi. The word, the sound of the word as it is voiced, is so powerful .It has become the strum of the student uprisings in India today as was Quit India in the 1940s.

However what we are missing,- and that absence or empty box must be filled - not only because it would be a form of appreciation and reward for the persistence, brilliance, commitment, understanding of India and its Constitution by the students. It is also for the bigger or more formal reason that it represents the heart of India.

Much has been written and with great detail and with expertise on exactly how the CAA and the NRC contravene the principle and the spirit of the Constitution. So I will not go into that. But what needs to be thought out deeply by others, for example "the eminent persons and academicians" that have been recording their anxiety and disapproval of this initiative by the Modi- Shah combine, is how to channelize this extraordinary wide- awake knowledgeable community,- students from across India, into regenerating the 'India of our dreams'.

Yes, we had an India in our dreams. 'We' meaning the before midnight's children. People like myself engaged with India as adults in the early 50's. So I came to Delhi to work for an organisation which was building cooperatives and then joined the University and there were hundreds of people like myself.

What did we experience?

We experienced, to use a new term that has come into fashion now i.e. a Resurgent India. Across the country there was solidarity in affirming not only our freedom but drawing on our civilizational and economic experience. Gathering the resources that we possessed into a wide range of domains- culture, economic progress, political and social institutions and so on. However on reflection, we have to recognize that we do not have that icon- that North Star that would capture the Quit India Movement and translate it into affirming our freedom. Gandhi. A person or an institution that can engage and respond to the current articulation of the masses/students is needed.

This is a gap which has to be filled now, soon, if we are to give due respect to these brilliant, courageous, informed student communities of India. How to capture the space they have made in what looked like a rock which could not be cracked, and enter through that space into a wholesome democratic and enlightened India as designed and articulated by the Fathers and Mothers of the Constitution and the immediate descendants of that era.

This question requires immediate attention and needs some form of construction if we wish to respect and encourage the students. Otherwise the students protest, courage, fearlessness, and brilliant articulation of what is wrong and what needs to be corrected, can be swept away by a brutal government and by those sections of the society which have not had the experience of enlightenment.

So this enlightenment that came to us as a result of the attempt by the current central government to infiltrate/ corrupt our beautiful democracy needs to be a serious consideration. The 600 intellectuals who signed the letter, the other several hundreds who have come together in various ways to express support - civilians need to find the political platform on which the brilliant students efforts can be mounted.

This is the urgent need of the day. We have no Gandhi now nor do we have a Jayaprakash Narayan, nor can we suddenly bring out an individual as a pole.

It is not enough that many governments now will not be BJP. We can see the tumbling down. It is not enough to think that if the Congress party still appears here and there, when the citizens wish to reject BJP and its allies, it can lead this nation. We have to think of citizens forums, the movements coming together into some form of political formation and then bringing in leadership which is not yet there, but which could be brought out.

A challenging task but what the students have done cannot be allowed to go unrewarded.

Devaki Jain is a reputed development economist

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Quit India Got Students on the Streets as CAA Has Now - The Citizen

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December 29th, 2019 at 8:41 pm

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