First of all, let me congratulate the thousands of young men and women who came out on the streets and proved that India is a living, throbbing democracy. The conflict between agreement and disagreement is the first and foremost of the first sign of a healthy democracy. There is nothing wrong if these agreements and disagreements together go along, but if they are trapped in the unending web of enmity and arguments then it may bring chaos.

While respecting the ongoing students’ movement, disagreement and anger, I would like to urge them not to let their future be spoilt. If our annoyed and agitated students do not attend classes, and do not allow the examinations to take place, they will certainly not be doing justice to themselves, or to the future of the country. Here, it’s necessary to make this spirited young generation aware of some of the untoward incidents of the past.

In 1967, the “angrezi hatao" (remove English) movement by Ram Manohar Lohia was at its peak. Those were the sentimental days of the Indian republic. It was only 22 years ago since we had got independence, and our youth used to get influenced by France, at times by Soviet Russia, by Germany, and by America. Those days, the most common expression was “we don’t have to be a slave of the Britishers’ language after independence". On Lohia’s call, thousands of students from the Hindi belt came out on the streets to protest. In the civil lines area of Allahabad, the English display boards in shops were re-painted overnight. The nameplates outside houses were smeared with black. If the house owner’s name was engraved in stone, then people tried to dislodge it and, in the process, the entrances and doors of many houses were damaged.

People of our generation were in primary schools. When we gradually become aware of what was going on around us, we realized that our parents were also infused with the same sentiment. Consequently, later in life, those of our generation had to face difficulties in our own country as we lacked familiarity with English. Interestingly, Lohia’s colleagues and followers, who threw Congress out of power in seven states for the first time through the slogan of ‘non-Congressism’, comfortably forgot the students’ movement of Tamil Nadu. Why?

Only two years ago, in 1965, the Official Languages Act 1963 was implemented in Tamil Nadu. Under this law, learning Hindi was mandatory. Students had started vehemently protesting against it. And the movement turned so aggressive that many students lost their lives. This movement was stopped only after then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri assured the students that the government stands by them, and the promise by former PM Jawahar Lal Nehru that Hindi will not be imposed on them will be honoured. As a result of this movement, Congress was wiped out of the state in the 1967 elections and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK, came to power.

Not even a decade of the Lohia movement had passed, when Jayaprakash Narayan emerged. Under his leadership, agitations over college fee hike in Gujarat and Bihar developed into full-fledged social movement. One slogan reverberated in every household: “Sampurna kranti ab naara hai, bhavi itihas hamara hai (total revolution is our slogan, history now belongs to us)". Several of today’s leaders joined politics around that time. But did anyone of them do justice to JP’s dreams?

In the same decade, a new students’ movement had started in Assam. This movement, focusing on Assamese language and identity, rocked the foundation of political power in the state. This students’ movement led to the formation of the Assam Gana Parishad, which won a majority in the next assembly election, and came to power. Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was the first to walk into the chief minister’s residence, straight from hostel. When in power, he realised that the issues raised during the struggle were merely a surge of emotions. They had no value in terms of legislation and system. How close to reality was this political jumla?

Today’s seething young generation should never forget that politics ultimately aims at getting political power, and power often eclipses human thoughts. There’s a famous saying: Power corrupts. It’s not necessary that only the people earning and hoarding money by illegal means are corrupt. The people who compromise on their principles and ideology are more dangerous. In this highly competitive world of today, our youth will have to establish harmony between their struggle and their aim.

An appeal to the government, too. The feelings expressed by the youth can not be suppressed by using force. Finding the path of a harmonious agreement with them is not only the ruling government’s responsibility, but it’s also the biggest necessity of the time.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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