Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Anirban Banerjee

Manasi Banerjee
PRICE; Rs.250
Exploring Student Politics consists of four critical essays on student politics. These were
originally published in various academic journals. They were later revised and published
in book form. In the first article,” Students & Politics: A Comparative perspective”, the
author, after a comparative study of student movements in various countries, has tried to
point out 1) the major characteristics of student movements and 2) the factors leading to
student power movements.1) The major features of student movements are idealism,
elitism, internationalism and political mindedness.2) Seven key factors lead to student
movements. These are national liberation movements, government policy, the education
system, generation gap, social background, unemployment, and alienation.

The second essay, “The Psychology of Student Protest: A Motivational Analysis” is a
study of the key factors in student activism, which were distilled after a comparative
analysis of student movements in various nations. The main motivating factors, which the
author identified, were the desire for power, anti-establishment feelings and radical
The third paper, “The Class character of the Student Movement: A Critique of Two
Theories” is a study of two major theories of student movements. The New Left theory
contends that college and university students are a part of the working class and ripe for
leading the revolution against capitalism. The theoreticians positing the generation gap
theory argue that students conceptualize class consciousness in terms of the generation
gap. Rejecting both these approaches, I have argued that students cannot be regarded as
a class, either in the Marxian or the Weberian sense. For both Marx and Weber, the term
“class” has an economic connotation. For Marx, class is based on relation of a person to
the means of production, i.e., whether he owns the means of production or not. For
Weber, class position means market position. Students are not a class, though they belong
to the middle class. Their consciousness is not based on class position. Rather it is based
on knowledge.
The fourth and final article, entitled, “Student Politics in India: a Historical
Profile” is a case study of the student movement in India employing the historical
method. In this essay, I have attempted a chronological exposition of the main currents in
Indian student movement from the days of the Young Bengal movement in the mid-19
th century till mid-August, 1998-when the manuscript was sent to the press. I have divided
the history of the student movement into three phases. In the proto-historical phase,
which coincided with the introduction of western education in India by the British
colonial regime, the student movement was in an incipient stage. This formative period of
the student movement lasted till 1905. It is in the stage of the freedom struggle (1905-
1947) that the student movement was institutionalized. It played an important role in
India’s freedom struggle. Many student martyrs, like Khudiram Bose, who are household
names now, came from lower middle class families; their dominant ideology was
patriotism. From 1947 onwards, the student movement entered a new phase which is
continuing till this day. In independent India, there has been a phenomenal growth of the
education system. Thanks to the policy of subsidized education, wards of small peasants,
workers, etc. can also reap the benefits of education. The student movement has focussed
on many issues ranging from opposing imperialism and combating authoritarian and
corrupt rulers to issues that directly concern the student community, i.e, examinations and
unemployment. The students took part in many progressive movements like the
Naxalbari movement and the movement against Ms. Indira Gandhi’s authoritarian
policies in the seventies. But, from the eighties, reactionary movements like the Assam
movement, the anti-Mandal Commission movement, etc. took place. To conclude, while
the student movement has had an overall progressive essence, casteism, communal and
secessionist tendencies, which may be described as “a counter current in the youth
movement”, are also present.
This book has been graced with a ‘Foreword ‘by noted educationist and
researcher on student activism, Prof. Anil Baran Ray.


Real life love stories are always interesting and they draw special attention when such affairs run through rough weather or end in tragedy. Although love-marriage-related conflicts, crimes and violent actions are not uncommon, yet the honour killing incidents in the recent past have once again bring the attitude of the Indian society towards inter-community love marriage under scanner. Moreover, they also raise serious questions regarding the activities of civil society in India.

            The cases of honour killing make one thing very clear – even in the new millennium; the Indian society does not feel much confortable with love affairs. Blaming patriarchal social structure of the traditional culture, for that matter, would be a very simplistic explanation. Lord Krishna and his lover Radha are worshipped all over India and this extra-marital love affair remains a source of inspiration to the artists and to the poets for centuries. The patriarchal Hindu society, with all its conservative attitude, did not find any difficulty to celebrate the divine love story in public. But what is praised and discussed in public might not be allowed to take place within the domestic space. Therefore, although love stories were popularized in songs, dramas and in other forms of performing arts, the lovers never had a smooth ride. The parents in India have always preferred arranged marriages and the situation has not changed much even today.

            A close look to the society points out that there are reservations about love affairs mainly for two reasons. Firstly, the guardians feel that being engaged in love is nothing but wastage of time and it distracts the attention of the young boys and girls from their studies. Some liberals feel that love is permissible only after reaching maturity, particularly after completing education and after achieving stability and self-sufficiency financially. The second factor of opposition is more important. In Indian society, even today, the love affairs are viewed in connection with marriage. There is a  general opinion that the lovers should have commitment to the relationship and such a relationship should be taken to the socially acceptable conclusion, that is, ‘marriage’. As a result, all the issues related to marriage appear in the scene, while dealing with love related matters.

            In India, marriage is a very problematic issue. The choice of mates, rituals to be performed, wedding ceremonies, all these are seriously taken. Conservative parents, for keeping control over the family affairs, prefer to select mates for their children themselves. In the Indian tradition, even today, marriage is regarded as a parental responsibility, particularly the marriage of the daughters. Inability to arrange marriage for the girls is regarded as a matter of shame for the family whereas ensuring a happy marriage for the children in a socially and financially secure family, is a matter of pride for the guardians.

            Therefore, in order that marriages may be happy, adjustments after marriage become a major concern. So, the elders of the family try to find optimum similarities between the two sides and the main factors that receive attention during match-making are social status, economic background, ethnicity and caste.

            In rarest of rare cases, a mate is selected from a different religious group. In the everyday social life of average Indians, religion, ethnicity and even caste play an important role. Religious traditions and cultures, not only influences one’s activities and ideologies, they tend to give a distinct identity to its followers. In such a social context, it is believed that adjustment by a couple becomes a tough task when the partners belong to different religion, culture, financial strata, caste or race. Further, in this age of consumerism, adjustments are assumed to be much harder when the bride comes of a much richer family but the groom is financially rather poor and weak.

            In India, marriage is seen not just as an event that gives social sanction to a couple to have sexual relationship and give birth to children but it is viewed in other ways as well. Marriage is a means to raise social status, an instrument to establish contacts with people enjoying power and prestige. Marriage not only determines the position of any individual but also effects the larger family he or she belongs to. Since reputation is very significant and sensitive in a highly stratified society, therefore, very often we find that communities get involved in disputes linked to marriage and tensions arise. Sometimes, such disputes result in violent acts causing law and order problem. In fact, as evident from the media reports from time to time; conflicts, brutality and even murders resulting from inter-caste and inter-religion or inter-ethnic marriages are not rare in the subcontinent.

            However, caste wars are not the only crime associated with marriage. Violation of The Child Marriage Restraint Act is rampant. Similarly common is fake marriage. Murder and torture for dowry are among the major crimes committed against women in India. What is more, marriage is one of the important reasons and widely used method behind trafficking of young women.

            Therefore, although marriage is a personal matter, yet in the Indian context, marriage-related crimes create enough scope for external intervention. Whenever the situation gets complicated, there is an opportunity for some corrupt people, holding the position of power, to fish in troubled waters. Such an opportunistic tribe includes not only the police but then political bosses as well.

            No sensible person can say that intercommunity love marriages are not desirable. A civilized society can hardly prevent such marriages from taking place in spite of all possible efforts. Ideally, there should not be any interference when mates are adults and legally married. However, complex situation often arises out of such marriages. It is a fact, though undesirable, that even in this age of cultural globalization, intercommunity marriages without family consent are discouraged, resisted and often end in tension and conflict. Such situation is not welcome and it deserves serious attention.

            To ensure safe and peaceful time for the lovers after marriage, the best option would be to remove tensions among the communities and establish a culture of responsibility. Here the civil society has one important role to play. But this is not an easy task to accomplish and there is no shortcut to success. Only blaming the conservative parents and asking them to become open minded and to respect individual choice are not going to help much. Experience shows that love marriages in large number end in cheating, in trafficking of young girls etc. There is a general belief that love marriages often lead to divorce due to failure in adjustment and lack of commitment to the relationship. In the Indian family value system, divorce is not easily acceptable and remarriage is difficult. After years to investing in children’s upbringing and spending huge amount for their marriage, no Indian parents would like to witness separation after a few months. Asking parents to be tolerant and allowing youths to go after their own choice – even to the extent of becoming irresponsible in the name of individual freedom – may not be the proper approach to establish a healthy social atmosphere.

            It is a simple fact that unless the bitterness among different sections is not mitigated, conflicts may ensue from time to time fro intercommunity love marriages. Such unfortunate happenings are not unnatural or infrequent in a society which has poor record of checking communal riots as also of organizing speedy trial and delivering justice to the victims. Therefore, due to the failure of the political system, the task for the civil socity is to create a conducive environment for tension free interaction among all the communities. Mere use of attractive words – just to blame some fundamentalists and thereby claiming a secular label forgetting other real issues – will not serve any real purpose. Time has come to remember that playing to the gallery by the intelligentia can hardly achieve any positive result. Abusing police after an unfortunate incident and criticizing political parties selectively will fall far short of what is needed. There is no denying the fact that, there are reasons for communal tensions to exist in India. Fundamentalism and narrow sectarian mentality apart, special schemes aimed at appeasing specific communities for vote bank politics affect social harmony beyond repair. But unfortunately, such harmful acts have rarely faced any strong, continuous large scale movement lead by the civil society. Similarly, very little has been done by the civil society to pressurize the political system to go for reforming the police and judiciary. The intention on the part of the opportunistic intellectuals to remain politically correct in every occasion only allows communalism to spread its wings. Unless the civil society realizes its roles and duties, a culture of discipline and responsibility can never be established in the Indian social context. Otherwise, many lovers, sharing a common dream from different community backgrounds, will suffer.
Ananda Mohan Kar (Asst. Professor, Department of Sociology, The University of Burdwan, India).