Politics behind depoliticising campuses?

The powerful rhetoric of leaders of the Dravidian movement especially at college campuses played a crucial role in redrawing the political scene of Tamil Nadu. Ironically, as the movement completes half a century, an offshoot of the same which is in power has advised officials not to encourage political speeches in college campuses.
Kamal Haasan addresses students at a college.( (for representational purpose)
Kamal Haasan addresses students at a college.( (for representational purpose)


A circular from the Directorate of Collegiate Education to its zonal offices had opined that such meetings affect students’ education and their research attitude and directed the officials not to permit such meetings. The instruction came at a time when actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan attended functions at colleges and gave speeches with a political slant. 
The functions attended by Rajinikanth drew a big crowd of students besides getting media attention. Kamal too used the college platforms to attract youth support to his Makkal Needhi Maiam. 
However, the Dravidian movement leaders had stopped visiting college campuses to deliver speeches. Though the state government’s order had triggered a spate of opposition from students’ organisations, the leaders of the Dravidian movement, barring MDMK general secretary Vaiko, have not come out against it. Vaiko had said even the British did not think of stopping the spread of political views to students. He said, “Political meetings addressed by scholars and leaders play a crucial role in nurturing future generations, informing the students on the present circumstances and involving them in debates. It sows the seeds of principles and turns them into achievers.” 
Surprisingly, there was no similar resistance to the move from the DMK which grew in college campuses through the speeches of former Chief Ministers CN Annadurai and M Karunanidhi, and party leaders such as R Nedunchezian, Madhiyazhagan and K Kalimuthu. Anna’s speech at the Madras Christian College in 1964 on ‘The basic philosophy of DMK’ and on ‘Moods and deeds’ at the Pachaiyappas College is still remembered by followers of the Dravidian movement. 
Former Speaker PH Pandian had narrated how hundreds of students, including himself, had joined the DMK after matinee idol MGR attended a meeting in the Pachaiyappas College in 1961. Political meetings in colleges were a regular feature in the 1970s and 1980s when the leaders of both the DMK and AIADMK had taken part and conveyed their party’s stand on the burning issues of that time. However, there was lull in such meetings over the last two decades until Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth revived the culture of meetings at colleges campuses. There are allegations that the circular was aimed at preventing both the actors from using college campuses.
Makkal Needhi Maiam functionaries see the direction as a fallout of the fear of the AIADMK which may  not return to power again. One of the MNM functionaries, Bharathi Krishnakumar, said, “Kamal Haasan is not speaking party politics in college functions. He has not appealed to any student to come out of the AIADMK and join his party. Kamal is not asking students to join politics. He is only asking them to understand politics without affecting their studies.” However, student leaders do not see the circular as an attack only on the two actors and say it is an attempt to suppress the growing awareness among students. 
Abdul Rahman, general secretary of Campus Front, a student organisation, said, “The circular was intended to bury the political views of students and turning them into herds of cattle at a time when the Tamil Nadu people are fighting against the union and state governments. The students are getting more aware about the political situation and they are gearing up to take part in the protests. The rulers are aware that political changes in Tamil Nadu begin from the college campuses.”
SL Tamil killings gave impetus to meetings in 1980s
Political meetings at college campuses picked up momentum in the early 1980s following the black July massacre of Tamils in Colombo and the rise of armed struggle of the LTTE for a separate homeland for Tamils in Sri Lanka. Key speakers at the college campuses in the 1980s included former minister K Kalimuthu and  MDMK general secretary Vaiko. 
On May 31, 1981, the Jaffna Public Library destroyed more than 90,000 books, including many rare  Tamil manuscripts, while invaluable historical works were burnt. In Sri Lanka, another major communal violence began in August 1981. Besides the Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils were also attacked by the Sinhalese in various parts of the island nation. 
These incidents had severe repercussions in college campuses across Tamil Nadu. On June 5, 1981, students of various colleges in Chennai, visited the office of the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka and presented a memorandum condemning the alleged atrocities on the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Students of various colleges in Tamil Nadu, abstained from classes then. Students of colleges in Madras city, went in a procession from Napier Park to the Deputy High Commissioner’s office of Sri Lanka in Madras on August 19, 1981. Tamil Nadu medical college and Annamalai University students abstained from classes on April 17, 1984. 
Institutions during the  Chinese aggression 
Even before the DMK exploited the college platform for raising the anti-Hindi pitch, Congress leaders had used it in the late 1950s and early 1960s to trigger public anger against Chinese aggression. 
On November 4, 1959, students themselves conducted a public meeting at the Triplicane Beach and passed a resolution urging China to leave the Indian territory and appealed to the union government to take suitable steps against it, if Beijing persisted in its hostile attitude.  
Youth Congress leaders held a series of meetings against the DMK’s separate Dravida Nadu plank at a time when the nation was battling the Chinese aggression before Anna himself announced that the DMK would give up the demand.
Hotbed of anti-Hindi agitations
College campuses were active in the 1960s when DMK leaders addressed students on Hindi imposition and sought to raise the anti-Hindi fervour. Student leaders of the DMK conducted meetings in college campuses to mobilise the students for a historic agitation which changed the course of Tamil Nadu’s history. 
College students themselves began protests in Madurai, where they went on a procession against Hindi and a group of Congress workers started attacking them. As the news spread, students from all parts of the state boycotted classes and joined the protests in their areas. 
The next day, in Chennai, the Beach road turned out to be the centre of anti-Hindi agitations with about one lakh students carrying out a procession from Napier park to Fort St George. The police were unable to control the surging students who were coming out from all the lanes and bylanes, joining the main column of processionists. 
The state government indefinitely closed all the colleges and schools from January 28 and raided the college hostels to arrest students. Railway stations and other central government offices turned out to be the targets of the protesters who burnt Hindi name boards, cut telegraph poles and damaged railway tracks.

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