In a few months, when the State goes to the polls, a significant chunk of those taking part in the democratic process will be youngsters — a legion brought up in an environment sanitised of politics in perhaps the last two decades.
While some political party leaders have modified their campaigns to woo the present tech-savvy generation, some have even appointed college-goers as their official spokespersons.
But the question is, after being consciously kept away from it all, do the present day youth have any understanding of behind-the-scene politics?
D Deepak Raj, an engineering student who had tried to associate himself with politics, says upon entering college, students begin discussing politics, albeit superficially, in their friends’ circle. On the other hand, their family and teachers compel them to focus only on academics and jobs.
As educationist Prince Gajendra Babu points out, students in this age of commercialisation spend a substantial amount of money on education. Beyond this, the fear of losing internal exam marks and the urge to secure good campus placements take priority.
The only social satisfaction they derive is from activities like blood donation or sapling plantation. Prince, however, warns that suppressing their political will have a negative impact on democracy.
A former Government Arts college student, requesting anonymity, says that this trend is proving to be dangerous as political parties are taking advantage of the fact that the youth have failed to either come up with alternative political ideas or question the establishment. In a State where once students had the support of their Tamil and History teachers for the anti-Hindi agitation, there is no interaction between professors and students on topics outside their prescribed syllabus, says S Ilayaraja, president of the Tamil Nadu Students Movement. Agitations like these were the key in bringing about a sea change in politics in India, he adds. T Karmugil, a Madras University student, claims that professors have associations both within and outside the college premises to represent their issues to the management and government, while the same democratic right is denied to students.
Thamizhiniyan, a former Pachaiyappa’s college student union leader and now an advocate in the Madras High Court, says that though elections are necessary, once political parties begin to exert influence, colleges become a proxy battleground.
“So, it is better if these student bodies keep away from political, caste-based or religious outfits, as students easily fall prey to the agenda of external forces,” he cautions.
A student of IIT-Madras says that politics and student issues have become inseparable. “If individuals in a student body backed by political parties are violating norms, they should be removed rather than scrapping the election process,” he added.
Experts feel that students coming out to protest also depends on their economic background.