How A Protest Began Strong, And Fizzled Out, Over A Weekend.

Students argue that increased yearly intake should result in more facilities || Photo courtesy: Debsourabh Ghosh/The Manipal Journal

At the start, this article is not meant to hurt the sentiments of any MITians who genuinely believed in the aims and beliefs of last Saturday’s protest movement. At the same time, I want to ask all of you a few questions. That being: “How could a movement that started so brilliantly, fizzle out over the weekend?”

First, let us go to the roots of this movement. Unless you have lived under a rock this past weekend, everyone knows of the unfortunate accident. Ishan Nihalani, a fellow second year EEE student who had lost his balance while travelling on the footboard of a campus bus, that ferries students from various hostels to the academic section of our “prestigious” college, fell head first, and suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was rushed to the nearest hospital, and due to the prompt action taken, he is now said to be out of danger, and critical yet stable.

*Disclaimer: This is what was claimed by the university late saturday evening based on events explained later in this post*

Now, this is where the trouble began. MIT‘s honorable director, Smt. Kumkum Garg, visited the injured student at the KMC hospital. Consequently, she was believed to have spoken words that somehow, poor Ishan was responsible for his current predicament. She then allegedly, nonchalantly blamed the overcrowding of the busesthat led to this accident on the basis that MIT‘s students didn’t know any better and had they been punctual by setting off to class 10 minutes earlier, this accident would have never happened.

Hmmm… Really?  This is what you had to say ma’am? After all the stifling restrictions on perm times, horrible timetables, and discouraging measures on co curricular activities, this is what you had to say?  Well, history has shown time and again that all tyrants (not saying that you are one Madam, just letting you know what happens when words are attributed to a person in a high office) lost their mandate to rule over their subjects, only when their words spoke louder than their actions. True to the perverse twist of the proverb, some of history’s most prominent dictators and tyrants, Marie Antoinette of the French revolution era France, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, have paid dearly for the words that they spoke in their arrogance. Like them, you too had to face the consequences for the words that were allegedly attributed to you.

Rumors of these quotes then spread like wildfire. Viral memes and status updates flooded Facebook. People called upon one another to take up this travesty. And soon enough, on 012, a large gathering of students assembled in the MIT Campus at the 10th block Basketball court. The Chief Warden, sent perhaps in a lax display of troubleshooting, buckled under the pressure. The Mob then proceeded to Smt. Kumkum Garg’s residence. People demanded that Smt. Garg show up, and upon the continued absence of any sort of response from the director’s side, proceeded to hurl abuses of the foulest kind. Things looked set to go violent at any moment, and then, finally, fearing the worst, Smt. Garg showed up. The crowd weren’t appeased by her perceived half-hearted apology. Registrar of the university, Dr.G.K. Prabhu then abandoned a function at MCODS midway to prevent the incident from snowballing further. The gathering then moved to the quadrangle, where the management of the college was cornered on various issues that had piled up over the years. Acknowledging defeat, the management assured that the students’ grievances would be addressed on Monday, 12 March 2012 at 12:30 PM and with that assurance in hand, the gathering dispersed.

Students argue that increased yearly intake should result in more facilities || Photo courtesy: Debsourabh Ghosh/The Manipal Journal

It was a celebratory atmosphere in MIT. It was as if India had won the World Cup again. People were in a self congratulatory mood. The student council, stung by this rejection of their role as an intermediary between the students and the management, was spurred into action. The SC, as it is popularly known, then opened a new group on Facebook. The Group was meant to gather all the complaints that the students had to discuss their grievances. Now, everyone was galvanised into finding each and every minute complaint that they had about college life.

And all through Sunday, the suggestions kept piling up.  Ranging from idiotic to the most thoughtful, the issues to be discussed were sorted out, “meticulously” as claimed by the SC. And then, almost unnoticed, the SC had issued a long notice on the SC Open Group.  Unnoticed to all, the gathering timing was postponed to 5:30 PM.

In our celebratory mood, we had forgotten about this crucial change in the course of events.

By Monday, 12 March 2012, at 5:30 PM this author for one, was excited about the prospect of the meeting ahead. Would we finally score some key victories? On Attendance percentage? On hostel dues? On mess facilities? Would the intake be reduced to a definitive number? All these and more were to be answered.

Then, the inevitable had begun.

I for one had been told that the gathering at the quadrangle on Saturday night was one of the largest gatherings ever, with the Revels fashions shows included. I had come well in advance of the meeting, anticipating a 1000+ crowd.

I could not have been more naïve.

Barely, 300 to 400 people had shown up. There, my friends,  and I call you friends out of genuine camaraderie and not out of thinly veiled disgust at some of the dignitaries,  was the first main reason for this movement to fizzle out. The University had played a clever trick on all of us. Like they had claimed in their speeches, the University knows us quite well. By organising a meeting at 5:30 PM, the University knew that most of us would be too “tired” to attend. They knew that we valued our evening tea more than pressing matters that we had raised. It was a clever masterstroke.

Secondly, the Student Council had shown a lack of spine. They could have insisted on keeping the slated time at 12:30 PM when surely a bigger crowd would have had the guts to heckle the “dignitaries” if they planned to weasel out on their promises. But no, they didn’t. The SC had pleaded with all of us to show patience with them, they pleaded us not to harass them by vandalising their hostel doors, by not heckling them in informal situations,  and in exchange they promised to represent us affectively. Dear Student Council Leaders, you have wasted an opportunity to earn loads of goodwill. Instead, you’ve proven yourselves to be the subservient chamchas of the college management that everyone had perceived you to be.

Thirdly, in the subservience and lack of a sizeable crowd, the authorities were now emboldened.  Starting from the VC to the Director, all the dignitaries had paid our grievances a mere lip service. The usual “We Care About You” dialogs were used, and most of the issues, such as student intake, infrastructure, pro KMC anti MIT discrimination, lack of in campus security and what not were swept under the carpet. The only positive to take was that the University had agreed to take care of the expenses of Ishan’s treatment.

The so-called interactive session was reduced to a farce. Instead of going to all these lengths, the University could have told us only two words, saving us our valuable time.

“Fill your dirty expletives and abuses here (Go **** yourselves)

Forgive me for the use of profanity, but this was the essence of their speech. The University did indeed love us, but for the mere fact that we are cash cows. We were seduced by them with that bull shit filled “Summer of 69” video, and having paid them for our “Education” we had sealed our fate. We had no right to question them, and like an obedient flock of sheep, we were to shear the wool of dignity to enrich their coffers.

Now, some of you might ask, why are we discriminated against by the University? Why aren’t we treated on the same level as KMC students? Well, let me explain this in an interesting way.

To the University, KMC is like a multiplex, and MIT is like a single screen theatre. Like a Multiplex, with its  AC screens, Dolby Surround Sound, Hygienic seating and what not, the KMC student pays a hell of a lot more than us. Hence, the red carpet treatment.

MIT on the other hand, is like a single screen theatre. Like any single screen theatre, the owners couldn’t care less if people farted, scratched themselves, pissed in the theatre, and what not, as the seedy films played. In essence, we are like the B team. We don’t matter on the cover page, but we matter on the remaining pages. We help them to create the image of this large and diverse university and blah blah yaddy yaddah you know the Deemed University bull shit.

And lastly, friends, we ourselves are to blame. Chetan Bhagat once famously said that we are a Facebook democracy. We like stuff, we tag stuff, and we chat and what not, but essentially, we are arm chair critics. We don’t really care. We don’t take the fight to its logical conclusion after beginning it. We just start it, and then become complacent enough. I’m not pointing fingers at any of you, but many of the people had a perceived feeling that went like this: “Hey, I was there on Saturday. Why should I go today? I have done my bit.” And that, is where it all fell apart. How a promising movement like this just fell apart.

P.S: These opinions are my own and don’t represent  that of ManipalBlog.com . First posted on my facebook wall .

About Vinayak Prabhu 19 Articles
Change cant be given to you everytime. You yourself must bring change. A Student at the Manipal Institute of Technology