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10 biggest students’ protests in history of Independent India

When it comes to speaking up and raising voice against injustice, the young blood of this nation has always stood forward. Most of the political parties, with an intention to make the young voices reach out to the people of this country, have come up with their students wing. Here is a list of biggest protests and movements led by students after independence in India:

Nav Nirman Andolan (Reconstruction Movement), 1974

Massive protests of students erupted after Ahmedabad’s L.D College of Engineering hiked hostel and food fees by 20% in December 1973. Within a month, similar protests were staged by other students group of Gujarat University over the same. What happened next, is something which we still witness these days; the protests soon turned violent and resulted in clashes between police and students in more than 30 towns in Gujarat.

Nav Nirman Andolan (Reconstruction Movement), 1974

Curfew was imposed in more than 40 towns over the same. Adamant on not backing off until demands are met, the students continued their agitation asking for their then Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel to step down. Due to the enormous pressure, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had asked him tender his resignation.

Student movement in Emergency, 1975

As emergency was imposed, minutes before midnight on June 25, 1975, students’ protest erupted nation-wide against the same. Thousands of students across country staged huge protests and demonstrations against imposition of emergency.

Arun Jaitley leading protest during emergency, 1975

Late Arun Jaitley, who was in his early twenties had graduated from law college, participated in the agitation. Jaitley also led several other protests due to which he was jailed too.

Assam Agitation (1979 to 1985)

The recent agitation that we have seen in the state of Assam due to NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) is not something new. The agitation over illegal immigrants dates back to 1979 in the northeastern state. A six-year agitation demanding identification and deportation of illegal immigrants was launched by the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) in 1979. The massive and violent agitation killed more than 880 people over six years. The agitation finally ended in 1985 after the Government of India signed Assam Accord. The Assam Accord was a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) signed between representatives of the Government of India and the leaders of the Assam Movement in New Delhi. The date of detection and deportation of foreigners was put as March 25, 1971 in the accord, while in case of other states, it is 1951.

MoS signed between Centre and leaders of Assam movement in 1985

Anti-reservation protests, 2006

After reservation law was implemented in 2006 which ensured 27% reservation for OBCs, massive students protests erupted across the nation against the government move. Students from various universities took to the streets and staged protests against the UPA government. Opposing the bill, forward caste students termed it a ‘discriminatory’ move. The agitation escalated on such a level that police had resorted to lathicharge and used water canons to deal with the protesters. There were several counter protests too, which were organized in support of the same bill.

Anti-reservation protest, 2006

FTII agitation, 2015

Film and Television Institute of India of Pune staged massive protests against the appointment of actor and BJP member Gajendra Chauhan as its chairman. The strike went on for 140 days during which the students boycotted classes and exams. The protests were staged because the students claimed that Gajendra Chauhan was not eligible enough to lead the institute as their Chairman. Protests were not just staged in Maharashtra but later also escalated to Delhi.

FTII students’ protest, 2015

Jadavpur University , 2014

The protests at Jadhavpur University in Kolkata, popularly known as ‘Hok Kolorbo’ movement in 2014 was organized against alleged sexual harassment within the campus. Students staged massive protests in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad and Guwahati over the same. After a number of dialogues with the college officials failed, the agitating students gheraoed the office of authority as well as the Vice-Chancellor. Followed by this, the students were brutally beaten up the police who were deployed in the same area to control the situation. As things went out of the hands, further protests erupted in which the teachers also participated along with the students. A ‘fast unto death’ strike was launched on January 5, 2015, after which the Chief Minister of West Bengal met the University Vice-Chancellor and later announced his resignation.

Hok Kolorbo Movement, Kolkata, 2014

Protest over Rohith Vemula’s death, 2016

Suicide of the Dalit scholar, Rohith Vemula, triggered huge protests across the country. Vemula was a Dalit scholar, who hanged himself after being suspended from the University of Hyderabad. He was accused of allegedly assaulting an ABVP leader in campus, after which he was suspended and his access within the campus was also limited by the college authority. Vemula’s death resulted in huge protests in Southern parts of India as well as in the national capital. Massive number of students gathered in the streets and participated in rallies to protest against his death.


Protest against Rohit Vemula’s suicide

JNU protest, 2016

The Jawaharlal Nehru University erupted in protests over the execution of Afzal Guru, who was convicted of carrying out an attack in Parliament 19 years ago. During the protest that continued for four days, JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, was slapped with sedition charges and later arrested. Other students like Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were also arrested for allegedly chanting anti-India slogans during the protests. The series of events that took place also included suspension of several students and many were also slapped with hefty fines.

JNU protests, 2016

JNU protests 2019 (over fee hike)

The students of Jawarharlal Nehru University staged huge demonstrations over steep hike in fees. Nearly 600 police personnel were deployed keep the situation under control. However, clashes between students and police were reported during the protests. Terming the situation an ‘Academic emergency’, students of the University demanded removal of their Vice Chancellor, M Jagadesh Kumar. Followed by the same, a partial rollback was announced by the authorities of the University.

Photo: PTI

Students protests against CAA across India, 2019

Recently, the entire nation witnessed massive protests over the implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act. Assam Students’ union, Jamia Millia Islamia students, students of Aligarh Muslim University and many others staged huge protests over the legislation. Situation turned violent in Jamia and AMU as police opened fire inside the University campus. Students-police clash left several students wounded during the protest. Section 144 was imposed in several parts of the country and internet was shut down. Not just the students of India, over 400 students studying abroad also expressed their concern over the same.

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