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Patna's Art & Craft College agitation puts Bihar's academic crisis into limelight

Nivedita | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The issues

  • Patna Art & Craft College has expelled eight of its students and seven are in jail
  • Students are on an indefinite hunger strike outside the gates of the college

What lead to this

  • A student Nitish Kumar tried to commit suicide for being ostracised for his caste
  • Students have been beaten up and shot at by the VC and principal\'s security guards

More in the story

  • What does this agitation say about Bihar\'s academic issues?
  • Are the politicians doing anything about it?

Children who would have enriched the world of art are instead languishing in jail like petty criminals. At an age when they should have been playing with colours on canvas, they are being punished for crimes they never committed.

The students of Patna Art and Craft College, Bihar's only learning centre for arts, have been agitating for more than 50 days now.

The campus has been locked and students are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike outside the gates. The whole area surrounding the college resembles a cantonment.

Also read: Bihar topper scam: Special Task Force arrests five

Eight students have been expelled by college authorities, while seven others are lodged in Beur jail.

The whole atmosphere around the college suggests there is an attempt to muzzle the students' protest much like the recent JNU movement.

The story in there

If there is no truth in this story of sheer injustice, then why did Nitish Kumar, a student of the college, try committing suicide?

Who are these people forcing young minds towards death? Who are the ones reigning over the campus for decades with their regressive mindsets?

They are people who have no idea of their history, who never bothered to look at the state of affairs in society and are busy casting definitions for others in this case.

As famous scientist Professor Yashpal says, "We must inculcate a deep understanding among our children to help them learn. This is essential so that when these children view this existence through the fragments of their mind and enter the practical aspects of life, they should be able to transform their knowledge as per their intellect. They must taste the kind of knowledge that makes their present creative and blissful."

Deeper issues

Had our governments been able to share the same vision, our education system would not have been in such shambles.

What can be more shameful than a Vice Chancellor requiring security guards to go among his own students? The Patna University VC always walks around with his own security person. Admittedly, he never meets his pupils without his guard as he fears assault from them.

On 23 May, the students of the college had gone to meet the VC to press for their demands. However, they were welcomed with several rounds of bullets fired by the VC's security personnel.

Dozens of students, including girls, were brutally beaten and criminal cases were registered against them. Where can the students of this college hope to find redressal of their issues in such a situation?

On 23 May when Patna Art College students went to meet VC they were fired at by security personnel

Earlier, the students had approached the principal's office to complain against a contractor employed the administration. But, they were roughed up by the same contractor in the presence of the principal.

The power and influence of contractors is not hidden from anybody in this country. It is no secret they find work in educational institutions after paying heavy commissions. But aren't students well within their rights to question them?

The Principal Dr Chandra Bhushan Shrivastava could have salvaged the situation with little tact. He could have taken the agitating students into confidence.

Also read: JD(U) sacks Bihar toppers scam accused Usha Sinha

Instead, he chose not to intervene when the contractor was manhandling the students.

The grievances

The college students have been accusing Shrivastava of caste discrimination and creating anarchy in the past.

In fact, Nitish Kumar had lodged a complaint against him at Buddha Colony police station last year, alleging persecution and partiality on the basis of caste. But, the police failed to take any action.

Nitish, who belongs to a poor Dalit family, was saved. But he could not get over the trauma he had to face.

The questions left behind by Rohith Vemula's death in Hyderabad Central University are looming large over the campus of this art college as well.

Had our governments as well as education system been more sensitive, there would not have been cases like Rohith Vemula and Nitish Kumar.

Dismal state of affairs

The current state of our education can be gauged from the fact that almost one third of our VCs don't have a doctorate degree. The data reveals many of them do not even fulfill the essential academic criteria.

According to the recommendations of the Kothari Commission, a VC should normally be an eminent academician.

In reality, only the ones related to the education mafia get high postings in our universities. The topper scam in Bihar is a case in point.

There has been no recruitment of teachers in Patna University since 2003. In 2011, some teachers were appointed in the Patna Art College after a long agitation. The students are still waiting for a permanent principal.

Like in Patna Art College, academics is severely hampered in most colleges of the state due to the lack of teachers.

Academics in Bihar is severely hampered due to a lack of teachers in the state

The situation is even worse in government schools. Over 1 lakh state-run schools, including 17,000 in Rajasthan alone, have closed down across the country over the past one year. Thousands of other schools are on the verge of shutting down.

These harrowing figures don't move our governments. Our leaders are aware that the rich and the powerful can still manage to buy good education for their children. The government schools are only for the less privileged.

The students of Patna Art College have knocked on every door to raise their demands. Even meeting the chief minister and the Governor has proved futile.

Political matters

The state Education Minister Ashok Chaudhary has also washed his hands of the matter. Claiming it to be a case of indiscipline, Chaudhary says he has already ordered a probe.

Several attempts were made to talk to the ad-hoc Principal Dr Chandra Bhushan Shrivastava in this regard, but to no avail.

The All India Students Federation (AISF) general secretary Vishwajeet Kumar says the agitation will continue till the expulsion of the students is revoked and criminal cases taken back.

Gaurav, one of the student, says, "I have taken admission with high hopes. But, the conditions are so bad that 60 out of the total 240 students have already left the college. The college library has never been opened for the students. The computer lab is also lying closed for the past three years. Several masterpieces of famous artists are rotting in the college, but nobody bothers about them. Some of these rare paintings have gone missing. What kind of an educational institution is this where students are not even safe? We were attacked and criminal cases slapped against us. And all this because we were fighting for safeguarding the academic tradition of this college."

The powers-that-be don't like an education system where 'the mind is without fear and the head is held high' and that is because such a system takes mankind towards equality and humanity.

The huge debts of industrialists are being written-off, on one hand and the centres of learning are being deprived of funds, on the another and universities are being forced towards violence. There is a conspiracy to turn off the light of knowledge and let the world dwell in the darkness of ignorance.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also read: Bihar toppers scam: SIT arrests ex-BSEB chairman Lalkeshwar Singh, wife Usha Sinha

First published: 21 June 2016, 1:05 IST