New Delhi: As students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi are protesting against a steep hostel fee hike, their counterparts in Pakistani universities seem to be mirroring them.
A video of some students of Pakistani universities chanting ‘azadi’ slogans went viral on social media a few days ago. They were protesting at the Faiz Literary Festival held on 19 November in Lahore.
— Reham Khan (@RehamKhan1) November 17, 2019
Azadi chants were raised in India, too — in 2016 by former JNU student and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar and others.
The students at the literary festival in Pakistan were protesting against alleged government interference in colleges, fee hike, budget cuts and lack of student housing. The students are demanding the restoration of student unions, “de-securitisation” of campuses, end to harassment, among others.
“There have been budget cuts in the public education sector, which means no scholarships, fee hikes, raised costs of transportation, etc,” Tooba Syed, a Pakistani student and activist, told ThePrint.
The students seen protesting on 19 November are members of the leftist Progressive Student Collective. A bigger protest — Student Solidarity March — has been planned on 29 November to be organised by Progressive Students’ Federation (PRSF).
Don't just say 'I wish these students well' and 'I hope they are successful in their struggle.' Come out and stand with them on November 29th and help amplify their voices! #StudentsSolidarityMarch pic.twitter.com/7LRbXFqQjH
— Nida Kirmani (@nidkirm) November 20, 2019
“The marches that will be held across the country are for students’ right to unionisation, and free and quality education for all, among other demands,” said Syed.
“We are marching against the system which labels us as ‘Terrorists’ for demanding clean water on campus. Puts us behind bars for opposing the dictatorship of administration on campus. We demand our right to exist with dignity,” PRSF tweeted.
We are marching against the system which labels us as "Terrorists" for demanding clean water on campus. Puts us behind bars for opposing dictatorship of administration on campus. We demand our right to exist with dignity.
Poster By: @jaquelintzin#StudentsSolidarityMarch pic.twitter.com/elAOh9MlY5
— PRSF (@ProgStudentsFed) November 19, 2019
The PRSF was referring to an incident this week in which at least 17 students of Sindh University, Jamshoro, were booked under sedition charges for allegedly raising anti-Pakistan slogans.
13 University of Sindh Jamshoro students including 4 @ProgStudentsFed members, have been charged with sedition for protesting for clean water. This criminalization of students, especially in Sindh & Balochistan, is unacceptable. #StudentsSolidarityMarch #StudentRightsNow pic.twitter.com/CHj549T8bH
— Ammar Rashid ☭ (@AmmarRashidT) November 19, 2019
Similar protest held last year
While the video of the 19 November protest has garnered a lot of attention on social media, this is not the first time such as protest was held — a similar protest was held last year in 16 different cities.
According to a report in the Asian Marxist Review, several progressive student organisations from all over Pakistan formed Student Action Committee to demand the restoration of student unions, representation of students in management and increase in the education budget.
According to the students, the Imran Khan-led PTI government had left “educational campuses and students abandoned, dejected and directionless”, the report stated.