Students have been at the forefront of revolutions around the world since the spread of education among the masses. Historically student activism has met with extensive criticism as several leaders are of the opinion- students are meant to study. Ironically, most of the great leaders that we have around the globe have entered politics through stude nt unions.
By definition, Stu dent Activism (also known as campus activism) is such work by students that cause political, social, economic, or environmental change. Students are the youth learned in modern education. This is the general group least misled. Thus there’s no reason to oppose stu dent activism as upright and educated youth is our future.
SOME HISTORICAL STUDENT-LED MOVEMENTS
Stud ent activism has been the basis of several uprisings and historical movements.
- BENGALI LANGUAGE MOVEMENT- Led by the students of Dhaka University of East Bengal (currently Bangladesh), the Bengali Language Movement activists demanded official recognition of the Bengali language instead of Urdu in East Bengal (then East Pakistan). The movement reached its climax on February 21, 1952 when the East Pakistan police killed several student activists in support of this movement. The movement resulted in official recognition of the Bengali language in 1956.
- UNIVERSITY UPRISINGS OF 1968- In Spring 1968, student protests, from the Greensboro sit-ins of 1960, had exploded across continents. These movements later inspired people to act for justified causes. In March 1968, students occupied parts of the black Howard University and forced the administration to accept some of their demands. Other movements at the Columbia University and universities of France and Poland were suppressed but they formed a ground for student uprising.
- THE APARTHEID MOVEMENT OF 1970s- 1980s- In June 1976, thousands of students near Johannesburg, South Africa began a peaceful march which later turned deadly and set a base for the global anti-apartheid movement. Vast campaigns grew out of the student activism of Soweto and students of the US, from the University of Columbia to the University of California, led strong resistance against South Africa, forcing administrators to withdraw investments on South African companies. The economic stress along with global political stress succeeded in dismantling apartheid.
- TIANANMEN SQUARE PROTESTS OF 1989- A massive pro-democracy protest in Beijing, China on June 4, 1989, ended in immense bloodshed as the Chinese troops open fire at the crowds collected at the Tiananmen Square. Possibly thousands of people were killed with no official record of deaths.
- VELVET REVOLUTION OF 1989- One of the most rapid and completely successful movement led by students, this revolution happened 8 days after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Students of Czechoslovakia, a neighboring country to East Germany, led a stubborn but peaceful protest at Prague. This activism soon turned into a massive gathering of 500,000 protestors and just 11 days later, the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia relinquished power.
Apart from these, several student and youth movements have always glorified history. The Indian freedom struggle was also an example of the power and determination of the youth movement. Students being the center of education are the best judge of social, political, or economic conditions and hence, their unified struggle is forever justified.