AISA condemns an order passed by the Kerala HC outlawing democratic protests by students. This outrageous and unconstitutional order was passed by Chief Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh and Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan in a case concerning MES College, Ponnani. This order claims that “Dharna, hunger strikes and other practices like Sathyagrah have no place in a constitutional democracy” and recommends expulsion or rustication for any student participating in such protests!

The order tries to cloak its authoritarian and anti-democratic character by quoting Dr Ambedkar to suggest that the need for agitations would be done away where constitutional avenues are available. But the Court forgets that, in fact, such avenues have been missing in 70 years of democracy – and the whole of Indian democracy has been sustained by dharnas and such agitations. If the right to association and the right of citizens and all persons to protest has been upheld by innumerable Court judgements in independent India, how can the Kerala HC suddenly decide that college students are not citizens and do not enjoy such rights?

The Kerala HC recently passed an order remanding a 24 year old young woman Hadiya to the custody of her father, holding that a young woman in India cannot marry without her father’s approval. Now the Kerala HC has deemed peaceful student movements to be unconstitutional. Such orders are in fact a mockery of the Constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights of persons, and are especially contemptuous of the fundamental rights of young people. The Courts perhaps need to be reminded of the recent Supreme Court verdict on Right to Privacy, which pointed out that fundamental rights are not ‘granted’ or ‘conferred’ by the Constitution – all humans are born with such rights which are merely recognized and protected by the Constitution. No Court in the country nor any legislature or Court has any right to behave like a Hitler and outlaw the fundamental right of people – including students – to form associations and hold protests to raise their concerns and demands in a non-violent manner. Women have a right to convert, marry or take any other life decisions without interference. Students have a right to protest peacefully – their right to protest cannot be curtailed in the name of their ‘duty’ to study. In fact, students are forced to protest in order to assert and defend their rights to education which are under attack from Government policies of privatization and seat cuts.

The right of every person to protest is the heart and soul of any democracy – a country which outlaws protests is a totalitarian or fascist county. In India, student movements have been at the forefront of all democratic movements – including the movement against Emergency. No diktat can silence or suppress student movements in India or anywhere in the world.