'Ideas replaced by the market'

'Ideas replaced by the market'

Devi Prasad Tripathi, Rajya Sabha member and general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), was JNUSU president in the late 1970s. He remembers how activists at JNU fought against the Emergency. Excerpts from a conversation with Jyotsna Singh:

Is student politics important and why?

Student politics is important to transform one’s personality and become a responsible citizen, especially in a developing nation like India.

If we look at the Indian freedom struggle too, it was mainly led by students, and that too the brightest of the lot. It is a real transition. You read and study social and political issues facing the country. Without politics a personality does not get as much brilliance.
In fact, in all the fields, be it academics or journalism, you see the most brilliant minds are those who were awed by political struggles in student days.

Can you recount some interesting experience from your JNU days of activism?

The time spent in JNU was the best, especially fighting against the Emergency in the mid-70s. JNU was the centre of struggle at that time and all of us were underground, fighting it. Interestingly, the police came with an arrest warrant against me, but arrested another student, Prabir Purkayastha. Even the Shah Commission report mentions a case of mistaken identity referring to this incident. Pushpesh Pant’s book Portrait of a Student Activist also revisits this episode. Intriguingly, Purkaystha was not released from jail even after police found out their mistake. We fought against the curbing of democracy.

Do you see a change in current student politics compared to your times?

There is de-politicisation of campuses, which is disturbing. The ideological weakening is seen all over. Ideas are being replaced by the market.

The market is an activity that is not value conscious, but price conscious.

To overcome this de-politicisation, one has to fight it and make students politically aware. Ideas have to be propagated widely. Political leaders in the country have to think seriously about resuscitation of ideas. Politics has to be more ethical and ideological.