Shifts in Student Attitudes Toward Politics
The evidence suggests that the social principles and plans of the Indian students have remained substantially unmoved for the past fifteen years or so. Despite radical tactics of protest, the content of their ideology is not revolutionary or even liberal. The same can be said for their political beliefs. Sirsikar and Di Bona have shown that very few of the students believe that it is proper for students to take part in politics at all. This has been the position taken by the parties, though in fact the parties have continued to sponsor student groups, attracting fewer youth each year. Some 46 per cent of Sirsikar's students believe that parties are to blame for student indiscipline. He indicates that 7 per cent belong to the Rashtra Seva Dal, the cultural front of the Praja Socialist Party. Ten per cent of the students were members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) and a few women were members of its female wing, the Rashtra Sevika Samiti. Even these low figures should not be taken as representative of students throughout India. Poona is the center of the most homogeneous orthodox Hindu area of India and the support for R.S.S. is at its maximum there. Moreover, most of the R.S.S. students are not politically active but are most interested in social affairs: while 10 per cent of the students belonged to the R.S.S., only 4 per cent expressed preference for its sponsoring party, the Jana Sangh. Although participation is declining, student interest in and information about politics remains high: while only 16 per cent have taken part in demonstrations in Poona (Sirsikar1s sample) and the same percentage claim to have taken part in demonstrations in the student group of the All-India political poll, as many as 73 per cent of these students express an interest in politics, 49 per cent have attended public meetings and 59 per cent have heard political speeches. Their level of information is thus higher than their level of commitment to partisan political activity. If any one historical event of the post-independence era can be said to have shifted the orientation of Indian politics decisively, it is the border war between India and China. The war with Pakistan was no surprise, but the war with China was. Since that time the concept of neutrality was never abandoned, but the faith in India's power was certainly impaired. Among the 1952 sample of students, 71 per cent expressed agreement with the "present foreign policy of dynamic neutrality of the Indian government." By 1961 Sirsikar's Poona sample showed only 46 per cent agreeing with the policy of non-alignment: people did not move over in the direction of disagreement with this policy; they simply "dropped out." It is as if the idealism of the early period has been displaced by a sober conviction that political action is so complex that one is not warranted in holding any conviction very intensely. Caution is the order of the day. In 1952, 58 per cent of the students supported compulsory military training for all students after they complete their education: by 1961 Sirsikar found 77 per cent of the Poona students supporting compulsory military training. This may reflect the conservative political climate of Poona, but more likely it is general throughout a wider student population. I have been told that almost all intellectuals in India support the development of atomic weaponry and ICBMs now, fully expecting the conflict with China to renew itself again. There has been a continuous erosion of the position of the Congress Party, until in the 1967 elections, several states fell into the hands of coalition governments. In every state the "Anti-Congress" coalition was made up of such disparate groups that within a few months each government collapsed and was replaced by "president's rule" until fresh elections could be held in six months. If one compares the party preferences of the various samples of students, the...
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