28 February, 2021

OPINION | The Death Of Student Power And How Governments Played Their Part

The rise and fall of student rebellion is strongly linked to politics, writes senior journalist Rajat Roy. While the Congress government brutally suppressed the Naxalite movement, students politics in Bengal got a boost during the Left regime only to trickle out

OPINION | The Death Of Student Power And How Governments Played Their Part

Keeping pace with the international student movement, the 1960s were ‘street fighting years’ in West Bengal too. The Vietnam War, Che Guevara’s death in Bolivia, the Cultural Revolution in China etc. captured students’ imagination, encouraging them to protest in strength against growing social inequality. Their more urgent call was to rally around international issues—Vietnam and US imperialism dominated. In December 1968, Robert McNamara, then World Bank chairman and former US defence secretary (1961-68), visited Calcutta to consider a loan proposal for a big urban development project. Students came out in force; violent clashes broke out with the police, bringing the city to a halt. McNamara could only tour the city surreptitiously at night.  Earlier, in 1966, thousands of students took active part in the food movement; some died in police firing. That year, students of Presidency Col­­lege sta­rted a movement to stop authorities from expelling six students, inc­lu­d­ing Ashim Chatterjee (later a top CPI-ML leader), for...

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