THE All India Forum for Right to Education (AIFRTE) organized a massive Shiksha Hunkaar rally in Delhi on 18 February. The rally began with a protest demonstration at Parliament street which was addressed by Prof. Anil Sadgopal, CPIML PB member Kavita Krishnan, CPI (M) PB member Brinda Karat, RJD spokesperson Prof. Manoj Jha, Prof. Hargopal, Samajwadi Jan Parishad’s Aflatoon, Advocate Ashok Agrawal, Social jurist (Delhi High Court) and several others. The speakers affirmed their support for the struggle for a common school system that will ensure that be it a child of rich or poor, all of them get same quality education as a right. Addressing the protestors, Com. Kavita Krishnan expressed solidarity with AIFRTE’s demand and said that CPIML was committed for fighting for quality public education for all. She also condemned the attacks on the social justice provisions in education and employment and said that the attempts to end reservation through 13 point roster and 10% reservation for the general category must be strongly resisted. Prof. Manoj Jha also shared that his party supported the demand for the common school system and would fight against attacks on reservation. Prof. Anil Sadgopal and Prof. Hargopal talked about the various educational policies of the current government including Draft Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) bill, National Medical Council Bill, 13 point roster, etc. that are leading to inequality and exclusion. Effigies of such educational policies were also burnt.
The rally then proceeded from Parliament Street to Ambedkar Bhawan and was joined by several student and youth organizations. A people’s parliament on education was held at Ambedkar Bhawan which was presided by Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Prof. KM Shrimali, Prof. Zhatsu Terhuja, Prof. Chakradhar Rao, Sri Prabhakar Arade and Prof. Anil Sadgopal. AIFRTE has also been conducting a nation-wide referendum on educational policies and the ballot papers of the referendum were also distributed. The People’s Parliament was addressed by representatives of various people’s, students and youth movements. Prof. Prabhat Patnaik highlighted the fascist attacks on education across the world and shared how fascist regimes across the world focus on critical education as one of their main targets. Kawalpreet (AISA, Delhi unit president) shared how the universities are being destroyed by the current government through privatization and other policies of exclusion. She said that student movement in the country will resist all such attacks and carrying forward the dream of Rohith Vemula, will continue to fight for the right of quality education for all. She demanded that charges of sedition against student leaders must be withdrawn and the crackdown on campus democracy must end. JNUSU President N Sai Balaji also addressed the People’s Parliament. He asked that if education is a fundamental right, why is it that it is only the poor quality schooling that is available for the poor. Right to education must ensure similar high quality education for all. He also pointed that the attack on public Higher education institutes was also to ensure the rise and profits of the private universities in India. He said the student-youth movement will continue to resist the agenda of saffronization and neo-liberal assaults on education. Several groups presented songs of resistance and protest. Comrades from Sangwari also presented revolutionary songs on the occasion.
The People’s Parliament adopted two resolutions- the first resolution condemned the illegal arrest and the continuing threat of arrest on false charges against Prof. Anand Teltumbde, member of the AIFRTE Presidium. The second resolution demanded that any future government should reverse the trend of corporatization being followed at the command of WTO-GATS in pursuit of the neo-liberal reforms policies promoting profit-making in education and contractualisation of services. It also stated its unequivocal opposition to the communalization in education. AIFRTE affirmed its commitment to oppose the model of PPP, fee hikes, education loans, and discrimination between elite and ordinary institutions leading to exclusion of children and youth from access to equitable quality education.