The Enggineering college life at National Institute of Technology, Rourkela (where I studied CS) was very eventful and add to that the hostel life. A fun loving guy like me couldn't have asked for more. I remember a lot of things I was involved in college and the most prominent among them apart from my ragging experience was the only student protest that we did.
Monday, May 18, 2009
It was the year 2004, spring. The UPA governement has replaced the NDA government. No body expected such turnaround. The new governement soon sacked Directors of 14 off 17 NITs across India out of revenge because they were instated by the NDA regime. Unfortunately our NIT was one among them and our beloved Director Prof. Dr. S. K. Sarangi felt the axe too. I was in the second semester then. We all students felt bad because we all liked our Director and we all had hated his replacement. Mr. Sarangi had initiated many development works in the campus and with his sacking we thought eveything will go into cold bags.
We lived with heavy heart. Then one night 2-3 3rd year seniors came into out hostel. The ragging phase is all gone and we all had become friends. The seniors called for us to assemble in the hostel common room. Then they said they are thinking of a mass student protest to oppose the sacking of our dearest Director. They explained the plan. They said,
'Since you all know that recently our Director Mr. Sarangi has been sacked unconstitutionally by the UPA govt. We all know how Mr. Sarangi has dedicated everything into the upliftment of our college to make it count among the best technical schools of India (In-fact, the ranking of NIT Rourkela had significantly improved and it was among the top 20 colleges overall and in the top 5 among all the prestigious NITs across the country). We are proud of our college and its all because of that one man (cheers claps shouts). Mr. XYZ will be succeding him once the govt finalises the decision and we all know he is no match to Mr. Sarangi. There is also a rumor that he has decided to cut our spring-fest and tech-fest (our annual festivals we all enjoy) budget for this year because he thinks its wastage of student's time. This is ridiculous. We will not let anyone take Mr. Sarangi's place (claps cheers applause). So this is what we have planned. We will organize a mass student protest. We will all gather tomorrow morning in front of our institute gate and sit there the whole day. We will block the gate, not allowing any faculties or officials to enter the institute. It will be peaceful and we will not resort to any kind of violence come what may. The protest is only a mean to send our message. Since you are freshers, your only task is to be seated. We all seniors will be there in complete strength and we will handle the whole thing. You don't have to worry about anything. You are required to gather at the institute gate before 7am and we will be there. '
Then they left. The mood of common room was full of excitement. All these times we have heard about such and such protest fights in other engg colleges and here we have our own piece of it. We had all heard numerous violent clashes between students and police and college authorities in other less renowned colleges and the news was always delivered with a sense of pride. Our friends from other colleges would explain their fight with the system, the blood shed and we couldn't do anything but listen and hope sometimes we will have a chance to prove we did something manly. This time the thought that we are having our first brush with the system gave us a boost. In-fact NIT Rkl has been more or less very peaceful from its very start probably because its tough admission only allows studious, hard-working and good natured students and not brats or spoils or scums. Moreover the thought that we may soon have to kiss goodbye to our festivals and stalled development works made us more promt. The idea that successful protest would mean no classes tomorrow was cherry on the top. We all left for our room talking about it and how we would storm the institute, surprise everyone, shake the govt, destroy, burn this and that, beat ABC etc etc. Yes, it was funny and we all waited for it.
The D-day came. Its the big day for all of us. Today we would change the world and inscribe our names in golden letters and remain alive for centuries. Duh......... most of us had had hard time getting up early. Our general-secy was having a tough time, knocking on every door and asking ppl to wake up, get dressed and get going. We were cursing the protest because it ruined our sleep. Suddenly the night excitement is inferior to morning sleep. Well, welcome to a student life in NIT Rourkela. Even then not all but 80% junta from 1st year started for the target. Remaining people managed to hide under bed (sleeping) or stall time in bathrooms and toilets. Anyways. So we all started and reached the institute gate by 7. To our utter surprise, none of the seniors were there. It was all so lonely except for the singular totally confused guard and 2-3 crows and pigeons. We felt cheated and some out of fear suggested to leave and resume our daily work (going to classes). But many still wanted to stay, in the hope to be part of a protest, if any. Finding no senior to support, we all loitered here and there, gossiping in groups, under some tree. Then we saw our gen-sec talking to the same 3 seniors at a distance. He then comes and tells us that it will be difficult for all the seniors to join us as many of them are under project, assignement and exam burden etc etc but those 3 seniors will be here with us for support. We were 80-100 in numbers and thought we can still do it. Moreover its not going to be a violent one so numbers don't matter.
One senior told us to sit in front of the gate as the working hour is about to start. Seniors had managed to prepare some big banners and posters for the protest and we all sat there holding the placards and banners as is normally done in any protest. Soon, 5 mins seemed like ages. Seeing no activity made many stand up and move to a nearby tree, some busied themselvees with mobiles, some were into round table discussions etc. In 15 mins the protest scene looked like this: Half of the people sitting, holding the banners and placards, some standing around them, two groups of 5-8 people gossiping under a tree nearby, some loitering and talking over mobile, 3-4 were peeing at a distance behind the bushes.
Soon we saw some men approaching the college. Its action time now. The warning was sounded and all soldiers assembled at the war zone right away. We all were at position. From distance we could know that they were senior PhD students in various departments and many of whom were teaching us. When they came , we explained them all about it. We were all like friends. We had very nice rappo between us. We all talked about it, we laughed and then they happily left. They even wished us good-luck and to make sure no class occurs today. They were happy to hear about no classes than to be concerned about our protest. But we were happy how we fared. We all congratulated ourselves. It seemed all so easy. We were confident we will make it a success.
Next came some junior faculties. They were also very friendly with the students. We enjoyed having fun in their class and they too. They were the Happy-Go-Lucky kind of faculties. They also returned after hearing about the protest. They were also happy about the no-class-today thing. So far so good.
Then was the time for senior faculties, Deans, HODs, Director etc. Soon we saw the Dean coming through and everybody pissed in their pants. Even the 3 seniors were dumbfounded. Everybody panicked. No body had the guts to stand in front of him and explain whats going on. He was very strict and serious and everybody feared him. Seeing him coming, all of us ran for cover, many hid behind trees and bushes, banners and placards were hidden, many formed a round group and started gossiping and pretending nothing happened, many ran away from the scene. The Dean, came, saw and entered the institute gate. After he was gone, we all gathered around the gate again. This time the 3 seniors scolded us. They then delivered a long and passionate speech. We vowed to show some character atleast, the next time. Then followed some more faculties and when they reached the gate we let them know about the protest but we didn't had the guts to stop them from entering. So, after some time the protest scene is this: Half of the strength remains now and they are all now sitting on the right side of the gate, holding the banners and placards. Faculties are coming, seeing us sitting, reading our banners, then moving in. No words spoken. We were happy we didn't attend the first 2 classes.
11am: The acting director, Mr. XYZ comes to meet us. He says, 'Students, we dont have any problem what you are doing. In fact you have every right to express how you feel. Even we are also sad about the director being sacked and we know how you may be feeling. But the thing is today AICTE guys are coming to evaluate the college ranking and this protest scene will create a very bad impression thereby sliding down our rank. I am sure you also don't want your college to have a bad rank, loose its prestigious position among equals. So I ask you to stop this for 1-2 hrs till those guys are gone and then you can resume. Also in support of your protest you can have the day off, no classes.'
We thought about it. Of course he is right. Rank is what everyone looks in a college and we were proud of our college's rank. We couldn't possibly think of doing something to hurt the reputation of our college so we agreed. We hid the posters, banners etc, some went to hostel for nap and some went to canteen. The seniors stayed there. Then the AICTE guys came, and left in 1 hour. No damage done. Then word was sent for people to assemble again. This time seniors also told that the press guys will be coming shortly so we need to be protesting. Hearing about the press guys, everybody jumped out of bed and rushed towards the insitute gate. In 5 mins the whole student junta was there. Even all seniors turned up to welcome the press. Everybody gathered. No assignments, no projects, no exams could deter people from being clicked for the press. People left their meal mid-way, cancelled their girl-friend's call, dressed up in clean and shining clothes, girls were out in make-up and everyone had only one thing in mind, reach the gate before its too late. The institute gate is now a place bustling with people. Some seniors went to stay put at the main campus gate so that they can let us know when they see the mediawalas and we can prepare to present a grand protest.
Soon the news came that they have entered into the campus. Suddenly everybody joined the people already seated. Suudenly everybody wants to sit at the front. Suddenly everybody wants a corner of the huge banner to hold. Suddenly everybody is adjusting his/her dress, hair, glasses. The photographers from Indian Express, TOI, Hindustan Times and a local oriya daily came and stood in front of the seated protesters. It was a huge conglomeration. When the photographer is adjusting his lens and focussing, everybody among us is poking his head to the front. There are now atleast 70 people surrounding the main banner poking their heads around the banner from left, right, center, below and above. Everybody wants to be in the picture range and in the middle. Even half of the writtings on the banner is hidden by the heads but we never cared unless our face is clear in the picture. The photographers were smiling, we too. Now the photographer wants 2-3 guys to hold a placard and he will click but suddenly there are 50 hands holding the placard stick. There were guys with fingers barely touching the stick but they were looking at the camera, smiling. Huh, so much for the sacked director, I now think. I bet if one of the press guys had asked us about our Director, we would have replied, 'Director who?'. Who cares about Director when I am being clicked for tomorrow's front page story. Series of 2-3 people asked the photographer to click their photo with the banner because they are best friends and they will cherish the memory when the same photo is published in tomorrow's papers. The cameraman obliging all, and enjoying too. We all were having fun. For some time we forgot that we were protesting. The seniors had anticipated that some of them will be interviewed but that never happened. So the night long mugging up of the speech was wasted.
The media guys returned and so did we, satisfied. In the evening people called up their homes and proudly stated we staged a protest in the college. Yes, we are bad people too. They also informed them to check out tomorrow's newspapers to know the details.Tomorrow came. The papers contained articles about the protest, very small size column, less than 100 words and in 4th or 5th page. Indian Express carried the story in its 6th page and bingo! with a photograph too, the 200 people surrounding the banner. The article was small, photograph too. It was in B/W and the faces were hardly recognizable. Only the banner writtings were legible. The hostel junta thronged the rooms who order Indian Express. They all would gather and look at the pic and say "I think this is me, and this is Rahul because of the hair, and this must be Manoj because he had his hands over me................".
When I recall now, I couldn't help imagine how proud Mr. Sarangi would have felt had he seen us there during the media fiasco, or would he?
PS: Within 2 months, all the sacked directors were reinstated because may be it was unethical or may be due to the wide spread protests :)
Posted by Goldy Blank at 9:40 PM