Killing Us Softly With Our Hands

Osmania University to Start its Centenary Celebrations in Hyderabad with mass fingerprinting of students, as Preemptive Crime Measure. Will the High Court act in a timely fashion?

Post-war Polish writer Stanislaw Jerzy said: “Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art.”

If so, Osmania University that turns 100 this year, is a work of dystopian and holocaust art. It belongs in the museums of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, where hand-prints of condemned Jews mark the stone walls of Gas Showers.

Only this time, the condemned are not men. But an idea. More powerful than all the men and women combined, because it makes living possible. The prints are not marked on walls but in digital readouts. This time, it is possibly scarier because the passing of the idea may leave nothing behind but empty space.

For the first time in India, on Wednesday April 26th, the University, with the active cooperation of local police authorities and the state government, plans to use mass fingerprinting of students as a measure of preemptive policingan idea so bizarre that one must shudder at the mere thought of it. It up-ends the fundamental concept of justice that says, “innocent until proven guilty” and says instead: “guilty until proven innocent.”

Yet, according to a report by The Hindu  on April 19th,  (read here), this move to link student fingerprints with their Aadhar cards came as a consequence of reports that student activists might protest against some state government policies. Or lack thereof.

At least one of those policies included Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s promise to provide jobs to university students.

First he  Promised 50 lakh jobs , then he pared that down to One Lakh Jobs . And now it’s down to 50,000 jobs , hopefully by next year.

Unsurprisingly, he’s unpopular.

Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t entered university grounds in the last three years due to fear of protests.

The very grounds from where he started the Telangana agitation, that great peoples’ movement that led to the separate state, that  led to his becoming the chief minister, that led to the promises, that led to the loss of face, that led to the ….

IN BED WITH THE WRONG GUYS

According to Legislative Assembly members, the now unpopular KCR has lately been reaching out to his friends on the right – the BJP. His two key allies are believed to be BJP leaders Bandaru Dattrareya (he of the HCU fame) and Indrasena Reddy.

These three had rousted university students as “outside politicians” during the Telangana agitations in 2011. (Read Osmania University Under Police Seige )

All three at that time had used the University to launch their Telangana careers. All three are now using the university to squelch all further political activity.  The BJP now wants to further the Aadhar agenda and KCR wants to stay in power, with the BJP’s help if necessary.

THE COMPROMISE

On the very day that the first Hindu report was filed, a quick compromise was apparently reached between what were described as “leaders of O.U. student groups” and the TRS. The intent was specifically to avoid media attention. It succeeded.

Read:  Unemployed Group Leader Agrees Not to Create Trouble

Manavata Roy, head of the Telangana unemployed JAC is quoted as saying, “We don’t want a negative image to be portrayed in the national media and we will not take up any protests during the three-day celebrations,” starting on April 26.

Why this man,  who is constantly in the news for criticizing KCR over the jobs issue, caved, is not clear.

A number of other things are also extremely unclear.

  • What happens to students who don’t have an Aadhar Card? Do they get banned from attending the centenary celebrations of their own university?
  • What happens if their fingerprints don’t match?
  • What happens if students refuse to be fingerprinted?
  • Will the police forcibly collect rest of their data — like name and address? Do they go on a watch-list of troublemakers? 
  • If this is about law and order issues – why are only students being singled out? Is student political activity now a banned activity?
  • All of today’s VIP politicians are yesterday’s student activists. Is the gate closing on new politicians?

Not only are these grave questions, these are from on all accounts, hidden questions. Most real students were apparently unaware of them till recently. Still are.

An O.U. Student found out late Sunday that he was being barred entry to his own University celebrations unless he was willing to be fingerprinted.

He has filed a writ in the High Court today, which will only be heard Wednesday, if he’s lucky.

One can only hope that the Court, in its wisdom, will give specific orders and not a post-facto homily or a further date. The future of  policing, independence and politics in India, may well rest in his hands.

EOM.

Feature Picture Credit : Imgur

Shortlink Killing Us Softly With Our Hands

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