Published: 16th July 2018
I will fight till I get my Masters seat: Lucknow Uni student who waved black flags at Yogi Adityanath
The 22-year old also spent 26 days in jail after getting arrested for her actions and now is being denied a Masters seat for the same reason.
When Pooja Shukla came to pursue her graduate degree in commerce from Lucknow University, she had her goal set - a B.Com degree, Chartered Accountancy and a job in a good company. But during her time at LU, she became exposed to a culture of debate, discussion and social activism. Now when she applied for a Masters in the same campus, she is being denied a seat because she has opened up to the same sort of culture.
Pooja is one among 20 students who are being denied admission in Lucknow University for waving black flags at UP CM Yogi Adityanath when he was visiting the campus for an RSS programme. The students had been protesting against the University's sudden fee hike of 60 percent, "We had approached the administration to ask why there had been such a huge hike and we were told that the University was lacking funds. A few days later we see this RSS programme and we found out that humongous amounts of money was being spent on the event," Pooja explained.
Leader: Pooja Shukla was formerly the State VP of AISA
When the students demanded an explanation for this lavish use of money, they were dismissed by the administration. That is why we protested when the CM visited, Pooja said. What happened next? Pooja spent 26 days in jail for her participation in the protest. Not that it deterred her from coming back into the streets to protest against various injustices meted out to the students and the general public. But now when she applied for a Masters degree in Women Studies at LU, she is being denied a seat allegedly because of her participation in student protests.
Pooja wrote the entrance exam but did not see her name in the result list. The University is supposed to publish the names and scores of all the candidates, irrespective of whether they get the seat or not, which is why Pooja approached the authorities for a response. But they told her that only the students with "criminal backgrounds" were not mentioned on the list. "I have a first class degree, I topped my class but somehow I'm not eligible for a seat here because I participated in a protest. Protest in a democratic country," Pooja said. She insisted that the authorities give in writing, the reason she was being denied a seat - which they kept delaying.
"Currently, the situation in all campuses is pretty similar. Everywhere student rights have come into question. So instead of fighting in some other campus, why not fight for my rights on my own campus, in my own hometown?" she says.
The 22-year-old has since been protesting and even went on a hunger strike that she had to call off after there was a serious threat to her health. But her battle is not just on the streets, she has filed a case in court as well, "However, the court doesn't look like a place where I'll get justice, they asked me why I want to go to college when my intention is to get into politics. Just because I'm political doesn't mean that I don't deserve to study, right? But I won't stop with the High Court, I'll go to the Supreme Court if need be," Pooja said.
When things are already so tough, wouldn't it just be better to apply in a different college? "Currently, the situation in all campuses is pretty similar. Everywhere student rights have come into question. So instead of fighting in some other campus, why not fight for my rights on my own campus, in my own hometown?" she says quite rightly, "And why should I get scared and go away? I'm not asking for anything I don't deserve. I want to study at LU and I have the qualifications to do so, so why should I change my preference?" she said.
Stifling voices: Pooja being carried into a police van during protests
Isn't it difficult to explain these ideas to her parents, especially since she has already been in jail? "Initially they didn't support me but now they know what I do is right but they fear the government. They fear that I will be hurt but I do think that during such times, it's best to come out of the family and fight for what is right. That's what Bhagat Singh did anyway," she says confidently. So the 26 days didn't scar her in any way? " I met so many people inside, almost 60 percent of the people inside are innocent - they are wrongly jailed or they cannot afford their bail. I also saw that many people don't even apply for bail because they are scared that when they come out they'll be killed in an encounter," Pooja recalled.
So now the 22-year-old is also working towards funding bail for the innocent prisoners and is also trying to figure out the legal steps needed for them to find their way out. She also visits many of the women prisoners on a regular basis. She is far certainly far from scarred, "When I came to LU I began to learn about social justice, I read up on different ideologies and became more aware of our society. And I want to do my bit to change the way things are and it starts from my campus which is why I have to fight for my seat," she said.