Published: 10th November 2018
Should the fear of violence dam campus elections? Here's a low down on how panic reactions work
Fear does strange things and I am sure we can all agree on that
Fear killed more men than a plague
There is no author to be cited for the above quote. I have derived it from a story I was told a long time ago. A sadhu was on his way to Benares. Tired and hungry, he went into a wayside inn. After he was sufficiently satiated and rested, the inn-keeper asked the sadhu where he was going and what his mission was. The sadhu said that he was going to Benares to kill 50 people using a plague.
Fifteen days later, the sadhu went to the same inn and the curious inn-keeper asked him whether he had been able to kill 50 people. The sadhu responded very promptly that 500 people had died. Confused and shocked, the inn-keeper said that he had gone to kill 50 people; how come 500 had died? The sadhu said: 50 died of plague and the rest died by fear of plague.
Fear does strange things and I am sure we can all agree on that. Fifty years ago, I went to Vallabhbhai Vidyanagar where a new university was being started, named after Vallabhbhai Patel, now in the news because of his statue, beating in height all such statues. There, as part of the new university campus, an Olympic-style swimming pool had been constructed. As bad luck would have it, the Vice-Chancellor’s only son had drowned in the pool. Immediately, an order went out from him that the pool should be shut permanently. I don’t know what happened to the pool after the concerned Vice-Chancellor retired.
But that is how panic reactions work. In 1989, Owen D’Souza, a student of Mithibai College in Mumbai, died in election-related campus violence. Campus elections were promptly suspended in a panic.
Now, under the 2016 Public Universities Act, campus elections are set to return. Principals are in panic. Many lament that the suspensions of elections resulted in lost opportunities for training political leaders. As one politician said, had there been a ban on elections on the campus, many of today’s political leaders would not have been thrown up. But others feel elections politicise campuses. Many say: What is the guarantee that campus elections won’t be politicised or violent?