[10 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: The message from U.S. campuses, protesting students

Mains PYQ Relevance: 

Q)“The diverse nature of India as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society is not immune to the impact of radicalism which is seen in her neighbourhood? Discuss along with strategies to be adopted to counter this environment. (UPSC IAS/2014)

Q) Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. What importance does it hold for India?. (UPSC IAS/2021)


Subject: GS II (IR)

Prelims: International issues in the news;

Mains: Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinian Racism;

Mentor comments: In 1985, when American campuses were roiling with protests against apartheid South Africa, the legendary African-American feminist poet and philosopher, Audre Lorde, reflected that America was “the most powerful country in the world” but also “a country which stands upon the wrong side of every liberation struggle on earth”. Lorde noted that this filled her with both a sense of dread and a sense of urgency. Dread and urgency, once again, have driven students across campuses in the United States to protest against the catastrophe in Gaza. During the anti-apartheid protests calling for divestment at campuses in the late 1980s — when we were students — university administrators were embarrassed about aligning with the White apartheid state of South Africa. 

Let’s learn

Why in the news? 

Today, with Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism so normalized in the U.S., university administrators are proudly aligning with this genocidal war. 

What is Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinian racism?

  • Islamophobia is a form of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness, rooted in racism and involving stereotypes, demonization, and dehumanization of Muslims
  • Anti-Palestinian racism, on the other hand, refers to prejudice, collective hatred, and discrimination directed at the Palestinian people, including silencing, exclusion, erasure, stereotypes, defamation, and dehumanization of Palestinians or their narratives

Student’s protest in the USA:

  • Unified Demands: Student protesters have a unified set of demands, including disclosure and divestment from corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, removal of police from campuses, and protection of pro-Palestinian speech and activism.
    • The call for divestment can be traced back to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement inspired by the anti-apartheid student movement. The demand for “cops off campus” reflects abolitionist critiques of police as a racist institution, amplified after the George Floyd protests.
  • Education and Activism: Students are educating each other on the history of the Levant, colonialism, racial violence, and the complexities of historic Palestine. They organize teach-ins, study apartheid, analyze the political economy of occupation, and explore Palestinian resistance.
  • University Clampdowns: Many university administrators have instituted disciplinary procedures against pro-Palestine solidarity and activism, banned student organizations, and intensified surveillance and crackdowns on protests.
    • Despite repression, student protests have proliferated, and peaceful encampments have spread to campuses across the country, challenging the complicity of universities in colonialism and imperialism.
  • Intersectional Solidarity: The movement is shaped by other social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, highlighting connections between racialized police brutality, settler colonialism, and imperialism.
  • Resistance against Repression: Students risk suspensions and arrests to expose and disrupt the ideological and economic ties that bind universities to forces of genocide, inspired by struggles in historic Palestine.

Significance and Impact of the Student’s Protest::

  • Raising Awareness: By organizing teach-ins and spreading information about the history of the Levant, colonialism, and racial violence, these protests can educate people and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians and the broader issues of imperialism and colonialism.
  • Challenging normalization of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian: By challenging the normalization of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, these protests can disrupt the status quo and push for a reevaluation of societal attitudes towards these issues.
  • Inspiring Solidarity: The intersectional nature of these protests, where movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock are involved, can foster solidarity among different marginalized communities and strengthen the broader social justice movement.
  • International Impact: These protests, especially if they gain widespread attention and support, could influence international perceptions and policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, potentially leading to increased pressure on governments to take action towards a just resolution.

Conclusion: University administrators should engage in open dialogue with protesting students to address their concerns and explore potential solutions. This could involve creating forums for discussion, establishing student-administrator committees, and actively listening to student perspectives.

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