Photo feature by Rahat Dar
Red was the official colour at the historical Friday march that saw a mob of young men and women out in the streets, wearing red hoodies or jumpers, or anything that spoke of revolution. Even the banners they were holding were mostly blood-red. Their slogans were no less fierce — consider “Books not Bombs,” for instance, or “Taleem ka beopaar karna jurm hai” (trading in education is a crime).
The protesters were part of the nationwide demonstrations called by the Student Action Committee (SAC), and spearheaded by the Progressive Student Collective (PSC). They sought to rally support for their “rights which have been denied by the state for a long time.” The demands included lifting the ban on student unions, rolling back the cuts in budget allocated for education sector, and eliminating fee hikes. They also demanded removal of curbs on free speech in public universities. To quote Ammar Ali Jan, who was unceremoniously removed from professorship at the University of the Punjab earlier this year, and also briefly arrested, for his alleged involvement in maneuvering student protests, “I am sick of the infantilisation and criminalisation of students in our country. We cannot be a free society unless we safeguard the dignity of students and promote critical thinking on campuses.”
While named “Student Solidarity March,” the protest actually snowballed into a rights movement of sorts that also saw the participation of groups like Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement (HKM), Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union (PBMU), and Kissan Rabta Committee (KRB).