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Saturday, December 20, 2008

We're being forced to attend rally: Students

Several colleges across Mumbai say they are under pressure to send their students for a rally against terrorism at Shivaji Park on Saturday evening.

Many principals say they have been ordered by their respective universities to send students to the rally. "This is not voluntary. If your boss asks you to do something, it's an order, not a request,'' said a principal.

The organisers want a gathering of over one lakh and principals as well as parents are worried about the safety of students.

S C Jamir, governor of Maharashtra and chancellor of state universities will address the students. The event has been organised by Mumbai University, SNDT University, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University and the deputy director's office. The cops and commandos who were killed in the 26/11 terror strike will be honoured.

"The rally makes no sense to me. The students say they're not keen on it as they feel it serves no purpose,'' said a college teacher.

"At a time when Karkare's wife has asked for privacy to mourn her loss, why have a function like this? We've had enough peace marches. This makes no sense,'' said a principal.

Another principal said the rally was being held a little late in the day. "If the rally had been held earlier, students would have reacted to it with spontaneity. Now, after college students have participated in both rallies and peace marches, they don't feel the need for another one,'' said a principal.

However, officials in the education department insist that there has been no pressure on students to attend the function. The education department says around 40,000 students from junior colleges will attend the rally.

Some institutions, though, say their students have volunteered to join the rally. For instance, Al-Nasser Zakaria, a member of the administration for the Awami High School and Junior College, Bandra, says that 50 students from the school volunteered to attend the rally.

Several principals say they have received a flood of calls and letters from parents saying they do not want to send their children for the rally. "Parents are worried about the safety of their girls at a rally as large as this one. The rally will start at 5 pm. By the time it's over, it'll be dark. Many of the students are 15- and 16-year-olds,'' said a principal.

However, Mumbai University pro vice chancellor A D Sawant says all the necessary security arrangements have been made. "The police department as well as NCC cadets will be present in order to manage the crowds,'' said Sawant.

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