The student solidarity march brought waves of red from Istanbul Chowk to Chairing Cross, proving to the lawmakers inside the Punjab Assembly exactly what they had been chanting for days before the protest commenced,
“Jab Laal Laal lehrai ga,
Tou hosh thikane aye ga “
The slogan which roughly translates to “When the red takes over, so will your conscience,” garnered widespread criticism by skeptics who showed open dislike for the movement lead primarily by the Progress Students Collective or PSC for their involvement in communist slogans, as well the Che caps they donned, and the massive banners of leftist thinkers and revolutionaries. One can comment that perhaps the critics focused too much on just about everything but the reasons behind the march itself; the oppression of students.
Students marched for their right to a safe environment on campuses, protected from harassment – sexual or otherwise – from faculty members and other students and against the racial profiling of Balochi and Pashtun students. They demanded the reversal of fee hikes, an increase in the measly 2.5% of the budget allocated for education and against the monopoly of security forces on campus.
At one point the students stood in front of NCA’s gates and demanded them to be opened, to let the students trapped inside out to join their comrades in the struggle against student. They announced that not a single student who had joined the protest would step inside, but should the gates not open they would begin to announce the names of those who had predated upon the students and exploited them. Unfortunately, the gates did not open in a show of solidarity like the students demanded but their claims of exposing the staff without any fear had great impact.
Women formed a large part of the protests, ensuring that they were visible throughout the event and spreading a message to correct the ones who think that women will remain silent, or sit still in their homes and hostels being apolitical like the state demands.
The issues of curfew were also raised. Unfair and discriminatory curfew timings are a part of our institutions. Where women have to be inside hostel premises by ridiculous timings such as 6 PM, men don’t necessarily face such restrictions. Moreover, many hostels do not allow students to bring in their day scholar friends even if they are of the same gender, thus isolating them further when they are already away from their homes. We also believe that curfews in general are incredibly problematic, because they take away adult agency and confine them in one place.
Let’s also take a look at more banners presented by the people who joined the march as well as the slogans that were raised:
“Surkk hoga, surkh hoga,
Asia Surkh hoga”
Translation: “turn Red, turn Red, Asia will turn red”
“Aurat ki awaaz bina,
Inqilab adhoora hai,”
Translation: “A revolution is incomplete without the voice of women”
“Kaali raat jaawe he jaawe,
Surkh sawera awae he awae,”
Translation: May the dark night pass, let the coming dawn be red”
Well known activists and celebrities like Eman Suleman also showed up amidst the waving flags of the Progressive students collective, the Revolutionary Students front, the National Students Federation and the Bhatta Mazdoor Union. The father of Mashal Khan also made an appearance and was honored by all those present among chants of “Laal Salaam.” One of the victories the students can show is the support they received from the Lahore Bar Council, as well as the reversal of the degree cancellation of one of the march’s organizers.