With the Supreme Court directing the state government to ensure law and order be maintained in the wake of anti-NEET protests, the state police have resorted to measures such as lathi charge and detention of protesters. All political parties except the BJP, and all student organisations are intensifying the protests against NEET in Tamil Nadu.
The protests against the controversial National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) intensified after the suicide of medical aspirant Anitha Shanmugam on September 1. Anitha, who filed an impending petition in Supreme Court against imposing NEET, had lost hope as the apex court ruled in favour of the exam. Despite NEET being declared a “professionally standardized competent exam” by the Centre and judiciary, many sections of common people in the state are agitating against it. Reportedly many scholars and critics have pointed that the exam is against the interests of rural and marginalised sections of people.
According to data for the period from 2006 to 2016, received in response to an RTI application, it was revealed that medical education in the state is not at all inclusive. Only 0.7 per cent of MBBS students in government medical colleges and 1.1 percent in private colleges come from government schools across the State. Government school students could secure only 213 of the 29,925 seats in government medical colleges.
On September 9, in an order, a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra directed that the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary “shall see to it that anyone involved in any kind of ‘bandh’ or activity that disrupts the normal life and detrimentally affects law and order in the State of Tamil Nadu, shall be booked under the appropriate law”.
Speaking to Newsclick, Mariyappan, Tamil Nadu State President of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), said, “More than 120 students across the state were arrested for participating in the protests. FIRs have been registered against women and high school students.”
On Tuesday, student activists mobilised thousands and led a rally towards State Assembly demanding the immediate release of arrested persons detained while participating in anti- NEET protests.
“As large numbers of students from government schools have been mobilising to dissent against NEET and extending their support to the struggle, our only demand is a permanent exemption of NEET from the state. Whatever measure the police might opt against us, our struggle will not end," said Mariyappan.
The opposition parties led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have announced a state-wide protest on September 13. A press release by the DMK said that all the allies of DMK, including the Congress party, will be taking part in the protest.
Giving a call to party workers and students, Puducherry Pradesh Congress Committee president A Namassivayam said that the NEET based examination was “totally injurious” to students from poor and rural areas in their efforts to compete in the examination and to become doctors.
The T T V Dhinakaran faction of the ruling AIADMK has called for a rally against NEET in Trichy on September 16. Dhinakaran has appealed to party cadre and students to assemble at the Uzhavar Santhai ground in Trichy for a rally.