The other day, doing a bit of research on May 75’ students’ rebellion and remembering part of the build-up somewhat vaguely, I consulted my diary from the time. Two entries of my diary for 1975 give an idea of the “spirit of the times”.
Remember that Lindsey Collen and I had only moved to Bambous at the beginning of March and we did not know anybody there when we moved.
By the 26 March, there is a diary entry that reads, in English, because then I did not yet know how to write fluently in Kreol (what is between square brackets is added, all the rest verbatim):
“Amyot [Perrine] and V-former from Bambous College [Swaraj Puddoo]: long conversation [at out house in Route Vaudagne]. Amyot fed up with job at Bambous College. He feels like quitting. Thinks being exploited by management. Factual working out of exploitation [figures in Rupees of monthly fees students pay minus wages paid and other expenses]. Profits of Rs1,500-Rs2,000/month. Suggestion: Pupil-teachers’ association to take over college – Run by Village Committee. Both take suggestion seriously and admit that it was quite feasible – certainly would be of great benefit to village.”
A week later on 3 April, another entry:
“Amyot: dropping PPP [the late Sooresh Moorba’s party that Amyot had been member of] slowly. College: Seen a few people (inc. Ramesh Kaytoo MMM) and talked to some pupils. All in favour of ousting management. Amyot seeing owners of building to discuss possibilities.
“Staff: For: 3, Against:4.
“Rent arrears 6/12 [6 months].
“1. Solidarity ++ amongst teachers (3)
“2. Support from pupils
“3. Backing from owners of building.
“4. Legal advice.”
These two fragments give the following clues to the build-up to the May ’75 students’ strike.
1. Its roots were deep, even in a village in the countryside like Bambous.
2. People were politically active, mainly in the MMM, but also in the PPP and MMMSP.
3. Students and teachers and working people, at grassroots, worked together closely. They did so across party lines.
4. Analysis immediately linked experience of lived reality with possible change.
5. The balance of power was studied in detail.
6. The “requirements” for success were listed during a meeting.
7. Radical change like “ousting management” was feasible.
8. Decision were put into action at once.
9. This small challenge at one school – involving 3 of the 7 teachers, many of the students and some of the villagers – was part of many such initiatives.
It is important for young people today to know how humbly big movements begin. It is also important to say that, in those times, it was much easier for people to believe in their own capacity to bring change than today.