It’s all about promises and some bonding for students
WINNING GAME Student union polls of DU and JNU are round the corner and leaders this time are campaigning for equality and democracy on campuses
Student union elections give young people the first taste of democracy and activism in Indian universities. With Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University going to polls on September 9 for their student unions, it is time for fierce rivalries, loads of promises, recall of achievements and stories of friendship from the contenders.
Planning and preparing for a massive campus election such as the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) or Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union (JNUSU) is a herculean task. It involves hard work, hectic schedules, marathon meetings and planning sessions, campaigning strategies and much more. Says Saket Bahuguna, national convener, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ( ABVP), “Once we choose that we want to be student activists, we have to understand that there is no ‘me time’ that we should expect. Being a student activist is not restricted to the elections. We have to work roundthe-clock on issues raised by the students. Universities such as DU and JNUarethecentre of campus activismwithanumberof student issues that need immediate attention and resolution.” ACHIEVEMENTS GALORE Bahuguna, who is a research scholar in linguistics at Delhi University, says, that since ABVP has been doing well in the DUSU polls in the last few years, especially in 2015 winning all four seats, expectations have increased. “During elections, money, muscle power and the government – all come into force. Some of our major achievements include the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) rollback, reintroduction of re-evaluation and supplementary exams in DU etc. We have to select candidates who can strike a chord with the students and treat their problems as theirs. Anumberof issues such as FYUP rollback required taking on the university administration, the University Grants Commission ( UGC) and the HRD ministry. We created a lot of pressure through signature campaigns, class-to-class campaigns and social media.”
Besides DU, ABVP is also gaining a stronghold in JNUSU after making its presence felt in the last few polls. Students’ Federation of India (SFI), another major player on the block, was the first student body that brought out a critique on the National Policy on Education that was framed in 1986.
“We had a major role to play in pushing the UGC to start meritcum-means scholarships for the first time in 2002 in JNU. We have had a legacy of containing the democratic culture of campuses through our movements. We want to fight for equality on campuses. Rollback of the Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan in Himachal Pradesh University and fight for democracy on campuses such as in the recent case of Hyderabad Central University are other examples. We were the first stu- dent organisation to force implementation of GSCASH (Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment) at JNU. SFI was in the forefront in the 80s when there was a huge fight for hostels in JNU,” says Prashant Mukherjee, general secretary, SFI, who is also a research scholar at Delhi University’s School of Social Work.
The National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) also boasts of a number of achievements in Delhi University. Angellica Aribam, national general secretary, NSUI, says, “This includes construction of Rajiv Gandhi Girls Hostel Complex which started during the time of NSUI-led DUSU in 2005 and was completed and made available to students from 2012 onwards. In 2010, NSUI took up the issue of making answer sheets available to the students on demand through RTI. As a result, the matter was taken up by the Supreme Court and a favourable judgment was given. Successful implementation of 27% reservation for OBC students in Delhi University since 2011 is another example.”
With the continuous efforts of NSUI-led DUSU, the university was forced to increase the DUSU fund from 3.6 lakh to 20 lakh in 2012 to enable more activities and ensure student welfare. NSUI has held sustained agitations and demonstrations for more hostels, special chance to improve scores and revaluation, she says. POLL FUNDING Elaborating on the budget and expenditure of the candidates during polls, Aribam says it is borne by the organisation. SFI’S funds, on the other hand, are raised from mass dabba collection from students in and around colleges and also from teachers, says Mukherjee. “Our candidates don’t spend enough money, it is the organisation which spends. A number of students donate during election campaigns,” he says. BONDING WITH RIVALS While they may be at loggerheads during the polls, anumberof rival candidates are friends. “We are all friends, political affiliations aside. In JNU, we all eat together and participate in activities together but are strong cadres of different parties. I have friends in the national committee of ABVP and they are national secretaries. We go out for coffee, have long chats etc. Similarly, I have friends in AISA and SFI too,” says Aribam, who is a final-year law student at DU. According to Om Prasad, national general secretary, AISA, there is good bonding among rivals. “This year, AISA and SFI are contesting elections together in JNUSU. We see this as a continuation of our ‘stand with JNU’ movement,” he says. While the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) elections allow undergraduate and postgraduate students to contest, someof the other polls such as the JNUSU and Hyderabad Central University (HCU) allow students at the MPhil or doctoral level to participate.
It is interesting to know that while in some student wings, contestants are mainly from one course, in others the wing members and contestants are from a range of disciplines and courses. HCU students’ union president Zuhail KP is a research scholar in physics. “In NSUI, we have research scholars, students pursuing MPhil in biotechnology, MBBS students, MBAs, and aspiring lawyers,” says Angelica Aribam, national general secretary, NSUI.
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad ( ABVP), which has been doing well in the last few editions of the DUSU polls has had a majority of office bearers pursuing master’s and higher level studies in Buddhist studies. DUSU’s outgoing president Satender Awana is a student of Buddhist studies. ABVP has also had candidates and office bearers from disciplines such as linguistics, political science, arts, and law. Students’ Federation of India (SFI), too has had office bearers from a diverse range of subjects. Vikram Singh, an office bearer, is a postdoctoral fellow in biology.
All India Students’ Association (AISA) has fielded candidates from various disciplines in the last few years. JNUSU’s outgoing vice president Shehla Rashid Shora is pursuing MPhil in law and governance. AISA’s DUSU president candidate Kanwalpreet Kaur is a law student.
The Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) and Jawaharlal Nehru Students’ Union (JNUSU) elections will be held on September 9.