Thursday, 02 February 2023

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Nitheesh Narayanan

Campuses are the citadels of progressive ideals which sing the songs of the dark time in India. The political support extended by the student community of the English and Foreign Languages University, (EFLU) and Pondicherry University, has once again demonstrated this. The victory of students’ federation of India, SFI in EFLU and Pondicherry University in last week is not merely a result in a campus poll but a strong political statement which the students of this nation are eager to send to the public. This inspiring triumph has to be seen as a continuation of the thumping victory of SFI in Hyderabad Central University and Kerala Central University this year. With these results, SFI has emerged as the leading force in students’ unions in four of the seven central universities where democratic elections are being held in India. Even though the democratic platforms are suppressed and banned in the majority of the central universities, the students choose democratic and progressive forces as their representatives wherever they have an option. It is also a strong rebuttal to the entirely false and fabricated notion ofa Modi wave among the youth and students and is a befitting reply tothe saffron brigade’s campaign of the ‘Gujarat model of development’as what the future generation of India is waiting for.The democratic sections in the country are looking at campuses with much more hope and expectations than ever before in the recent past. Students’ Federation of India, SFI moves to its 15thAll Indiaconference after winning the confidence of the student community at large through the conclusive victories one after another in a raw.

Both the varsity poll results reflect the long struggles waged in the campuses over the question of campus democracy and student rights. It was Allied Students' Action for Democracy-EFLU; ASAD-E backed by SFI that swept all seats in the EFLU. ASAD-E is a larger platform of democratic sections in the campus which questioned the attack on democratic rights of the students in the campus. Tony Sebastian is elected to the post of president and Ajay Mathew (SFI unit president in EFLU) is elected as general secretary. Tania Kar (Vice President), Noble Antony (Joint. Secretary),AnasRahman(cultural secretary) and Ashish Krishna (Sports secretary) are the other members in the union. Tania Kar, AnasRahman and Ashish Krishna are unit executive committee members of SFI. It is a rejection of the regressive view thatUniversities is the spaces to silently listen the lectures and mug up information. The administration was forced to hold the election after a gap of one year without any elected students’ body in the campus.

The way students had to tread till they reached the day of elections had never been smooth. It was only one week before the election that disciplinary actions were taken against 11 students including many SFI activists over their participation in a peaceful protest demanding students’ body elections in university. Ina deliberate attempt to curb the strengthening of the movement all those 11 students were barred from contesting students’ union elections when it was achieved after continuous struggles and interventions by the students including them. One another student was also served with a show cause notice few days before for his Facebook post criticising the 'SwachhEflu' programme sponsored by the administration. These incidents are not isolated ones in the campus. It has been for a long time that the developments in EFLU have become a matter of shame to any democratic polity. The questions were being replied with a brutal repression of democracy. The demands for the space for debates were met with authoritarian diktats and autocratic orders to keep mute. Campuses must be upholding the high values of democracy and promoting democratic platforms. It has been a scene of inspiration that instead of taking out a victory rally the students decided to wage a struggle under the leadership of newly elected union against the unjust disciplinary actions on students in EFLU.

SFI was awarded with a decisive victory by the student community of Pondicherry University.All the regressive and caustic agendas of ABVP, who won the student body election last year, allying with the anti-student administration, have been utterly rejected by the vibrant student community of the Pondicherry University. SFI had emerged as the single largest organization in the students’ council election held on 23rd November. SFI-ASA alliance won all 11 seats in the University union to which election was held three days after. Elenkeswaran and Jishnu EN (Unit President of SFI) are elected to the posts of President and General Secretary respectively. SFI Unit committee member Com. Anjali S won unopposed to the post of vice president. Com. Theyventhiran is elected as joint secretary. Regon, Medha Ramesh, MedhaSurendranath, Harsha, Vinoth, ThamizhKalayarasi are the newly elected executive members of the students’ union.

It is the first time in the history of the campus, that the white flag occupies the sky of triumph in student body elections in Pondicherry University. This should be seen as the continuation of a series of struggles that were fought in PU over the last few years. Since its formation few years back, SFI has been in the forefront in raising the issues of students and questioning the irregularities in the university. The yearlong fearless movement which started in 2013 against Ragging and Sexual harassment is what brought PU to the notice of the democratic circles in the country. Many SFI activists were served with disciplinary actions over their active engagement in the struggle against ragging and sexual harassment. They were also brutally beaten up by the goondas backed by administration. Two brave girl comrades, Vidya and Kavya, were suspended from the campus for complaining against such atrocities and for deciding to protest. It was only after an yearlong political and legal battle, with a favourable verdict from Madras high court those comrades could complete their course. The judge while appreciating the two girl students, said they ‘stood to their ground and refused to tender unconditional apology’ as per the order of vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy and pointed out that their action ‘showed their courage of conviction and a refusal to comprise at the cost of honour’. He lauded them for overcoming the normal tendency and temptation of lesser mortals especially girl students, whose whole career as well as life may be at stake, to surrender to the power of authority.

It was only a few months after the court criticized the PU authorities over their highhandness over the student's rights that anotherstrong agitation was launched in the campus demanding the removal of Vice Chancellor, Chandra Krishnamurthy who has submitted fake bio-data to gain the post. Citing the indefensible irregularities in the university after her appointment as VC, the students intensified the protest day by day and it received immense support from various corners of the country. Threats one after another, police lathi-charge, arrests and all other efforts could not stop the advent of the students raising the slogans of democracy. The central government was forced to send the VC on a compulsory leave. ABVP, the union office holders of last year was hiding under the caves of deep silence all the while students came to streets to protest on genuine issues.

Central Universities are more plural and diverse space due to presence of students from various parts of India and the world. Students belonging to different nationalities are an active presence in such campuses. The choice of the students in Central Universities should also be read in relation to their valiant assertion against the Sangh Parivar initiated attacks on the cultural diversity of the nation and as a strong voice rejecting the vulgar attempts to divide the society on the lines of beliefs, cultures, languages, regions and religions. Yes, campuses are speaking out loud and they are definitely taking sides. They do write, on the walls and on the banners of their wars, ‘when politics decides your life, decide what your politics must be.’