Delhi University’s Common Students Make Their Presence Felt

The results of Delhi University Students’ Elections held on 13th September 2013 surprised everybody. The ABVP’s victory on the posts of President, Vice President and Joint Secretary were not a big surprise since ABVP had won all posts but the President’s last year, and earlier too, DUSU has remained with either the NSUI or the ABVP.

It was the votes polled by AISA candidates which marked a real departure from the trends of previous years. Whereas last year AISA presidential candidates got approximately 3000 votes, this year Anjali, the presidential candidate got 8229 votes. Similarly votes on all the other posts have increased tremendously. Ankit Pandey, who contested for the post of Vice President got 6437 votes, Charul Negi got 5702 votes on the post of secretary and on the post of Joint Secretary Muhammad Khan Siddiqui polled 6621 votes. This indicates that nearly some 6000 students of DU voted for the entire AISA panel consistently.

AISA, then, is widely recognized to be the biggest gainer in the 2013 DUSU elections. AISA’s active, year-around engagement with students and their issues, mobilizing them in its initiatives and movements have left a distinct impression on the DU students’ community. In the last few months, even the mainstream media’s coverage of DU has been less about eating joints, fests and fashion but much more about vibrant social and political activities with mass students’ participation, and AISA has been at the heart of most of these activities.

Delhi University is different from other central universities which usually have residential campuses. Most DU colleges are isolated from each other, situated in the heart of a market or a colony, and do not have hostel facilities. There is not much space to develop a campus culture beyond classroom teaching, and students’ opinion too tends to be dominated by the middle class common sense prevailing in college catchment areas. The division along caste lines, regionalism, upper-caste Hindu practises, patriarchal biases, commodification of education, feudal understanding of student politics dominate the college atmosphere and students get unconsciously groomed into these traditions. And with democratic spaces shrinking under an authoritarian DU VC, students’ hunger for meaningful discussions and struggles on democratic issues remained largely unfulfilled.

What AISA has done over the past some years has been to try and provide a consistent platform for common students to discuss contemporary issues, and participate in democratic struggles. AISA’s campaign against corporate plunder saw participation of hundreds of students from DU’s various colleges. Between May and August 2012, we campaigned intensively in DU against pro-corporate policies that fuelled corruption, demanding that equitable education and dignified employment be made a fundamental right. In the recent movement against rape, we helped students of various colleges to hold public meetings on the issue, and as a result thousands of DU students participated in the protests organized by the Bekhauf Azaadi platform.

We were active in a successful struggle early this year for 100% (in place of 25%) UGC scholarships for M Phil, Phd students. We mobilized hundreds of students in the protest against Modi’s visit to DU.

In the ongoing movement against the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP) thousands of students from over 40 colleges and departments of DU actively participated in many dozens of major protests and programmes organized by teachers and Left groups. After many years this year university witnessed not one but many protest rallies organised by AISA where more than 1000 DU students participated. AISA worked closely with teachers’ and students’ groups and educationists to expose and resist the FYUP. In a historic referendum on FYUP which we organised on 22nd of August at more than 20 colleges, 10519 (i.e. 91%) out of 11556 students voted against FYUP. The FYUP was a decisive issue in the DUTA polls as well, in which the Left forces opposed to the FYUP won a popular mandate, in spite of the Administration’s open backing of the right-wing pro-FYUP teachers’ organization.

What is significant is all this was being done in a campus which is designed to create a docile, ‘apolitical’ student community. This schema fits the dictatorial ways in which DU is administered with anti-student perspective, fees are hiked, scholarships curtailed and most recently FYUP passed and implemented. The students of DU, however, have shown that they are no longer content to fit the stereotype of ‘apolitical’ youth.

The Administration has shown its true colours by coming down hard on student movements. University spaces are disallowed to DU students to hold activities, police is ordered to brutally disperse activities as witnessed in the referendum where the polling booths and more recently the hunger strikers of a ‘right to accommodation’ campaign were both forcibly removed. In the latter case as well as in the massive anti-Modi protest, police brutally beat up students and booked them on false, non-bailable charges on DU administration’s behest. DU today resembles a police camp. In spite of all this, thousands of students took to streets regularly against DU administrations’ policies. The winds of change are blowing strong in DU.

DU administration strongest weapon in their attempt to depoliticise the campus has been the manner in which DUSU elections are conducted, the more so after the implementation of Lyngdoh Committee recommendations. Students’ issues are made to be disappear in the an uninhibited display of money (in order to buy votes) and muscle (to intimidate opposition) which disillusion and alienate common students from the whole process of elections. This election is the starkest example where numerous complaint have been filed, press reports published on how NSUI-ABVP candidates violated all the norms, filled all the colleges with hundreds of non-student outsiders, organised numerous free movie shows, Rain Dance DJ parties, distributed chocolates, liquor and covered the whole of Delhi with printed posters, in defiance of the rules. The university administration has issued an ornamental show-cause notice to NSUI-ABVP candidates as a face saving act. In the period of between 07 to 11 September after the ballot numbers were issued, the Administration had allowed ABVP-NSUI candidates to empty entire colleges for the parties even before the classes began, making campaigning impossible in most of the colleges! This while they would prevent AISA from distributing its manifesto, and even had AISA activists picked up by police on polling day!

It is against such an unholy nexus of money-muscle and DU administration that we managed to instill hopes in more than 8000 students that they can trust AISA and play their part in changing the atmosphere at DU. AISA will uphold this mandate and continue to be the platform for DU students to express and realise their own aspirations for change.

Liberation Archive