SIKAR, in Sekhawati region of Rajasthan has been witness to many a historic struggles, ever since the pre-independence days. Peasant leaders like Trilok Singh and student leaders like Kana Ram have become part of the popular consciousness of the region. The mammoth public meeting on January 22 in the Ramleela Ground of Sikar on the occasion of the 15th all India conference of SFI saw that popular consciousness transforming into a material force full of zeal and energy. The overwhelming enthusiasm that the students and people at large were showing, pushed RSS-BJP and ABVP to desperation. There have been murderous attacks on the SFI leadership in districts across the country. The picture of profusely bleeding Subhash Jakhar – the district secretary of SFI in Sikar – became a symbol of defiance and determination.
Hundreds of SFI activists had worked tirelessly for the preparations of the rally and conference. The entire city was decorated with hoardings and white chain flags. Jathas had gone from village to village to mobilise the people for the rally, as well as, to collect funds for the conference preparations.
The rally started from the Anaaj Mandi (grain market), where thousands of students from various districts of Rajasthan had started assembling since morning itself. Students has started coming in buses and scores of jeeps from places as far as Hanumangarh in north to Dungarpur in south. All India leadership led the march by holding the front banner, following which were the central executive committee members and the delegates to the conference. Decorated camels and horses along with boys and girls in traditional dresses marched along with the rally. As the rally marched through the streets of Sikar, entire air reverberated with energetic slogans, with hope, with determination and with unrelenting zeal to build a new society. The rally reached the Ramleela Ground to take the form of a public meeting, which was also joined by thousands of men and women from various sections of the democratic movement. Amra Ram, chairman of the reception committee of the conference summed this up in most vivid words, when he said: “The larger democratic movement is today standing in solidarity with the students’ movement. The Vasundhara government or the State machinery should not for one single moment dare to think that these students are orphans. They are the children of the peasants, of the working class and of the middle class employees. We will stand with them in their struggles.”
The rally stage was named as Martyr Comrade Fazil- Martyr Comrade Saifuddin Mollah Manch after the name of the two comrades who were killed in Kerala and Bengal respectively. It needs to be mentioned here that six brave hearts have given away their lives in the period since the last all India conference in 2012. SFI’s all India president, V Sivadasan presided over the public meeting. The proceedings started with cultural programmes by students from Churu district and by the Lok Sanskriti Manch of Himachal Pradesh University. 46 valiant SFI activists who were mercilessly beaten and jailed after the massive demonstration on December 21 in Sikar were felicitated by the general secretary of SFI, Ritabrata Banerjee. Apart from this, those injured in RSS-ABVP attacks in other parts of Rajasthan were also felicitated. A video clip was shown in the rally that exposed the police brutality on the demonstration and on the students inside the Kisan Hostel.
The public meeting was addressed by Mangej Chaudhary, secretary, Rajasthan SFI, Madhuja Sen Roy, all India vice-president, SFI, V Sivadasan, All India president, SFI, Ritabrata Banerjee, general secretary, SFI, Amra Ram, chairman, reception committee and Sitaram Yechury, former president, SFI. Mangej Chaudhary pointed to the adverse conditions in which this conference was being organised. Entire State machinery was being used to physically attack the SFI activists in the state and discredit the organisation. Education minister of the state himself said in a public function that “SFI is an organisation of anarchists and goons.” Mangej said, “If fighting for better education and for the rights of the students is equal to being a goon, then we are goons and we will continue to be goons.” Sivadasan’s scathing remark on ABVP drew wide applause from the audience. He said, “In the rallies and public meetings of SFI we have photographs of Bhagat Singh, Che Guevara and other revolutionaries. ABVP on the other hand has a picture of Asaram Bapu. It’s clear, while we are carrying forward the legacy of these heroes and heroines; ABVP is carrying forward the legacy of Asaram Bapu. ABVP was earlier Atal Bihari Vidyarthi Parishad, now it has become Asaram Bapu Vidyarthi Parishad.” He also remembered the valiant struggles by SFI across the country against the assaults on education and on the democratic rights of the student community. Ritabrata Banerjee said that “This mammoth gathering in Sikar has sent message to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje that the ‘Rivers in spate can’t be held back by the straws’. It has sent that no force can stop us from organising a successful conference in Sikar.” Sitaram Yechury said that “A Mahabharata is about to start from this Ramleela Ground in Sikar. In the Mahabharata, the injustice of the Kauravas was defeated by the Pandavas. In the similar manner, the loot, plunder and injustice will be defeated.” He pointed how SFI in its journey of more than four-and-half decades had always played an important role in the unfolding political developments by educating and mobilising the student community. He hoped that SFI will carry forward this rich legacy at a time when there are renewed attacks on the education and employment on one hand and on the social fabric of the country on the other hand. Public meeting ended with high spirit and enthusiasm. It ended with the determination that the 15th all India conference will be a milestone in the history of the students’ movement in the country.