IN the University of Hyderabad Students’ Union elections 2015, the alliance of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Tribal Student’s Forum (TSF) and Dalit Students’ Union (DSU) with an unconditional support of Telangana Vidyarthi Vedika (TVV) emerged victorious by defeating Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and United Democratic alliance (UDA) by a huge margin. UDA primarily consists of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) and National Students’ Union (NSUI).
SFI – TSF – DSU panel won all the six positions in the Students’ Union. Out of 3825 polled votes, for the post of President, Zuhail KP (1603 votes polled) from the winning alliance defeated Gurujada (ABVP) by a margin of 339 votes. The other panel members, Mudavath Venkatesh (1580), Raju Kumar Sahu (1460), N Siva Durga Rao (1470), Chiluka Srilatha (1564) and P Sandeep Kumar (1455) won the posts of Vice President, General Secretary, Joint Secretary, Cultural Secretary and Sports Secretary respectively with significant margins. Sana Fathima (IMA Political Science), Aritra Saha (MA Comparative Literature) and Aleena Sebastian (PhD Sociology) won the GS-CASH (Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment) positions. It is noteworthy that ABVP is kept out of the major positions in the Students’ Union for the sixth consecutive year.
The emphatic victory of this alliance assumes national significance given the current conjuncture. Neo-liberalism, with its firm beliefs in market values and commitment to profit maximization, strives to convert university into enterprise, academics into entrepreneurs and knowledge into commodity. Under neo-liberalism, higher educational institutions are expected to justify their existence by playing a supportive role to entrepreneurship. The BJP-led NDA government wants the deep-seated communal and capitalist forces to shape the syllabi and intervene in the day-to-day affairs of the university jeopardizing the free production of knowledge. Through specific regulations and administrative rearrangements the government is trying to reorganise the universities according to the priorities of global capitalism and Hindutva forces. Nevertheless the reorganisation of university is not a consensual process, it is strongly challenged by forces which have alternative imaginations of the university.
ATTACK ON CAMPUS
In the recent period University of Hyderabad (UoH) has been witnessing an intensified attack on its autonomy and campus democracy. The students, teachers, non-teaching staff and other workers have been facing the brazen onslaught of the communal and capitalists forces. Major part of the labour force in campus is casualised. Over the years the number of staff recruitments did not correspond to the increase in the students’ intake. This has resulted in tremendous work pressure. There was an incident in the month of May, in which the house of a woman faculty member from the North-East region was raided just based on an oral complaint without following any due procedures. This incident brought to light the narrow patriarchal and racist mindset of the UoH administration. After a prolonged struggle by the University of Hyderabad Teachers Association (UHTA) a written apology was issued. SFI has been in solidarity with the struggles of the contract workers and teachers in the university.
UoH is also witnessing an increasing police presence in campus. The police patrol vehicles visited the campus more frequently than ever before. SFI and other student groups (except the ABVP) opposed the police patrolling inside the campus and demanded the administration to stop it. The vice-chancellor when confronted with this question responded that he does not have the authority to stop police patrolling and he cannot go against the diktats of the MHRD. Recently, the UoH administration has invited the Cyberabad Police commissioner to deliver a talk during the ‘welcome fresher’s’ event. At the venue of the event the Cyberabad police distributed flyers among the students warning them of legal consequences for ‘anti-national’ posts in social media among other such things. Furthermore, the UoH administration issued a revised hostel code of conduct without any consultations with the elected student representatives. The code of conduct stated that ‘legal’ action shall be initiated against the violators, but earlier the violators have to face action by the internal disciplinary committee of the university. A University general body meeting (UGBM) was organised to debate these issues. The UGBM which was attended by about 1000 students (ABVP boycotted the UGBM) unanimously opposed the suggestion to setup police outpost within the campus premises, the police patrolling and the new hostel code of conduct.
The University of Hyderabad administration had taken a decision to implement a compulsory dress code for the 'XVII Convocation' held on 1st October 2015. In an email to the graduating students, the administration has communicated that, “as per the advisory received from the Govt. of India to promote handloom/khadi cloth” men must wear Kurta Pyjama or Kurta Dhoti and women must wear Saree or Salwar Kameez, the material should be made of “Handloom Cotton/Silk” in Off white or Pale cream colour. It is further stated that the dress shall be procured by the Graduates /Alumni at his/her own cost. In addition to this the graduates are asked to purchase the Angavastram on the payment of Rs. 200/- at the venue that is to be worn inside the auditorium.
SFI vehemently opposed this move and argued that the crisis of the handloom industry is a fallout of the neo-liberal policies vehemently pursued by the very same BJP government. SFI exposed the BJP government which instead of resolving the crisis in handloom industry, was using the crisis to further its Hindutva agenda. SFI argued that the suggestion to buy the handloom product of a particular material and colour for a day’s use is highly elitist and many poor students cannot afford it. After a daylong protest, the administration conceded to the demands and released a press note stating that the dress code is not mandatory.
SFI IN THICK
After conducting the entrance examination for admissions 2015, the UoH administration withheld the results for four courses citing various reasons and decided to drop those courses. The students who wrote the entrance were clueless and confused by this unilateral decision of the administration. SFI took up this struggle and ensured that the results were declared and students were admitted for these courses.
For the last one year SFI has been vehemently fighting against the state intervention, moral policing and stifling of campus democracy in the university space. Through various talks, seminars, discussion forums, street theatre, film screenings and protests demonstrations/rallies SFI HCU Unit could successfully articulate the ideas of the Left and could attract many students.
In the midst of these struggles, SFI, TSF and DSU decided to contest the students’ union elections together with the slogan “In the times of fascist tyranny, Hand-in-hand for social justice” and emerged victorious. This alliance between SFI – TSF – DSU – TVV is conceived not as a mere electoral alliance but as a political alliance to wage uncompromising struggles against the forces of communalism and bigotry of every kind both within the campus and elsewhere.
(The writer is pursuing PhD Economics in University of Hyderabad)