December 06, 2015

Thumping Victory of SFI in EFLU, Pondicherry University

Nitheesh Narayanan

UNIVERSITY campuses, being one of the frontliners which sing songs about the dark times and where the future of India is taking side, are sending a clear message to the nation. The victory of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) in students’ union elections in two more central universities -- English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) and Pondicherry University -- last week is not just a result in a campus poll but also 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 held. Even though democratic platforms are being banned in a number of central universities, the students choose democratic and progressive forces as their representatives wherever they are served with an option. It is also an answer to the fabricated illustration of 'Modi wave' among the youth and students and a befitting reply to the saffron brigade’s campaign that ‘Gujarat model of development is 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. SFI will go to its 15th all India conference in January 2016, with winning the confidence of the student community at large through successive victories.

Both the varsity poll results reflect long struggles waged on campuses over the question of campus democracy and students rights. The Allied Students' Action for Democracy-EFLU, ASAD-E, backed by SFI, swept all seats in EFLU. ASAD-E is a larger platform of democratic sections on the campus which questioned the attack on democratic rights of the students. Tony Sebastian was elected to the post of president and Ajay Mathew (SFI unit president in EFLU) the general secretary. Tania Kar (Vice President), Noble Antony (Joint Secretary), Anas Rahman (cultural secretary) and Ashish Krishna (Sports secretary) are the other members in the union. Tania Kar, Anas Rahman and Ashish Krishna are unit executive committee members of SFI. It is a commanding counter to those who believe universities are the space to silently listen to 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 on the campus.

It was only one week before the election, disciplinary actions were taken against 11 students including many SFI activists over their participation in a peaceful protest demanding students’ body election in university. In a ghastly attempt to curb the strengthening of the movement, all those 11 students were barred from contesting students’ union elections when it was achieved after continues struggles and interventions by the students including them! Another student was also served with a show-cause notice a few days before that for his Facebook post criticising 'SwachhEflu' initiative of the administration. These incidents are not isolated ones. It has been for a long time that the developments in EFLU has become a matter of shame to any democratic society. The questions were being replied with a day light robbery 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 against students in EFLU.  

SFI was awarded with a pounding victory by the vivacious 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 Pondicherry University. SFI had emerged as the single largest organisation in the students’ council election held on November 23. SFI-ASA alliance swept all 11 seats in the university union to which election was held three days after. Elenkeswaran and Jishnu EN (Unit President of SFI) were elected to the posts of President and General Secretary respectively. SFI Unit committee member Anjali S won unopposed to the post of vice president. Theyventhiran was elected as joint secretary. Regon, Medha Ramesh, Medha Surendranath, Harsha, Vinoth, Thamizh Kalayarasi are the newly elected executive members of the students’ union.

It is the first time in the history of SFI the white flag occupies the sky of triumph in student body elections in Pondicherry University. This should be seen in continuation of a series of struggles emerged in PU over the last few years. Since its formation in a few years ago, SFI has been in 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 the administration. Two brave girl comrades, Vidya and Kavy, were suspended from the campus for complaining such atrocities and moving to protest. It was only after an year-long political and legal battle, with a favorable 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 criticised the PU authorities on its highhandness over the students' rights an another sturdy movement launched in the campus demanding the removal of vice-chancellor Chandra Krishnamurthy. Sitting on the indefensible irregularities in the university after her appointment as VC, the students intensified the protest day by day and it received an immense support from various corner of the country. Threats one after another, police lathi-charge, arrests and all other efforts could not freeze the advent of an indispensable success of the students carrying the slogans of democracy. The central government was forced to sent the VC on 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 by nature. Students belonging to different nationalities are seen on such campuses. The choice of the students in central universities should also be read relating to their bold position against the Sangh Parivaar-initiated attacks on the cultural diversity of the nation and a strong voice rejecting the vulgar attempts to divide the society on the lines of believes, culture, language, region and religion. Yes, campuses are speaking loud and taking side. They do write on the walls and hold the banners of their wars ‘when the politics decides your life, You decide what your politics must be’.