STUDENTS of JNU yet again gave a resounding mandate to the United Left Alliance of Students' Federation of India (SFI), All India Students Association (AISA), All India Students Federation (AISF), and Democratic Students Federation (DSF) in the recently concluded JNUSU elections. The students unitedly rejected the communal politics of RSS’s student wing the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) which was driven by money and muscle. Final results announced on September 16 gave a historic victory to the united left alliance wherein N Sai Balaji (AISA) was elected as president, Sarika Chaudhary (DSF) as vice president, Aejaz Ahmad Rather (SFI) as general secretary and Amutha Jayadeep (AISF) as joint secretary with a margin of 1179, 1680, 1300 and 800 votes respectively. The election was a historic one witnessing over 67 percent voter turnout. This was the first time that all the winning office bearers polled over 2000 votes. The JNUSU election 2018 was held at a historic juncture, in the aftermath of a series of administrative measures to destroy JNU, backed by the ruling BJP government. Attacks were particularly against its pro-weaker sections admission policy, the Gender Sensitisation Committee against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) set up by the university in 1999 following the Supreme Court guidelines in the Vishaka judgement, deprivation points etc – the cornerstones of what made JNU a prominent institution of higher education accessible to students coming from multiple marginalities. JNU has seen in the last four years RSS personalities infiltrating in key administrative and teaching positions through corrupt appointments and encouraging a lumpen force like the ABVP to constrict the organised student movement against privatisation and commercialisation of higher education. Thus, the results are a tight slap on the Sangh Parivar ruling dispensation and its ploy to destroy public funded higher education and particularly JNU. The final standing of organisations in central panel is given below:
Organisation President Vice President General Secretary Joint Secretary
United Left (SFI-AISA-AISF-DSF) 2161 2692 2423 2047
ABVP 982 1012 1123 1247
BAPSA 675 644 827 689
NSUI 402 457 328 772
CRJD 540 - - -
The United Left alliance won all five councillor seats in the School of Social Sciences (SSS) and in the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies (SLL&CS). In the School of International Studies (SIS) United Left alliance secured four councillor seats as one went to NSUI. ABVP saw its decimation in the science schools this year, a traditional strong hold of theirs. First time in the near history of JNU, ABVP lost nine out of ten councillor positions in science schools. Independents, united against ABVP, won the councillor post in the School of Physical Sciences (SPS), three councillor posts in the School of Life Sciences (SLS), and one councillor post in the School of Computer and Systems Sciences (SC&SS). The United Left alliance, together with independents of science school, thus finished with 23 seats i.e., four office-bearers and 19 councillors, in the 33-member JNUSU Council 2018-19.
RSS-ABVP OPTS FOR VIOLENCE FROM THE BEGINNING
What marked this year’s JNUSU elections was the blatant violence unleashed by ABVP throughout the election process. Incidents of violence recurred in JNU since the JNUSU election process began. On the day of Presidential Debate, women comrades from SFI were cornered and manhandled by a group of ABVP men. JNUSU election counting process had to be stalled for over 14 hours because of violence and booth capturing by the ABVP. ABVP sensed their massive defeat in this year’s election and was prepared to disrupt the election process by all means. Four members of ABVP including the former joint secretary of JNUSU from ABVP refused to leave the building where counting was held even after repeated appeal of Election Commission (EC) and Grievance Redressal Cell (GRC). The JNU student community came out in thousands against this hooliganism and finally they were forced to come out of the building. Even after resumption of the counting process, multiple incidents of violence broke out wherein Left activists were brutally attacked by the RSS-ABVP activists. Hundreds of RSS goons brought in from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh roamed freely on the campus on the night of counting, making the campus situation extremely tense. Even after the declaration of results, violent incidents erupted inside multiple hostels, often with the involvement of non-students. Those inflicting violence roamed around the campus with the lathis and iron rods. The elected president of JNUSU was given open death threats. The administration completely failed to take cognizance of the matter, taking action against the perpetrators of violence and in a shameful move, took it as an opportunity to issue multiple notices implementing strict surveillance measures such as curfew timings, barring entry of outsiders and regular checking under the pretext of security threat. The situation is such that one cannot roam around in the university without an ID card and the campus is now under an undeclared emergency.
RSS GAME-PLAN UNFOLDS OUTSIDE THE CAMPUS
What happened in JNU in the last couple of days was a clear display of instrumented violence with targeted attack on students. It should also be seen as a planned ploy of ABVP hand-in-hand with the JNU administration to increase restrictions and impose curfew on campus. ABVP, defeated by students mandate, unleashed violence in order to create tension within campus and invite outside intervention, like what happened in February 2016. This is very evident from the ridiculous statement given by the defence minister of the country and also a JNU alumnus Nirmala Sitharaman, that the JNU students are waging a war against India and some of them are also seen as elected representatives in the union. This irresponsible statement is very clearly aimed at creating a public sentiment against JNU and witch-hunt students as they did two years back. It was a grave coincidence that while the RSS Sarsanghchalak spoke volumes about its democratic credentials in the recently concluded three day conclave, a travesty of the past and present of RSS in our country, right under the nose of the central government an RSS game plan to foil a democratic mandate of the students was unfolding in JNU. In fact through a spirited, non-violent challenge in which even those silent voters of the ABVP also joined, the JNU students could resist and could ensure a peaceful conclusion of the JNUSU elections 2018. It shouldn’t amaze us that at a national teachers’ conference in March 2017, the same Mohan Bhagwat announced a plan for setting up a separate wing of the RSS dedicated to higher education. It is this ‘dedication’ that one sees now as contributing to several irreversible damages. Narendra Modi’s government has declared an open war on public funded education ever since it came into power in 2014 by accelerating neoliberal policies and thereby letting a way for corporates to swallow the remaining public education in the country. The government is concertedly working towards making education inaccessible to the marginalised so that knowledge production remains as the birthright of the privileged few thus furthering their Hindutva agenda along with aggravated neoliberalism.
The electoral victory for the Left on the campus had manifold ideological ramifications as well. The students clearly rejected the politics of money and muscle. Both the ABVP and the NSUI had organised numerous tours, dinner parties to entice first year students for votes but the students rejected this politics of opportunism and money. Similarly the self-styled Ambedkarite organisation BAPSA, whose slogan is ‘laal bhagwa ek hai’, was rejected by the students of JNU. This is significant because the BAPSA’s campaign throughout the election comprised of targeting Left activists particularly those belonging to marginalised backgrounds, calling them ‘slaves’ for siding with the Left. Such regressive and feudal politics of the BAPSA that questions political consciousness of students from marginalised communities was rejected by the JNU students in toto.
SFI'S CARDINAL ROLE
Finally, the role of SFI in these elections has been crucial as it came out as one of the primary forces challenging the organised right wing. It also challenged the narrative of identity based political group that club the right and left together. SFI's role in uniting all under the banner of the JNUSU vis-a-vis fighting the various anti-student policies of the administration last year, was instrumental in putting forth before the students the most credible fighting alternative. SFI won all the posts (central panel and school councils) that it contested. Also significant this year was the inroads that the Left made in science schools, which had traditionally been the bastion of the right, wherein the role of SFI was cardinal. The JNUSU election result 2018 not only reiterated the faith of students on the Left as the only credible force against the RSS-ABVP, but also its pivotal role in the forthcoming general elections in the country.