October 13, 2019

TELANGANA: Forging Stronger Ties: The Way Forward for the Struggle Ahead

Arif Ahammed, Suddhabrata Deb Roy

THE recently conducted elections in the University of Hyderabad have been an important milestone in the struggle against the authoritarian and divisive politics of the BJP at the centre and the ABVP in the campuses across the country. Now, one might be tempted to ask the question, “What is so special about the UOH elections?” Every students’ union election at any university or college is bound to have its own significance. But when it comes to this year's students’ union election in HCU (University of Hyderabad is also referred to as HCU), we must understand that much more were at stake than merely the localised nuances. This is so because of the previous victory of ABVP: a right wing students' organisation affiliated directly to RSS in last year’s election within a span of just around two years after the institutional murder of a dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula. SFI had to fight that election alone and in spite of putting up a valiant fight, it could not resist ABVP from bagging all the posts almost after nine years.  But this year,; the students in HCU have showed and thrown up throughout the electoral struggle of the year, a strong resolution to uphold three primordial characteristics of the multifaceted Indian political philosophy, those of secularism, democracy and anti-authoritarian politics. The Progressive Alliance of Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), Dalit Students’ Union (DSU) and Tribal Students’ Forum (TSF) have swept the elections with Abhishek Nandan defeating his ABVP counterpart by a record margin of around 1,100 votes which is more than the total vote bagged by the ABVP presidential candidate.

The SFI HCU Unit has time and again, showed that it is the only force in the campus which has the strength to bring in numerous groups and political formations within the campus together on a platform from which the ABVP can be shown the door towards the ‘garbage bin of history’. The alliance exhibited the resolution that if the BJP has to be defeated, it can only be done through a widespread united struggle. The HCU alliance of SFI, ASA, DSU and TSF is a historic one in itself, because for the first time in many years, the students of HCU have been treated to a front which was both in theory and in practice, secular and democratic without any ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. The role of SFI and the dalit organisations in the campus have been instrumental in the forging of a culture, which standsup to each and every divisive politics emanating from the centre run by the BJP. While there had been no stone unturned from the side of the ABVP to defame and ruin the campaign of the Progressive Alliance, the alliance members stood tall amidst all that. The ABVP quite shamelessly alleged and verbally attacked especially two candidates in the elections, Abhishek Nandan, who was the presidential candidate, and Sree Charan, the vice presidential candidate. Their lines of attack, in one sentence, were filthy, personal and above all, undemocratic. But strong determination and relentless struggles of candidates and cadres of SFI, ASA, DSU, and TSF ensured a strong counter to all such attacks and a thumping win subsequently for all our candidates.

The campus community of HCU has witnessed how the ABVP run union in the past one year had merely worked as stooges at the hands of the administration. From police intervention in the campus to anti-student policies impacting hostels and academics, it had maintained a deafening silence in every regard. The only time the union seemed active in the past year had been the time when they busted crackers at the inauguration of the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir. But SFI, adhering to its true legacy, stood against each and every anti-student policies introduced by the administration and strived uncompromisingly to speak up for the rights of students by standing firmly with them on the ground. The massive victory of this election is not only a result of a successful materialisation of secular, progressive and democratic alliance but also the struggles led by SFI and other alliance partners to resolve the issues faced by students throughout the past one year. It becomes obvious when we see a huge slide in the vote share of ABVP led alliance.

This year’s election was also important from an altogether different point of view also. SFI had been branded as Islamophobic and an aggressive campaign had been launched putting ABVP and SFI within the same bracket. It happened due to SFI’s decision of not going into any sort of electoral understanding with Muslim Students’ Federation (MSF) which is a student wing of Indian Union Muslim League and Fraternity which is a new formation of Student Islamic Organisation. Both these organisations are the students’ wing of Indian Union Muslim League and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind respectively. SFI always felt that fighting right wing Hindutva is not sustainable if compromised to another right wing fundamentalist organisation such as SIO. MSF, is an organisation that is reactionary to the core.

The HCU elections have again reiterated the everlasting necessity of true solidarity between progressive forces, both in campus and beyond.  It is essential to defeat fascism both at the political and social end, to counter the harm which it imparts at the economic end. Such shattering defeat of ABVP might not have a drastic impact on the level of national politics but it has proved one fact for sure that there are still people and students who can be united and can pose a serious challenge to anti-people BJP regime.