‘Unions in Action’ SFI holds students’ union convention
Akhil K M
ON February 29, office bearers of students’ unions across the nation came together to join the efforts to resist the dark phase in the country; to unite against the steeply growing politics of hatred, particularly against state-sponsored attacks on Muslims in Delhi; to join hands for peace.
‘Unions in action’ is one of the very prominent steps to bring together such students’ unions across the country, which have been upholding progressive stands in the fight against the oppressive Sangh regime.
The convention took place following a collective call of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) president, Aishe Ghosh, Hyderabad Central University Students’ Union president, Abhishek Nandan, and Pondicherry Central University Students’ Council president, Parichay Yadav, and office bearers of student unions from across the country. They got united under the platform aptly titled, ‘unions in action’. Aisha Abdulkadar, general secretary of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students’ Union and a leader of TISS’s Progressive Students Forum (PSF), Chitharanjan, a newly elected student councillor from Gujarat Central University, also played a crucial role in setting up the platform.
More than 200 representatives participated in the convention on February 29th at New Delhi’s Harkishan Singh Surjeet Bhavan, and additionally more than 500 representatives extended their firm solidarity. Also, a group of student’s representatives from different campuses where student unions do not exist registered their participation.
Besides union leaders from JNU, HCU, Pondicherry Central University, TISS Mumbai, TISS Hyderabad, and Gujarat Central University, the elected office bearers from institutions like Jadavpur University, Presidency University (both in Kolkata), Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala University, Kannur University, Calicut University ( Kerala), Himachal Pradesh University (Shimla), Ambedkar University (New Delhi) also took part in the convention. The student representatives from places like Jamia Millia Islamia, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, Mumbai University, Punjab University, and Kurukshetra University (Haryana) also participated.
WHY ‘UNIONS IN ACTION’
Indeed, several platforms of different student organisations exist. Successful campaigns were also taken forward through such platforms. A large section of the students who otherwise were considered ‘neutral’ and ‘apolitical’ have also been joining with the protests actively at the present phase of this movement. The elected students’ unions have played a vital role in creating and sustaining this movement and ensuring a diverse and wider participation of the students.
It is not true that all students’ unions in the county have played an appreciable role in this scenario. When campuses like Jamia and JNU were fighting against injustice, the Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU), which is led by ABVP, extended their unconditional support to the divisive CAA. It must not be forgotten that many college and department unions in the Delhi University openly came out criticising the stand of the DUSU.
The opening session of ‘unions in action’ was addressed by eminent economist and professor at JNU, Jayati Ghosh. She praised the country’s powerful students’ movement in leading the fight against this neo-liberal regime.
After the inaugural session, a four-member panel including Abhishek Nandan and Aishe Ghosh was elected for conducting the proceedings. Later, representatives from different universities addressed the delegates.
The convention observed that the violence in Delhi was a state-sponsored one and was part of the Sangh Parivar’s agenda to divide the nation along religious, communal lines. Muslims, particularly, and other common people were targeted and victimised by this terror unleashed by the RSS. It is clear that this violence would not have been possible without the support of the government at the centre, the convention observed.
Student leaders observed that the de-politicisation of educational spaces was one of the major hurdles they have faced while trying to build a movement inside campus. The attack on unionisation was also raised as an issue. JNUSU’s Aishe Ghosh remarked that there were attempts to terminate the process of unionisation across the country.
The underdevelopment of infrastructural facilities; discrimination in access to education remains a threat, largely still unresolved.
Many representatives from those including Delhi University, Himachal Pradesh University, and Rajasthan University shared the experience of facing violence from ABVP.
Union representatives from Kerala – most of them are part of the Left-students’ movements – expressed concern over the future of the structure of India as a secular, democratic nation, and the threat put forward by communal polarisation. They mentioned how the Left-led government in Kerala was trying to build alternatives to policies of privatisation and commercialisation being implemented by the central government.
Seven resolutions were passed in the convention. The participants resolved to continue their fight against the unconstitutional CAA-NRC-NPR trio; also to fight for free, accessible and scientific education; against the cut in welfare schemes for students from marginalised communities; against the anti-student New Education Policy (NEP) and the commodification of education; fight for democratic campus spaces.
PLAN OF ACTION
A plan of action was adopted by the convention. Prime importance was given to strengthening ongoing protest movements against NRC-CAA-NPR. A mass campaign including a referendum against NRC-CAA-NPR has been decided upon. Mass oath-taking will be organised to boycott NPR. Protests against fee hikes, agitation against NEP, etc., will be carried forward. Formation of university unions through campus-elections conducted in a democratic way in all campuses has also been recognised as an important task to achieve.
Programmes will be organised to commemorate the legacy of Bhagat Singh on March 23. It has also been decided to take forward the movement to ensure social justice, the universal implementation of reservation, implementation of GSCASH(gender sensitisation committee against sexual harassment), addressing the issues of LGBTQIA+ community in campuses, along with the other movements.
Mayukh Biswas, the all India general secretary of SFI, addressing the convention in the concluding session, explained the difference between ‘organisation’ and a ‘union’. He stated that the union represents all students, and thereby, the union must work with and for all students, and not for one organisation. This is where platforms like ‘unions in action’ gain relevance.
V P Sanu, the all India president of SFI, also mentioned how responsible the student community and the students unions have to be today, to take the fight, which we are all a part of. The scores of people on the streets and their determined slogans show that it is not all that easy to neglect the voices of opposition. Big or small, we are all here to strengthen our fight against the saffron brigade, and in turn, to protect India as a secular, democratic republic.