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JNU shame for SFI, blame on Nandigram

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 5, 2007

JNU shame for SFI, blame on Nandigram
CPM leader Prakash Karat addresses a seminar on the Indo-US nuclear deal at JNU. (PTI)

New Delhi, Nov. 4: Nandigram has handed the CPM-backed Students Federation of India its worst rout in campus polls at Jawahalal Nehru University in at least a decade.

The All India Students Association (AISA), student wing of the ultra-Left CPI-ML, has for the first time won all four central panel posts after a campaign targeting the SFI’s “hypocrisy”.

“They tried to justify Nandigram in a politically aware campus like JNU’s. They suffered the consequences,” said Sandeep Singh, the new students’ union president.

The SFI, traditionally the strongest political group on the campus, failed to win even second place in two of the four central panel posts, getting pipped by the anti-quota Youth for Equality.

“This is embarrassing for us… coming behind even YFE, but we will fight back,” a senior SFI leader said.

Politics is serious business at JNU and, unlike most other campuses, student elections here are fought primarily on issues in the national limelight.

For nearly a month, student groups — most backed by some political party or the other — paint posters, prepare bills listing candidates and hold marches just as the parties themselves do in the run-up to Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.

Yet, academic standards and “social consciousness” are not the only reasons that draw students to the campus. Accommodation is highly subsidised by the Centre, and civil-service aspirants joining a course just for a hostel room are not uncommon.

And although some students go on to join politics professionally — like the CPM’s Sitaram Yechury did — most go job-hunting after collecting their degrees.

A senior SFI leader admitted that Nandigram was a major reason for the defeat. “Our position is that Nandigram happened because of the Trinamul Congress and the Naxalites. But yes, we obviously failed to convince people.”

When CPM cadres were killed in police firing in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh a few months ago, the SFI did not hold a protest march at JNU because of its embarrassment over Nandigram, an AISA leader said.

“We were the ones who held a march condemning the firing in Andhra.”

Voting was held for 31 councillors’ posts in the various university departments apart from those in the students’ union central panel. In addition, two students were elected to the university’s “gender sensitisation committee against sexual harassment”.

The AISA won six councillors’ posts. One, at the School of International Studies, went to Sudanese student Khalid Abdallah. Last year, American Tyler Walker Williams had won the post of vice-president, also on an AISA ticket. Abdallah is the first African to win any election at JNU.

The SFI won seven councillors’ seats and the YFE nine, all in the science departments. Four seats went to the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, three to Congress affiliate National Students Union of India and two to Independents.

AISA and SFI candidates won one seat each on the sexual harassment committee.


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Will AISA’s politics retain the appeal?

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 5, 2007

New Delhi, November 4 “The August air is full of the fanfare of official celebrations of ’60 years of Indian Independence’. But somewhere behind the national anthem and patriotic film songs, we can hear the cries of the people of Kalinganagar, Khammam, Dadri, Nandigram, Singur. They are telling us: look, our lands are being turned into SEZs… If you want to fight to create a world free of exploitation, AISA is your voice, your choice…”

This is the plank on which the ultra-Left All India Students’ Association swept this year’s JNUSU polls.

With a political rhetoric that strongly resisted the Indo-US nuke deal and mobilised the campus on Singur and Nandigram issues, the new student union has son of a retired havildar, Sandeep Singh, as its president and a farmer’s daughter, Shefalika Shekhar, as the vice-president, all activists of CPI-ML backed AISA.

Singh, who intends to become a full-time CPI-ML activist, says their “struggle” for an egalitarian society will continue. “Our victory is a strong mandate against UPA government’s policies vis-à-vis the nuke deal, corporate land grab at Singur and Nandigram. Our fight is for the most marginalised sections of the society,” says Kavita Krishnan, national president of AISA. In retrospect, she has a point.

In 1993-94, its student leader Chandrashekhar led the successful struggle against a move to hike fees and privatise JNU. That was also the only time when the student group won three central panel positions in JNUSU polls. “That’s when we did our best. We made a debut in 1990 and in the next four years the union led by Chandrashekhar won central panel seats,” says Krishnan. In the next decade, AISA suffered a setback with Chandrashekhar getting killed in Bihar’s Siwan district while addressing a street-corner meeting. But the party also grew in the intervening period — from one central panel seat to four.

Sunday’s unprecedented victory, however, brings along questions. With many comrades joining MNCs and switching parties after campus, will AISA’s radical politics last?

“We have never said students should not work in MNCs. Our point is why is the government not creating jobs for us? Statistics show that MNCs are cutting more jobs. But whatever work one does in order to survive, one must be part of a larger struggle to create an egalitarian society,” Krishnan defends the trend.

Pallavi Deka, the new general secretary, agrees. Daughter of a lecturer couple from Assam, Deka wants to continue in politics as long as she is on campus. “But the ideology would stay with me”, as in the case of Inteshar Ahmad, AISA’s presidential candidate in 2003 who works with an MNC in Bangalore now. His fellow comrade and now wife Mona Das, JNUSU president from AISA in 2005 and ’06, explains: “We have also had examples where people from AISA have gone all over the country and took up radical politics. The question here is why does the government not create enough jobs for us?”

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All-India Student Association (AISA) clean sweeps Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union poll

Posted by Indian Vanguard on November 4, 2007

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