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A Note on Campus Politics and the Formation of SAJD (Students Alliance for Justice and Democracy) at EFLU
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A Note on Campus Politics and the Formation of SAJD (Students Alliance for Justice and Democracy) at EFLU

EFLU

SAJD-EFLU

 Electoral politics in university campuses is generally treated as a routine case of electing a student body to manage student affairs. Far from reflecting a technical problem of event-management, electoral politics is shaped by different groups, attitudes and ideologies that are operating within the student community and the various societal formations within Indian context. Moreover, the idea of student union elections in Indian Universities has already been made a mechanical process of student representation by the draconian recommendations of the Lyngdoh committee Report. The recent EFLU (The English and Foreign Languages University) student union election has used the recommendations of Lyngdoh committee to impose its absurd restrictions on the basis of age-limit, disciplinary action, course-extension etc. Students who face disciplinary action for having protested against University admin, raising the legitimate rights of the students, are barred from contesting in the election. There was no reservation quota in the central panel for the student council. On the whole, these electoral rules and regulations contain the dangerous seeds of generating a puppet student union which legitimizes the autocratic autonomy of university administration. 

EFLU

 Most of the higher education policies are framed in tune to the ideological demands of the Brahmanical Hindu nationalism. SFI, the student-wing of CPI (M), has made its presence in the major central universities in India by using anti-Hindutva rhetoric. But, it doesn’t go deep into the foundation of Hinduism called caste system which acts as the driving motive behind Hindutva fascism. Thus, they have been trying formulate a pretentiously progressive and modern language which strategically sidelines the issues faced by the Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs and Minorities, especially Muslims. The recent victory of SFI panel in the EFLU (Hyderabad) student union election of the academic year 2015-2016 signals towards the elite fun-based politics which privileges and promotes exclusivist linguistic bonding. If one might look closely at the panel fielded by the SFI-EFLU, it is very much evident that it is an exclusivist Malayali panel. EFLU as a multilingual campus should aspire to be an inclusive space for students from various parts of India as well as from abroad.

 The whole idea of the recent student union election at EFLU was actually the result of a long protest held in the university, raising various demands. The origin of the protest came from curtailing democratic rights such as right to speech and conduct debates and discussions on the campus, and the issuing of show-cause notice for serving non-veg meal on the day of Gandhi Jayanti and posting on Facebook regarding the caste connotations of SWACH EFLU. In the course of the protest, all such ideological issues got silenced and diluted into the sloganeering ‘aam aadmi’ demand for election. We were insistent that election should not be the only aim of the protest. Yet, the slogans like “We want election” gained more prominence in the protest, leaving aside the problems of the underprivileged, differently abled, contract workers, and above all the curtailing of fundamental right to organize debates and discussion on social issues. We also warned the dangers that stem from the institutionalization of Brahmanical Hinduism which in turn propagate the notion of pure vegetarianism. When the protest reached its peak, the admin released a notice saying that election would be conducted soon. With this notice the protest got silenced.

 Though we didn’t have much faith in the electoral politics at EFLU the way it has been conducted, we decided to contest in the election for the simple reason that we could at least create a platform for initiating a dialogue on the issues and concerns of the diverse student community of EFLU, if not to bring about a drastic change by abolishing the draconian rules once and for all. The very formation of SAJD (Students Alliance for Justice and Democracy) is originated from the failed negotiation of alliance based on the larger student community at EFLU. The reason for the failure was the conflict of ideologies between SFI and SAJD. SAJD asserts the need for a new paradigm in student politics, one that can simultaneously counter the Brahmanical Hindu fascist forces in the Right and the ‘feudalistic liberal’ tendencies within the pseudo-secular Left. It is easy for us to expose the upper caste mindset which functions within Hindu Right. But, it is difficult to expose the upper caste mindset of the pseudo-liberal secular left. In the ever-growing fascistic Hindu expansionism within Indian context, it is even commendable to take a liberal position. But the problem with the Indian liberals (Liberal Left, Liberal Right, Liberal Centre etc.) is that their ‘liberalism’ draws heavily from the deep-rooted Brahmanical notions of meritocracy which does not disturb the status quo.

 Though, SFI pretends to be very pro-minority and pro-Dalit, and an epitome of democratic student solidarity, they did not include even a single Dalit candidate in their panel. While they spare no efforts in regularly bashing the university admin as being despotic and elitist, the irony of their own elitist and exclusivist stance in this matter appears to be self-contradictory. Their aversion towards the Muslim organizations has reflected in the campaign. Moreover, they tried to capitalize votes on propagating the blatant lie that SAJD is a communal organization which would not do anything for the welfare of the larger student community at EFLU, especially for the students who are facing disciplinary actions from the administration. But, the members of SAJD have actively been present in all the democratic struggles held at EFLU. Even then, we were branded as the promoters of sectarian identity politics who reached out to the SC, ST, and minority communities for getting votes:  “While some of us are going to the extent of getting cancellation of admission, or stipend cut to protect student rights some of us on the same campus are seeking out SC/ST and Minority students for standing in election for more votes. What do we do when conscience is dead?” This was the lament expressed by the present vice-president of EFLU student union in the form of a Facebook post during election campaign. Thus, they claimed that only the SFI-gang possesses conscience. Since we didn’t have the elite liberal conscience, we raised the following questions: What she or the ‘democratic group’ she represents was doing when a visually impaired student’s admission was canceled? Or what this group was doing when more than 60 under-privileged students were struggling to pay the hostel fees? Do differently abled students and under-privileged students not fit into their utopian democracy? Yes, we do stand with those who face disciplinary actions and will continue to do so as we did in the past when three of our fellow students were rusticated as part of the library protest, though none of the people who accuses us came forward. Also we did not see anyone from SFI protesting when Satish Nainala was evicted from the hostel a few months back in a brutal manner confiscating all his luggage including his laptop, books and dress.

 When we say that we stand for the rights of Dalits, Adivasis, OBCs, Minorities, Women, Transgender and Differently abled, it doesn’t mean that we should restrict our struggles only to the problems of these marginalized groups. It is just that the very of idea of ‘democratization’ (of campus spaces or society as a whole) would be meaningful only if the problems faced by these ‘lesser’ people are properly addressed, not on charity but on priority. This is the reason why SAJD, acknowledging the various linguistic diversities in the campus, fielded candidates who are coming from Dalit/Adivasi/Muslim backgrounds and Differently abled situations. Our presidential candidate himself is a visually challenged person who is well-aware of the problems faced by the differently abled community on the campus.  We have been engaging with the various issues of the differently abled students through several means. One of the major objectives of SAJD is to make the campus disabled friendly at the infrastructural, academic, and social levels. We strongly feel that this community deserves to be treated not with mere sympathy but with empathy. The problem with liberal sympathy is that it promotes charity rather than equality.

 As far as the result of the election is concerned, we feel that SAJD has considerable backing from the many who share the same ideological platform. This is the ideological victory of a panel put together hardly a week before the election in an effort to represent the otherwise unrepresented people both on the campus and in the society wherein they are attacked both by the Hindu fundamentalists and by the pro-corporate policies of the state.  It has also created a platform to address these issues on the campus and also the larger issues like the state sponsored attacks on the marginalized sections, writers, and above all the very production of alternate knowledge system itself. We will continue to fight for these issues through our platform. SAJD strongly feel that a student union shouldn’t be promoter of any sectarian linguistic groups who strives to bring back an ‘aesthetic space’ for the affluent fun-loving students. A Student Union should not work in a manner that takes pride in laying claim to the bogus credits of the charities bestowed by the autocratic admin. We also strongly believe that Democracy without social justice is the democracy of the privileged. It is in this context, after realizing the poverty of language of SFI in addressing basic life-staking issues of the majority of efluites who are from economically and socially backward sections, SAJD has been formed with a view to forge an alternative student platform for expressing the concerns of the hitherto marginalized communities and to materialize an egalitarian campus atmosphere as an axiomatic principle.

A note from SAJD, EFLU, Hyderabad

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