People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 27, 2006
HIMACHAL UNIVERSITY POLLS
Once Again, Glorious Victory For SFI
THE Students Federation of India (SFI) repeated its continuous victory spree in the elections held to the Students Central Association (SCA) of the Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and its affiliated colleges on August 19, 2006.
Dominating these elections for almost three decades in the University campus now, SFI won this year’s elections under very special circumstances. Surender Verma (Law) of SFI won the post of president securing 820 votes out of 1751 total valid votes polled. His nearest rival of ABVP could get 717 votes while those belonging to NSUI (155) and AISF (59) finished poor third and fourth. For the post of general secretary, Banita Kumari Saklani (Law) of SFI defeated her nearest rival of ABVP by record margin of 347 votes as she got 932 votes against 585 polled by the ABVP candidate, 172 by NSUI candidate and 63 by AISF candidate. It is worth mentioning here that the post of general secretary has been reserved for girl candidate from this year onwards. This demand was consistently raised by the SFI for the last many years. For the post of vice-president Gaurav Sood (MBA) of SFI polled 866 votes while his rivals were defeated by huge margin again, polling just 654 (ABVP), 163 (NSUI) and 72 (AISF). Another SFI candidate Jagdish Thapa (808), student of Social Works, defeated his closet rival of ABVP (735) by a margin of 73 votes; the candidates belonging to NSUI (160) and AISF (49) again fared poorly.
SFI IMPROVES IN AFFILIATED COLLEGES
The results from various affiliated colleges show that SFI fared better this year as compared to the last two-three years. It was a setback for SFI to loose three strongholds including two important city colleges and PG College, Rampur to NSUI. However, the overall performance throughout the state shows that SFI is popular with students of the state and they do not approve of the policies being pursued by the present regime. SFI regained its lost ground in PG College Hamirpur and also fared well in other colleges of this district (home district of opposition leader and ex-chief minister, belonging to BJP). SFI also did well in the biggest and politically important Kangra district, winning in as many as four colleges. Other districts where SFI registered its victories include Mandi, Solan, Sirmaur and border districts of Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti. These results are also creditable as at many a places Congress goons led by their MLAs used state police force and muscle power to defeat SFI and did not even allow SFI candidates to file nominations at some places. Another positive aspect of this election has been the defeat of ABVP in many of its strongholds like Hamirpur and Bilaspur.
BACKGROUND TO THESE ELECTIONS
These elections were held in a very oppressive environment. Eager to push its neo-liberal agenda in the University, the state government has turned it into another government department by eroding its autonomy. The campus has been turned into police cantonment. A serving police officer has been appointed Security Officer, while two superannuated police officers have been appointed hostel welfare officers removing the teacher wardens. There is total ban on organisation of protests, dharnas and rallies. Every protest action means another police case against the students. So far, 20 students have been rusticated and as many as 13 more have been put on conduct probation for holding democratic protests. The latest action against 13 SFI activists was just before these elections as they were lathicharged for protesting against new anti-students’ hostel allotment policies. Even the SCA constitution has been amended and those who have been put under conduct probation have been denied the right to contest the current elections. The whole situation is as bad as it was under emergency of 1975 and the conditions might be as bad as those had been under the Public Safety Act under the British rule.
WHY TARGET UNIVERSITY & SFI?
The whole exercise has been worked out to curtail the activities of SFI, whom people of the state rightly term as face of the democratic movement in Himachal Pradesh. The present Congress government is fully aware of the potential of SFI to fight the onslaughts of the economic and other policies of the state and take things to the logical conclusion through democratic movements. The recent example being that of leakage of CPMT question paper that was sold to a few parents of aspiring candidates for huge sums of money. The legal process right up to the Supreme Court of India vindicated SFI’s stand. It is this resolve of the SFI against corruption, irregularities and other ongoings in the University and elsewhere that the ruling party wants to curb. The state government and the ruling party also know that the movements by SFI against corruption, saffronisation and commercialisation of education during the BJP regime created an environment where BJP had to sit in the opposition in 2003. Hence, the present regime wants to suppress the SFI movement, and University being the epicenter of these movements it is also being targeted time and again. While going to press the chief minster Virbhadra Singh told a TV Channel that he will close down the University if the protests and slogan shouting does not stop in the University. It is the third such threat from the ‘chief executive’ of the state. Though this one coming today is understandable, as he could not relish the return of the SFI to the SCA.
However, SFI is not going to be cowed down by these threats and use of state machinery against it will boomerang against the authoritarian state government and its stooge University administration. SFI contested these elections on the slogans of safeguarding the students’ right to elect their representatives. It made clear its intention of using the platform of SCA to launch broader movements against the state government’s intervention in education institutes for implementation of anti-people policies like privatisation, etc. SFI as an organisation and the SCAs led by it will continue their struggle against the anti-people policies of the Congress government and will not allow it to implement its neo-liberal agenda in education sector.