People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 29

July 18, 2010




Why SFI is Targeted for Terror Attacks


Tikender Singh Panwar


IN Himachal Pradesh, regional newspapers since July 7 have been dominated by headlines like ‘Students Clash in HPU,’ ‘SFI & ABVP Student Leaders Arrested,’ ‘The Governor has Asked the VC to Nip Violence in Bud,’ and so on. To a regular reader, it would appear as if the Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) has become a den of political hoodlums whose only priority is to do politics and vitiate the academic atmosphere. A bogey of arguments in favour of stern action against the ‘attackers’ and even for a ban on the students union elections has been raised. However, such stories in the press are a deliberate attempt to actually hide the real picture of the campus, to sidetrack the real issues and to act on the agenda of neo-liberalism that wants no resistance and open access of private players to the field of higher education.

Why did the attack on SFI took place on July 6?


Before replying to this question, it is pertinent to mention that the elections to the Students Central Association (SCA) in the HPU took place only a successful struggle that continued for over a month. At present, the SCA has all the elected office bearers belonging to the SFI. The foremost issues that were raised during the struggle and which dominate the students movement at present include:


1) Autonomy: The state government has passed an act about the HPU, and section 35 A in it states that the university cannot on its own advertise or recruit either teaching or non-teaching faculty on the campus. This gives an opportunity to the party in power in the state to get its own cadres recruited in both the segments. In regard to the teaching faculty, it is all the more pernicious. To avoid this threat, former vice chancellor, late Dr Anil Wilson, had worked out a formula for recruitment to the teaching posts where weightage was given to academics. The BJP negated that and devised other criteria. The SCA has been demanding that there must be no dilution of the Wilson formula. At present, scores of teaching facility posts are being filled up and RSS cadres are being selected.


2) Issue of privatisation of higher education: The BJP government of Himachal Pradesh has earned the privilege of even surpassing a state like Chhattisgarh in regard to opening the floodgates of higher education for private players. In a tiny state with a population of only 60 lakhs, 18 private universities, scores of engineering and medical colleges and hundreds of other institutions of ‘education,’ ‘polytechnics,’ ‘computers coaching centre’ etc are being opened up in the private sector. Concretely, an observation of only some of them can prove that their intention is twofold. First, they are working as a landed estate company where they get from the government the land belonging to the kisan community at throwaway prices and then jack up the prices and sell the same land at exorbitant rates. Secondly, their whole attention is concentrated on how to mint money. This they are doing in the name of providing quality education, but their modus operandi is making quality education itself the biggest casualty.


The Himachal Pradesh state unit of the CPI(M) has, in this regard, raised a point concerning one ‘Manav Bharti University’ in Solan district. It is interesting to note that this dubious university has enrolled 200 PhD students in various streams like management, pharma, computers, microbiology etc with just one PhD degree holder teacher, and that in the stream of management. But only the Students Federation of India (SFI) has been striving to raise these issues politically and through struggles, and only it has the capacity required for it.


It is thus that to kill the SFI’s resistance is the foremost task of the state government, its backers like the RSS controlled Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) etc, and the owners of these private universities and institutions. They also know that the strength the students movement gains through elected unions. Hence the twin attacks --- physically on student leaders, and ideologically on the elections of the students union itself. The following narration of events will make the picture clearer.


On July 6, armed cadres of the ABVP entered the hostels and attacked the rooms of SFI leaders, and beat them up. The police knew about the incident but did not intervene till 6 am, giving the hoodlums ample time to create a reign of terror. Subsequently, cross FIRs were registered on July 7 morning. However, quite astonishingly, non-bailable sections were slapped against the SFI leadership, while the involved ABVP leaders were booked but under bailable offences of the IPC.


As the SFI and SCA leadership was put behind bars, the ABVP got a free hand to beat and criminally intimidate the other activists and sympathisers of the SFI on July 7. True to its fascist colours, the BJP state government utilised the police as well for the same end. The police and the ABVP leaders connived together and jointly beat up a number of SFI activists. They did not even spare those who were studying in the library. One of the victims, Chunni Lal, was hit with a khukhri in the library because of which his metacarpal got fractured. In all, 40 students belonging to the SFI were arrested.


The role of the police was to ensure that the ABVP leaders get a smooth ride to carry out their reign of terror. It needs to be mentioned that the BJP government has illegally helped the present SSP of Shimla in his wife’s appointment as a college lecturer. He also happens to be a prospective BJP candidate from Una district.


The SFI, along with other mass and class organisations, held a protest demonstration outside the SSP office and vehemently demonstrated that such terror tactics could not ever silence their voices and cow down their cadres.