People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 30, 2012


SFI Conference Calls for Mightier, Militant Struggles

                                                                                                        Sudipta Bose

Ritabrata Banerjee


WHEN the 14th all-India conference of the Students Federation of India (SFI) started on September 4, with a huge and colourful rally of students, the latter took over three lanes of the  Masi Street, the central point of the historic city of Madurai. They, along with 750 delegates and observers, had assembled there for the open session of the conference. The meeting, which started in the evening, continued up to nine o’clock in the night. As the time advanced, the jubilant mood of the militant gathering burnt brighter. Those who addressed the meeting included Sitaram Yechury (former SFI president), eminent freedom fighter N Shankariyah, CITU leader T K Rangarajan, Dindugul MLA Balabharati, SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee and SFI Central Secretariat member K S Kanakaraj, while SFI president P K Biju presided over.


When the conference began with an emotional inaugural function on September 5, those present included N Sankariah, one of the founders of the student movement in Tamilnadu in the 1940s. The central call of the conference was to intensify struggle against the commercialisation, centralisation of education and for democratic rights and equitable access, to which young delegates from all over the country, representing 40 lakh membership, pledged through slogans in various languages. 




Outgoing SFI president P K Biju hoisted the flag of Independence, Democracy, Socialism. The flag was brought from Kannur in Kerala where Comrade K V Sudheesh, former SFI CEC member, was brutally chopped to death in front of his parents. A jatha led by V Sivadasan, traversing Kerala and Tamilnadu, carried the flag to the conference venue. Delegates entered the conference hall after paying floral tribute to the martyrs.


The presidium for the conference comprised P K Biju, K S Kanakaraj, Abid Hussain, Nilanjana Roy, Kapil Bhardwaj, Madhuja Sen Roy, P Lakshmaiya and Shiju Khan. Dona Gupta, a girl delegate from West Bengal, sung the inaugural song that was in various Indian languages. It was greeted by the delegates with cheers.


SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee placed the draft political organisational report was placed which, after dealing with the ongoing international and national developments, pointed to the poor status of education continuing in the country and the apathy of successive central governments in allocating more funds for education. It referred to the commercialisation and centralisation designs of the UPA-2 government in the field of education. Mentioning about the various bills regarding education, it pointed out that there is an urgent need to expose the designs of the government and accordingly build struggles at all levels. Emphasising the importance of building institution level movements, the report pointed out the urgent necessity to build more units at the institution level and sustain them through continuous struggles and movements. It also dwelt upon the need to build united joint struggles with different organisations on the issues concerning education. It also presented a detailed picture of struggles and movements conducted, initiatives taken and the successes and failures registered in the period since the last conference.


The discussion by delegates from different states pointed out various trends and problems concerning education. They shared the experiences they have gathered while organising students in their respective states. They referred to how education has been converted into a lucrative commodity for the corporate sector, with the government of the country working to safeguard the interests of big business houses instead of protecting the common students. They noted how the neo-liberal policies in education have created the APL-BPL type of division within the students community. The plight of the poorer students found resonance in several discussions.


Along with mentioning the problems they have been encountering, the delegates displayed steely resolve to build up mightier struggles against the current policies and designs as well as to consolidate the strength of the organisation. They were resolute about combating the challenges and waging mightier and militant struggles. The majority of the discussions noted emphatically that only mightier and militant struggles involving a vast section of the students community would save the classroom from the clutches of the capital.




The delegates informed the conference about how attacks on the SFI were increasing day by day. Wherever the organisation has challenged the designs of the ruling classes, attacks on its cadres have intensified. State administration has been increasingly used to curb the growing influence of SFI in many areas. In the Hindi heartland, and particularly in Himachal and Rajasthan, the state administration has been used as a tool to curb the influence of the organisation. There have been cases of attacks, false cases, repressions, conspiracies, academic punishments in large numbers. But the SFI cadres have been undaunted.


The delegates from Himachal mentioned that there are false cases against 18 of the 19 delegates attending the conference. The conference greeted these brave hearts amidst thunderous slogans as one delegate mentioned how the VC of Himachal Pradesh University had prevented the SFI cadres from availing the hostel facilities before semester examinations. This was done so that SFI cadres were unable to write there examinations. But the SFI installed tents outside the university and 54 SFI cadres appeared for their examinations from those tents, braving the cold, rain and other adversities. The comrades pointed out that the SFI’s performance has been remarkable due to sustained struggles --- not only in the university union but also in a majority of colleges in the state.


Compared to the snow-capped mountains of the Himachal, the experience was no different in the dusty wilderness with sand dunes in Rajasthan. Five out of the 17 delegates attending the conference have non-bailable cases against them by the state administration. The latter has been up in arms against SFI activists in different parts of the state. The Rajasthan delegates shared the experiences of struggles waged on a sustained manner in the last four to five years. The struggles during the Vasundhara Raje government continued in the Gehlot period also, as the government was in no mood to restore the students union elections. It was the SFI’s militant struggle that primarily compelled the government to restore union elections and the SFI scored successes here. Its performance has been improving; in the recent union elections the SFI won in 44 colleges and also in the Jodhpur University.


In Kerala, the militant fight carried out by the state SFI unit against the anti-student policies of the UDF was exemplary. Their militancy was a source of immense inspiration for the entire conference The SFI carried out sustained struggles in Andhra Pradesh, demanding social justice and on the problems of the social welfare hostel students. The SFI and the TSU fought against the terrorist and separatist forces as well as the NSUI in Tripura; their struggle evoked deep admiration from the delegates. There were sustained struggles by the Tamilnadu and Karnataka units also, on different issues concerning the students in particular and the society in general. The delegates also referred to the struggles carried out in many parts of the Hindi speaking states against feudal oppression, for a better academic atmosphere and for democratic rights of the student community. 


The delegates from West Bengal mentioned how the state has been a special case in the last one year. There has been an all-round attack on the democratic rights of students in the state. Through ordinances the new state government has diligently sought to curb the democratic rights of students in the colleges and universities. There have been constant physical attacks on SFI cadres and supporters. They are not being allowed to sit in exams. Nor are they allowed to enter the colleges and more than 120 cadres had to be hospitalised since the assembly elections. As many as 103 elected student unions have been forcibly captured. To date, there have been elections to only 63 college unions; of these, the SFI registered victory in 53. Incidents of beating up teachers are also taking place at regular intervals. The state administration is openly attempting to protect the miscreants who belong to the ruling party. The Bengal delegates stressed that fighting for the democratic rights of the students community needs to be on the SFI’s agenda in the coming days. The conference resolved to stand in firm solidarity with the struggling Bengal cadres.




Nostalgia gripped the conference on September 6 afternoon when there was a special session with the former SFI presidents and general secretaries. These included, among others, Biman Basu, Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and M A Baby. They urged the present generation to strengthen the fight for alternatives, and said the organisation cannot succeed in this endeavour without fighting against imperialism. They also stressed the need of uncompromising struggles against commercialisation and centralisation of education, and for democratic rights. They said the organisation has to be built in tune with the concrete demands in various areas. They all dwelt on how the SFI has grown by leaps and bounds through mighty struggles and become an organisation of 40 lakh students, compared to a membership of one lakh twenty three thousand at the time of its formation.


The session also felicitated the former leaders amid emotions and thunderous slogans.

N Ram, former all-India vice president of the SFI, was also felicitated by the conference. Three books, namely Our Heritage: Our Struggle, Education: An Agenda for Resistance and Facilitating Trade in Higher Education, written by Biman Basu, Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury respectively, were released on the occasion.


M A Baby, Nepaldeb Bhattacharya, Nilotpal Basu, A Vijayraghavan and Dr Sujan Chakraborty inaugurated five posters brought out for campaign throughout the country.


Special issues of Student Struggle and Chhatra Sangharsh were released by Y V Rao and P Krishnaprasad respectively.


The special session also felicitated the family members of martyr comrades, Somasundaram and Sembulingam.


The conference adopted 15 resolutions. It decided to organise sustained struggles at the institutional level, based on localised demands charters and link them effectively with the neo-liberal policy decisions of the governments. It took a decision to build institution based unit committees and properly nourish the cadres. There was a decision to prioritise the work at all levels and intensify the struggle against commercialisation and centralisation of education. It also resolved to intensify the struggle for democratic rights of the students community and target private institutions and newer university centres for building the organisation and movements. It decided to intensify the struggles against imperialism and communalism, and to lay special emphasis on building up united movements with other student organisations and other sections of the academic community against the neo-liberal onslaughts on education. Raising the social and economic issues of students from the most deprived sections of the society was another major decision taken by the conference.


The conference concluded with ‘We Shall Overcome’ sung in all the Indian languages by delegates from different states.