People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXVII

No. 25

June 23, 2013

 

 

 

 

State Sponsored Violence to

Sabotage Democracy in HPU Campus

 

Dr. Vikram Singh

 

 

HIMACHAL Pradesh University is known for its democratic environment in the campus along with academic excellence. HPU is unique in terms of its cheaper fee structure and subsidised education which it caters to the common students of the state right from its foundation in 1970. It is second to Jawaharlal Nehru University in having lowest fee structure in India. Due to these features, this prestigious institution has been serving very well to provide higher education to the students coming from families having low incomes. Subsidised seats with low fees are the only reason that HPU has more number of girl students in campus. In Himachal Pradesh University campus, girls count more than 70 per cent of the total students. So we can say marginalised and weaker sections have equal access to higher education because of HPU in Himachal Pradesh.

 

This democratic culture and low fee structure is not an outcome of the will of state governments of ruling class parties but is due to the strong progressive student movement and historical struggles and sacrifices made by students of the university. Successive state governments of the Congress and the BJP have put hard efforts to implement their neo liberal agenda to increase fee structure and curtail democracy. Last BJP government had proposed multifold hike in fees last year and the same was endorsed by the Executive council of the HPU. Elected Student union launched a broader and aggressive agitation against this anti-student move of varsity administration and was victorious when vice chancellor had to withdraw his decision. SFI took a lead to organise the students and unveil the ideological position of student organisation of ruling parties i.e., ABVP and NSUI.

 

So we can say that student movement under the leadership of SFI has played a decisive role in achieving the present status of HPU. So campus democracy and student leadership have always been targeted by university authorities under the directions of successive state governments.  There have been attempts to ban the student union elections. Various forms of violence, including both goons of political parties and police forces have been used against student leaders. Efforts have been there to defame student movement with the help of state sponsored violence. Hundreds of false cases have been registered against student leaders of SFI. Such an incident took place when the elected students union of the HPU was dissolved by Vice-Chancellor ADN Bajpeye on the pretext of violence in the campus.

 

During the last one month or so there were planned attacks on student leaders of SFI by ABVP workers. Even common students and tribal students were not spared. There were attempts to create an environment of violence in campus. SFI leadership in the unit and the state had repeatedly been telling the university administration, as well as the police that ABVP was trying to create conditions of confrontation on the campus. But no action was taken. On May 13, when the entrance examinations of the university started and all organisations were doing the student assistance work, ABVP attacked the SFI help desk in a planned manner with weapons. In the confrontation that followed, many students were injured. Yet both the administration and the police acted in clearly partial manner, slapping false cases on 28 SFI activists including four girl leaders, with even attempt to murder charges on all; while not a single ABVP person has been booked till now. Taking this incident as pretext the VC dissolved the elected studentsí union, which was yet to complete its full term. Paramilitary forces were called to the campus and they flag marched in the hostels at night, as if it was a riot situation. On the morning of 14th also forces deployed on the campus stopped students from entering the library and the posters inside the campus were torn.

 

This attack on SFI leadership should be understood in isolation. Rather we will have to look into the background. ADN Bajpeye is a known RSS-man who was appointed as VC, during the reign of the previous BJP government in the state and on numerous instances he has acted in favour of the right wing communal forces such as ABVP on the campus. He has very serious cases of financial corruption against him. Right from his appointment Bajpeye is committed to change the fee structure of the university.  But he was not successful due to strong opposition from Student Union and SFI. On many occasions he was noticed to quote SFI as one of his target in campus.

 

At present also Student Union of Himachal Pradesh University has launched a continuous agitation against the corruption of VC and proposed fee hike. With the change in political regime in the state, everybody was hoping that there will be an end of the term of this corrupt VC and an enquiry will be initiated against financial irregularities as well as illegal appointments. But nothing happened even after six months of this Congress government. The Congress government seems to have an unknown compromise with the VC. Again SFI took the responsibility and submitted a comprehensive chargesheet along with facts to the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh. Still the Congress government took no consideration of the matter.

 

Bajpeyee  has a long record of corruption right from his former jobs where he was sacked by the then governor of Madhya Pradesh Balram Jakhad due to corruption charges and the same was held right by the court of law. He knows how to manage these irregularities. Presently he is trying to please the state chief minister and continue to enjoy his post inspite of resistance from all sections of the university. With these intensions, he is pressing to increase various fees in campus and is also trying to curtail campus democracy in the name of mechanical discipline. Not only this, he shamelessly offered honorary doctorate degree to chief minister which the CM has refused to accept.  It needs to be stressed that the SFI led union has blocked all attempts of the privatisation and commercialisation in the campus - be it the hike in the mess charges or the recent hike in the price of the prospectus. So the attack of May 13 was a preplanned one. On one hand authorities are protecting ABVP persons from police actions and no action is being taken against them while on the other hand they are victimising SFI leaders and snatching their democratic rights by dissolving democratically elected student union. We are aware of the fact that chief minister of Himachal Pradesh does not have much liking for democracy in campus. So he is giving full support to the VC. Rather he is much pleased with this act.

 

After all this brutality and political victimisation, students in the campus are committed to uphold the legacy of struggle. Our brave comrades are fighting behind the bars for last few days but their morale is high. There are larger student mobilisations in campus showing their solidarity with comrades and demanding release of leaders. This is more significant considering the fact that para-military and large numbers of police forces are deployed in campus, but still university community is not afraid of any consequence. We are confident that the students and the broad democratic sections of the state will once again rally behind the correct politics and perspective and reject the politics of goondaism. It is also quite imperative to note that such trends are not confined only to Himachal Pradesh, but reflect an assault on campus democracy throughout the country. The need of the hour is to rally ourselves to organise broader agitation to protect historical legacy of democracy of HPU and fight against the corruption of Bajpeye and anti-student policies of the Congress government.