Thursday, September 18, 2014

Going Beyond DUSU Election and Towards a Radical Working-Class Youth Movement. Released by Subhash on behalf of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), Delhi State Committee of All India Revolutionary Youth Organization (AIRYO)

Delhi University Students Union (DUSU) elections have ended and four candidates from the Akhil Bharitya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) have been declared the so-called ‘legitimate representatives of the students studying in Delhi University (DU). The vote tally shows that in terms of the vote share, the ABVP was followed in the second position by the National Students Union of India (NSUI). Yet again the ABVP and NSUI, which are patronized by the largest pro-corporate (bourgeois) parties in the country, i.e. the Bharitya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress, have claimed the larger share of votes. Unfortunately, this voting trend exposes that the (enfranchised) section of Delhi University’s youth continues to be under the hegemonic influence of the country’s ruling elite that funds the ABVP and NSUI. Clearly, the months of anti-FYUP agitation and other struggles have failed to make a dent in the political consciousness of the student voter. Rather than voting for change the majority of the enfranchised section of the University’s student population has yet again voted for frontal (student) organizations of parties who have ruled at different moments of times at the centre and in different states and have served the interests of the dominant economic class.

While the ABVP basks in the glory of the 2014 election result and projects its victory as the ‘hard-earned’ fruit of its ‘pro-student’ politics, the fact remains that the candidates belonging to this organization are only a formally declared, ‘legitimate’ representative of DU students. With only a fraction of DU’s enrolled students voting and with the majority, i.e. (disinterested) students of regular colleges and the disenfranchised students of DU’s distance-education mode/School of Open Learning and Non-Collegiate Women’s Education Board/NCWEB, not participating in DUSU elections, ABVP has won merely an institutionally-recognized legitimacy that higher-education policy-makers bestow in order to control the true radicalization of the youth entering the fold of the university system and to keep students’ politics well within the prescribed framework.

Moreover, how can we overlook the fact that despite its denial of patronage from the BJP, the ABVP is the student-wing of the BJP? Whatever its claims about ‘fighting’ anti-student policies in DU, the ABVP is ultimately connected to a political party that is committed to educational ‘reforms’ based on privatization of the education sector, like steadily reducing government funding in education, promoting private universities, colleges and schools, etc. Riding the supposed ‘Modi-wave’ and shelling out lakhs for larger-than-life hoardings of ABVP candidates with pictures of top-level BJP leaders, the ABVP has sought to force down students’ throats the myth that ‘acche din aane wale hai’.

In reality, the (in)famous politics of Narendar Modi represents further breeding of inequality within education and society at large. While the BJP and its affiliated organizations feverishly project Modi’s ‘experiments’ with policy-making and governance in Gujarat as models for the future and have been using them to lure the youth, the truth is that Modi’s Gujarat is the model state for entrenched inequality and exploitation. This is precisely why, despite glittering claims of ‘development’, Modi’s Gujarat is positioned fourteenth in the list of states with the highest dropout rate in higher educational institutions. Again, while Modi as former Chief Minister was busy propagating the BJP’s policy of ‘Make in Gujarat’ (and is currently busy promoting the highest degree of neo-liberal reforms ever seen in the country), the state of Gujarat reels under a high rate of illiteracy (ranking eighteenth in the list of literacy in Indian states) and the majority of its polytechnic, engineering colleges as well as other institutions of higher education continue to function without principals and adequate teaching staff.        

In the case of primary schools, the rank of Gujarat in terms of the literacy rate for children above 6 years was 19th according to the 55th round of NSSO. This ranking further slipped to the 21st position in 64th round. Literacy rate for this age group in Gujarat increased only by 5.8% between 1999-00 and 2007-08, while the national average was far better with a recorded 10.1% increase. In the areas of MYS (mean years of schooling) and SLE (school life expectancy), during 2004-05, Gujarat was ranked seventh and ninth, resepectively. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has placed Gujarat at the 18th position in keeping children in schools. Shockingly, Gujarat’s ranking in terms of the percentage of persons currently attending any educational institution declined to 30th from 23rd position in the age group of 6 to 29 years and from 21st to 26th rank in the age group of 6 to 14 years.

The situation is worse in case of age group of 21-29 (higher education), where only 2.6% of Gujaratis are attending any educational institution. Gujarat has less graduates and post graduates than the national average. It is very clear that the state government of Gujarat is not interested in encouraging higher education. And that is why the proportion of graduates and post-graduates in Gujarat is far less than the national average. Despite all the tall claims of prosperity, till 2010, primary school teachers in Gujarat were paid only Rs 2500 monthly as their salary, i.e. until the High Court of Gujarat forced the state government to increase their salaries by 20%. After the Supreme Court of India slammed the state government, the salary was further increased to Rs 5300 per month. One can easily assume the condition of education in a state where teachers have been paid such miserly salaries. Not surprisingly, the teacher-student ratio reduced from 42 (per 1000 students) in 2000-01 to 31 in 2011-12. This ratio would have been worse if the total enrolment of students had not declined in the state.

Furthermore, the caste gap in availability of schools for different social groups is the highest in Gujarat. About 7000 schools, especially in rural/tribal areas, have been shut down in the last 10 years. In terms of educational gap between general category and backward category, Gujarat is at the top of the list. Indeed, for age groups 6-10 and 11-14, the caste gap in education is higher than the national average. For the age groups (6-14 years) – i.e. for above primary and secondary school education – the educational access of women, SCs, STs, Muslims and other minorities is again lower than the national averages. The gender gap of students above 6 years in education is 20% in Gujarat, which is the highest in India. In age groups 6-10 and 11-14, the gap is more than two and a half times the difference at the national level. While Gujarat has experienced higher rates of decline in the share of state expenditure on education than national averages, the proportion of people dependent on institutions run by government-aided, government and local bodies is higher in Gujarat. People belonging to the poorest 20% households in urban Gujarat are, for example, significantly more dependent on public education than their all-India urban counterparts, and are largely priced out of the costlier private-sector-run institutions

Having busted the popular myth surrounding ‘prosperity’ and development in Modi’ Gujarat – myths which the ABVP shamelessly propagated – let us turn to the larger dynamics of election politics in DU. The compromised nature of the politics typical of the ABVP, NSUI, Indian National Students Organization (INSO), Bahujan Samaj Students’ Forum (BSSF), and other students’ organizations of bourgeois political parties is typically embodied in their propagation of pro-rich policies, and this is an undisputable fact about these parties. Indeed, DUSU elections serve as a platform for enhancement of the political careers of student leaders from such students’ organizations – most of who are coming from political families. More than anything, such students’ organizations serve as training schools for vote bank politics and image-building that basically helps the new generation of political families to stake a claim in future municipal and state elections, and to become MLAs/MPs. We draw on the recent DUSU elections to elaborate our understanding of this politics of money and muscle. Below we present a coherent analysis of DUSU elections 2014 in the context of some recent developments taking place in the University. In doing so, we also bring to light the compromised politics of so-called ‘left’ organizations like All India Students’ Association (AISA), Students Federation of India (SFI), All India Democratic Students Organization (AIDSO) and All India Students Federation (AISF).

In the run up to the DUSU elections 2014, students’ organization aggressively vied to graft their name on the transient memory of student voters. Each of the competing student organizations, including NSUI (whose parental party, the Congress, spearheaded the introduction of the notorious Four Year Program/FYUP), claimed the credit for rolling back the much talked about FYUP. Ironically, most of the student organizations who have contested this year and have claimed to have played a pivotal role in rolling back the infamous FYUP, exercised a conspicuous silence during the first six to eight months of the whole hullaballoo surrounding FYUP. In addition to the NSUI, any keen observer will know that even the BJP’s student organization, ABVP, joined the movement as late as August 2013, i.e. way after FYUP was implemented with marked aggression by the DU authorities. It is only because of massive postering and big hoardings that the ABVP tricked a section of people and media into thinking that it was in the forefront of the anti-FYUP campaign and was the organization which “started” the whole campaign.

The ephemeral memory of the electorate was captured through enduring name chanting on walls and in the media. The votes were also procured by such organizations by sneaking in cartons of liquor into students’ hostels, giving passes of Jurassic Park, “fun trips” to water parks and high-end restaurants, and free distribution of movie tickets. Consciously, students from different communities were identified and bribed through hosting of booze parties and granting of passes to high-end restaurants. Typically, groups were made around local notables who are (in)famous for all the wrong reasons. It goes without saying that as soon as such social elements descend on the campus for campaigning purposes, sexual harassment of women students and other forms of rowdyism always hits a new high. Through the money and muscle power concentrated in these ring leaders/goons, most of the day-to-day activities of ABVP and NSUI are carried out. Anyone who has been part of the campaigning for the candidates of these organizations and confides in you would confirm that they are given a minimum of Rs 350–500 during the campaigning every day. Often enough 11th/12th class students from neighbouring government schools are paid to come to the DU campus for ‘crowd gathering purposes’.

In these condemnable practices used during the 2014 DUSU elections, other organizations belonging to relatively smaller bourgeois political parties were no different. The Indian National Lok Dal’s student organization, INSO, has indulged in the same kind of money and muscle politics as the ABVP and NSUI. Even the Bahujan Samaj Party’s, Bahujan Samaj Student's Forum (BSSF), whenever it participates in DUSU elections, cannot be absolved of indulging in the politics of fanfare. Far from representing the voice and interests of the most marginalized section of youth, the BSSF has failed to raise any issue of dalit students, and has little presence in DU’s centres, like School of Open Learning/SOL where a large number of working-class, first generation learners from dalit families are concentrated. Even the student wings of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Janta Dal United (JDU), etc. crop up out of nowhere during elections, and basically use money from their parental party to build their image for a career in politics.

The aforementioned student organizations just give lip service to the concerns raised in their own manifesto. For example, ABVP and NSUI promise to fight for the implementation of the Rent Control Act in their manifesto but at the same time are known to advertise the names of paying guest accommodations (PGs) and private hostels in their posters, fliers and hoardings. The truth is that parental parties of these students’ organizations work in collusion with the landlord/rentier class as well as with the builder mafia. This is best reflected in a policy approach supportive of slum demolition, selling of government land at throw away prices to builders, little or no investment in the building of students’ hostels, highly priced government housing schemes (such as those introduced by the Delhi Development Authority), etc. It is well known to one and all that the demands raised in their manifestos will be forgotten after the declaration of election results. ABVP, NSUI and the DUSU itself as a recognized ‘representative’ body, exist so as to curb the radicalization of students at the hands of revolutionary groups. Therefore their main aim is to keep students unorganized, depoliticized and under the influence of the ruling elite of the country through extensive use of money and muscle power.

If we talk about the so-called left students’ organization, even they cannot be absolved of making false claims regarding their ‘role’ in anti-FYUP struggle. Since the day FYUP was revoked, members of AISA, for example, could be heard shouting slogans which reeked of its opportunism and exclusivist politics. The whole anti-FYUP movement was in actual terms initiated by some left-leaning students’ organizations and democratic and progressive individuals. A few teachers of Democratic Teachers Front (DTF), who were very agitated by the undemocratic way in which ‘reforms’ were ushered in Delhi University, convened the first meeting of the ‘Save DU Campaign’, which was to pave the way for the prospective anti-FYUP movement. AISA’s claim, in its pamphlet, of initiating the anti-FYUP movement along with DUTA is therefore an attempt to efface the entire history of the anti-FYUP movement, and to replace it with its sectarian fabrication. Anyone who attended the meetings of ‘Save DU Campaign’ knows that AISA jumped onto the anti-FYUP train much later. Neither was it the DUTA, but a few teachers of DTF, who along with other left organizations, initiated the ‘Save DU Campaign’.

Importantly, in the emerging talk of the high-handed manner in which ‘reforms’ were being introduced in DU, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) was the first organization to take a concerted stand and principled position against FYUP in terms of its large-scale impact on the country’s youth, especially those already marginalized or excluded when it came to higher education. In the first few meetings, most of the organizations and teachers’ views revolved around the discourse of violation of the authority of the EC (Executive Committee), AC (Academic Committee), as well as the dictatorship of the Vice Chancellor. No organization, except KYS, reflected a convincing stand/argument against FYUP, i.e. its violation of the 10+2+3 educational structure and the inequality a 10+2+4 system would create within the University (i.e. between the degrees offered by DU’s School of Open Learning/SOL and those offered by DU’s regular colleges), as well as between different universities in the country.

The National Education Policy of 10+2+3 became part of the critique of FYUP because of KYS’ persistent effort to raise this essential point, and so National Education Policy eventually became a catchword much later when certain teachers of DTF and a certain section of the media realized the larger consequence of the issue at stake. But this still could not become the central concern of the movement because of the overt DU regular college-centric nature of the campaigns. This is why the anti-FYUP movement remained for the most part circumscribed within Delhi University and the stakes or negative repercussions of FYUP on higher education were not raised in a manner in which the larger section of society could connect. Much of the discourse was limited to the criticism of the undemocratic attitude of the Vice Chancellor or inferior quality of course content (as in the case of the foundation courses which were alleged to be childish). More than these procedural issues, the issue of inequality perpetuated by FYUP within Delhi University, i.e. by devaluing the degree of SOL students, as well as between universities, i.e. by devaluing the degrees offered by state universities, should have been raised to elicit public outrage.

The issue of inequality was crucial, for FYUP would have continued to widen the already unbridgeable gap between a centre of excellence like DU and hitherto much discriminated centres of ‘non-excellence’ (like Patna University, Gorakhpur University). Sadly, there has been a rapid degradation of the state universities in the last few decades due to uneven funding, leading to central universities becoming centres of excellence and further impoverishment of state universities. But, AISA or other so-called left organizations did not reflect their position vis-à-vis the large-scale inequality perpetuated by FYUP in the first phase of the anti-FYUP movement (ironically, the position paper of most of these organizations on the issue of FYUP is still awaited!). For the most part of the anti-FYUP agitation, AISA along with other ‘left’ organizations merely spoke in terms of the violation of ‘campus democracy’ by a dictatorial Vice Chancellor and the ruination of DU – assuming, of course, that DU was not already a distant dream for the majority of this country’s youth who have either been denied admission to the university or are languishing in its distance-education mode/SOL as well as poorly-funded satellite colleges.

In marked contrast, KYS, which has initiated the struggle in SOL for the basic right to formal education several years back, criticized FYUP from day one because among other things it devalued the undergraduate degree offered by SOL. Importantly, SOL consists of more than 5,00,000 students, most of whom come from the most marginalized sections of society. SOL students are shockingly provided with just 20 days of classes in an academic year and are denied many essential facilities despite paying full tuition fees. According to a myth in circulation, SOL students take admission in SOL because they “want” to study in SOL. The fact is even this year more than 2,78,000 students applied for the undergraduate courses in the University of Delhi but there are just 54,000 seats. Where are the rest 2,24,000 students going? A large number gravitate to SOL, but this is not of importance for students’ organizations like ABVP, NSUI, AISA, SFI, etc. since these spurned students are not the prospective voters in DUSU election. Yes, SOL students despite outnumbering those enrolled in DU’s regular colleges, remain disenfranchised. No wonder, no students’ organization, be it ABVP, NSUI, INSO, BSSF, AISA, SFI or AISF, has raised the issue of SOL students in their manifesto.

We know the reality of ABVP, NSUI, INSO etc. and the dirty politics they play. So-called left organizations have already shown their bankruptcy but AISA has managed to win support amongst a section of students by confusing them with its opportunism garbed under the ultra left image. We know that the commitment of any left organization rests with the toiling working masses. Even when a left organization works in a University it should organize the students coming from the marginalized section of society, especially considering the fact that those who are marginalized within higher education are much larger in number; are first generation learners; and are truly oppressed. We know that some 5 lakh students within the University are stuck in informal (distance) education which offers them at the most 20 days of classes in a year. We also know that not a single new college has been opened in DU in last seventeen years. Due to this, every year the majority of students (especially government school students) have to turn to DU’s SOL. Government-school students coming from working-class backgrounds do not get good percentages in comparison to students coming from big private schools. We also know the fact that only 18% of the students passing the senior secondary examination actually reach higher education. Even in Delhi University only a small section of students applying for regular undergraduate courses get admission in these courses (around 20%; 54000 out of 2,78,000 students).

Therefore, showing intentional and active apathy towards the majority of students and asking for freebies for affluent students concentrated in DU’s regular colleges puts a big question mark on the credentials of AISA and other so-called left organizations. Importantly, we must consider the essential fact that the facilities demanded by AISA in its manifesto will come from tax collected by the state, and the bulk of tax collected by the state comes from the working-class section of the society. Since the working class constitutes the majority of the population and because workers shell out sales tax on each and every product they purchase, they are the most important and largest contributor to the tax basket of the state. They are also the key wealth generators of the country because they make everything we see around us. It is due to their hard work, or rather exploitation, that public-funded institutions as well as amenities like government universities; transportation facilities; etc. are provided. But, alas! Their children do not even receive formal education. They are ousted by the children of the affluent classes. Thus, provisions generated through the resources built on the sweat and blood of the working class, are simply hijacked by the affluent classes. The struggle of SOL students for regular colleges and their persistent intervention in the anti-FYUP campaign should be seen within this larger context. Theirs is a struggle to retrieve one’s own right and not freebies.

Even in terms of campaign tactics, it is worth noting how AISA, to get media attention, resorted to every ploy possible, but without of course uplifting the consciousness of its cadres and students coming in contact with the organization. When huge numbers of students and teachers came out on the streets against FYUP last year, AISA handed out banners to these students so as to project in the media that its membership has touched thousands. But in other protests across the year, it was always trying to hide the actual number of its members (most of the times in single digits) with big banners and placards. Riding a supposed high that has been manufactured by the media, AISA was confident of a ‘good’ performance in this year’s DUSU elections. It thought so the same last year and AISA leaders were surprisingly quite elated with their electoral performance in 2013 (8000 votes; merely 14% of the students studying in regular college). This year too, AISA is celebrating the fact that it attained some 12000 votes. Of course, they hardly engage with the fact that student voters are not opting for panel voting but are voting merely for individuals whom they recognize. Indeed in such cases, ideology doesn’t matter as much as contingent factors, like college-candidate affiliation, i.e. students voting for a candidate belonging to their own college. If the voting was ideological and issue-based then every candidate in the organization’s DUSU panel would acquire the same number of votes – something which is not happening when ‘left’ organizations like AISA, SFI, etc. compete in the elections.

Undoubtedly, when there is no ideological basis and long term commitment to the cause on the basis of which cadres are developed and vanguards of the movements are produced, then what happens is a routinized, ritualized participation in periodic elections. This is something which we can see as the dominant trait in the parental party of AISA, i.e. the CPI (ML) Liberation. It seems AISA is infected with the similar disease from which Liberation has been suffering. Jayanta Rongpi of the then Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) – a frontal political organization of Liberation in Karbi Anglong in Assam– was the Member of Parliament which saved the minority Narsimha Rao government from falling. Shockingly, it was the same Narasimha Rao government which ushered in neo-liberalism in India through adoption of the structural adjustment policy. The organization’s ‘commitment’ to the corruption issue is surely well reflected/embodied in the fact that Jayanta Rongpi allied with Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MPs (who had been bribed with Rs 5 crore each!) so as to save the minority government.

Similarly, CPI (ML) Liberation has entered into coalition with Nitish Kumar’s Samta Party in Bihar and Jan Morcha in Uttar Pradesh and has tried at occasions to woo other bourgeois political parties like the JDU, RJD, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwaadi Party, etc. In 1993, four of the six MLAs belonging to CPI (ML) Liberation broke away and joined Laloo Prasad Yadav’s then Janta Dal – a telling reflection of the imbued opportunism and careerism amongst the leadership of the organization. Ironically, while Liberation opposes CPM–CPI’s anti-people policies in Bengal it goes into alliance with them in Bihar. Where CPM and CPI are strong, Liberation simply transfers its support base to CPM and CPI so that it can seek similar support from CPI and CPM. Thus, the organization’s support base is (mis)used as (an unthinking) vote bank, or an object so as to say, which can be traded for its own benefit. All the assurances, promises that are made to the supporters and all the swearing at CPM–CPI in Bengal are conveniently forgotten during the Bihar elections.

Again, we see marked inconsistency in the programs of the parent party, i.e. Liberation and its student wing, AISA. In Delhi, while AISA gives slogans against racism, few people know that Liberation in January 2004 asked for a draconian decree from the state, namely, that the influx of Kuki migrants in Karbi Anglong, who were the victims of communal violence of NSCN (IM), should be stopped immediately. While AISA is known for being radical in certain circles, on the other hand many of Liberation’s own cadre/members have reflected little ideological commitment and grounding. Raja Ram, an ex-Member of Legislative Assembly from Obra constituency in Aurangabad, for example, allegedly sought and got support of the Ranvir Sena for the sake of electoral victory. While the lands of poor peasants and tribals are being appropriated by the corporates, one of Liberation’s ex-MLAs expressed the desire to declare as martyrs all those policemen who’ve been killed in the war (Operation Green Hunt) with tribals who are defending their basic economic rights against avaricious corporates.

The lack of ideological training is well reflected even in the character of cadres of AISA in DU and JNU, with the names of AISA’s members surfacing in the press for wrong reasons. Not raising the burning questions of working-class students and giving lip service to middle-class questions/concerns shows what effect the student election has had on AISA. The members of AISA boast of changing the politics of Delhi University but it can hardly see the effect of election on itself. Recently, AISA was appreciated in certain circles for making the ‘historical’ endeavor to challenge the prevalent practice of adding ‘aa..’ before a DUSU candidate’s name. AISA went to the court against this usage of first letter of the alphabet in order to get ballot number 1 or 2. Therefore the fact is, even AISA believes that the voters in Delhi University do not pay heed to the issues raised by students’ organization and ‘blindly’ vote for candidates who top the ballot-list. Instead of changing the consciousness of its constituency, it seems AISA wanted to steal the opportunity provided by ballot number 1 or 2, which might be won through a system of lottery. Likewise, opportunism is evident wherever AISA has been seen placing their candidates or supporting certain candidates in panel elections of colleges which are fought along regional lines. Clearly, AISA started with changing DU’s politics but has instead found itself coloured by the same politics.

Similarly, AISA’s members could be heard chanting the ballot numbers of its candidates instead of interacting with the students regarding the issues. By giving a rationale of ‘dearth’ of time the leadership of so-called left organizations simply direct their cadres to just shout the ballot number among the students. Just consider how a general student would differentiate between ABVP, NSUI or AISA when all of them campaign in a similar manner. Also consider what kind of impression such campaign strategies of so-called left organizations would have on a general student about left politics in general. In terms of the long run, it becomes even more dangerous when these students’ organizations are not going to reach the students of far-off/off-campus colleges, for their activities leave behind a biased image of left politics in these students’ minds.

Diluting the class commitment of a left organization to working-class politics, it is hardly surprising that for so-called left organizations fighting DUSU elections, a student of Hindu College and a student of Swami Shraddhanand College (SSN) counts to one vote each. Therefore, the vote reduces every student to a number bereft of class background. And so, for AISA and even other so-called left organizations, the issues of student passing from the prestigious Rishi Valley School and getting admission in Economics Hons. in Hindu College are the same as those of a dalit student coming from a village near Alipur and taking admission in Hindi Hons in Swami Shraddhanand College. As per the orientation of the politics of these organizations, the life experiences of a dalit student whose parents are landless labourers slaving away on the fields of an upper caste Jat farmer are the same as those of a student coming from an upper caste landowning family in Haryana and who lives in a flat in Kamla Nagar.

To elucidate, of late AISA and other so-called left organizations have raised the issue of rent control within the University area. In reality, the demand should be of rent control across Delhi because majority of poor students come from working-class colonies of Delhi where their parents shell out substantial family income on rent. Moreover, students are not the only section of people who stay on rent. Neither are the majority of students coming to universities in Delhi. They are mostly found studying in crumbling less-funded state universities. Poor students from other states are not well off to continue/complete their studies living in Delhi. Not making any intervention in larger state politics which breed such inequality and working simply within the ambit of the elite sections of central government universities leads to middle-class imbued studentism of worst kind, of which AISA and other so-called left organizations are smitten with. For winning the elections, these left organizations will have to woo students coming from various backgrounds and especially from elite section. Thus, they conveniently drop the issues of working-class students. The probability of this happening tends to increase when majority students of the working class fail to get into the University due to high cut-offs.

This DUSU election also saw the alliance of SFI, AIDSO and AISF under the name Left Students Front (LSF). But when it came to the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) elections this year, SFI and AISF were competed separately and were therefore rivals in the JNU elections. They have different parental parties: SFI belongs to the CPI (M)/CPM and AISF belongs to the CPI. Ironically, these parent parties have entered into (opportunistic) alliances with Liberation in Bihar, whose student organization is AISA. Moreover, like Liberation, these parties do not hesitate to go into alliance with bourgeois parties. On a number of occasions the CPI and CPM have entered an alliance with bourgeois parties like the BJD, AIADMK, DMK, RJD, etc. even as their comrades were being killed by the criminals patronized by these political parties. Neither can we forget about the Nandigram and Singur agitations in Bengal where the CPM-led government attacked the livelihoods of poor peasants and agrarian labourers in the interest of acquiring land at throw-away prices for corporate houses like Tata, and ‘reviving’ Bengal’s ‘sick’ industries through the introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZ), wherein labour laws would be relaxed and (over)exploitation of industrial labour facilitated.

Similarly, AIDSO’s parental party, Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI), went into alliance with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the hope that its support to the Singur agitation against the Tata Nano project and its timely alliance with Mamta Banerjee (who opportunistically sided with the Singur agitation) would translate into electoral gains. Clearly, SUCI’s (electoral) rivalry with the CPM in West Bengal facilitated this troubling decision to ally with the TMC – a conservative, fascist party which was part of the infamous, right-wing NDA government at the centre. Thus while the SUCI doesn’t bat an eyelid when entering into alliances with communal, fascist forces in West Bengal so as to oust its rival, the CPM, its student organization, AIDSO, ‘conscientiously’ allies with CPM’s student organization, SFI, to push back the communal influence of the ABVP, etc. in DU. The duplicity embodied in this politics of alliance-making is sickening.

Such opportunism stemming from the lack of commitment to politics based on the analysis of class contradictions in society must be rigorously questioned and exposed. After all, workers are the most exploited section of society, and hence, raising the issue for something as important as rent control just within the University space reeks of opportunism and vote-bank politics dictated by middle class angst. In sharp contrast, it was KYS which first started the campaign for implementation of the Rent Control Act across Delhi in 2010 when rents sky rocketed across the city due to the Commonwealth Games. In reality, the main concern of left students’ organizations should be to extend facilities being accessed by a miniscule number of students to the multitude of students who cannot access these. Unfortunately, instead of the aforementioned strategy and vision, most of ‘left’ organizations are busy asking for perks for a group of students who are well off. For example, AISA’s demand for an AC bus pass for a limited segment of (54,000) students in a condition when five lakh students of SOL do not even get an ordinary all route bus pass is anti-left politics. This demand was nothing but an attempt at gaining cheap publicity by AISA, for the need of the hour is the generalization of access to resources and not the pampering of a small section of students.

Leaving aside the students of marginalized sections of society and working only among the students of the affluent class is leaving the multitude of students without any leadership, and therefore, vulnerable to ABVP–NSUI kind of politics. AISA’s politics keeps intact the middle-class hegemony on students and spreads it even to students coming from marginalized sections of society. Instead of aligning middle-class concerns with working-class concerns so as to create space for the hegemonic influence of working-class politics and vision of equality, AISA has betrayed the cause with which it claims to have been founded in the first place. Many of its cadres and leaders have entered into corporate-funded NGOs and bourgeois political parties. 

This brings us to the institution itself, which these students’ organizations are vying to take control of, i.e. DUSU. The presence of DUSU is a form of democracy granted from above and not born internally amidst any democratic churning in the University. It is an official student body not a student body created by students. Furthermore, even its constitution has not been written by the students. It is governed by the University administration and election for it happens on the lines of draconian guidelines given by the Lyngdoh Committee, which was an attack on the autonomy of progressive students’ movements. It has increased the control of administration on the students’ movement.

We know that major students’ movements in Delhi University have been started on the streets and independent of DUSU. DUSU has not led any of the major movements in Delhi University, be it the anti-FYUP movement or be it the movement against sexual harassment, racism etc. Most of the students’ movements have been organized autonomously of DUSU, the so-called official students’ union of DU students. Thus, DUSU is a redundant and obsolete organization which has not been the platform for any of the recent movements. It was formed as a safety valve at a time when students’ movement was at its peak.

Further, even its constituency is limited to the 20% of the total students applying for the undergraduate degree (since there are just 54000 seats and applicants are more than 2,78,000 students) at Delhi University. Majority of the excluded students study in SOL, and they do not even have the voting right in the DUSU elections of Delhi University. Therefore, there should be a serious question mark on the legitimacy of DUSU as a democratic institution. AISA and other so-called left organizations should meditate on the narrowness of their outreach and how limited is their aspiration of winning control over this institution.

Fighting DUSU elections and being elected to it amounts to bestowing legitimacy to this defunct institution. Such participation also eats into the legitimacy of real movements on the streets. When DUSU speaks it is considered by the administration that the whole student community of Delhi University is speaking, whereas concerns raised by genuine students’ organizations are not even heard by the University administration. They exist because they fight, struggle and resist, while DUSU merely exists because it is a grant from above. The legitimacy of a student organization can only be considered by the support it garners in the streets and for which the struggle will continue. Bestowing faith in DUSU is perpetuating a myth that it is the only legitimate power and all other sites of struggle are less than important.

It is hence imperative that students organize themselves around revolutionary organizations and that the real character of student organizations of ruling parties and pseudo-left organizations is revealed. It is time that a new movement based on students from the working class and pauperized section of middle class, in support and solidarity with the rest of the toiling masses, is initiated so that a society based on equality and justice can be created.

1 comment: