This September 6th, JNU is going for the Student Union polls. Naturally, the campus is gripped with the thrill and mania that every election brings – Press Conference, GBMs, Mashaal Juloos, and the much awaited presidential debate. The United Left Front is determined to repeat history and clinch all the seats of the Central Panel. On the other hand, ABVP is invigorated with the BJP-RSS corporate nexus going strong at the Centre. With the administration on its side, it hopes to be able to give a tough fight to the Left. While the NSUI-MSF alliance is certain of its fate, it continues to solicit votes against the binary politics of the Left and Right.
Amidst this, BAPSA – Fraternity (Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association) is putting up a fight with tremendous energy against the politics of the upper caste and elite, where the marginalized find neither their voice nor representation.
Every place I go to – hostel, mess, classroom, market, or dhaba, I am encountered by groups of campaigning candidates. I am handed a parcha (leaflet) with their names, party affiliation and agenda. I am made to see them so often that I do not forget their names or faces for the next two years. They ask us for our vote and support. I nod my head and wish them luck. But I wonder – what is their politics about, whom should I vote for, and why?
MY APPEAL TO EVERYONE WHO IS ABOUT TO VOTE, AND MORE SO TO THE FRESHERS WHO ARE ABOUT TO CAST THEIR VOTE FOR THE FIRST TIME IS THIS – VOTE CRITICALLY.
Youth in the Social Sciences today are gripped with pseudo-intellectualism, and students in JNU are not untouched by that wave. To propagate an ideology is one thing, and to practice it is another. Social justice, gender justice, democracy, and inclusion are the catchphrases that form the rhetoric of every party.
It is startling to see the appropriation of great leaders as icons. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar shines on the banners of the Left Unity, BAPSA and now also of ABVP. If every political faction believed in Ambedkarite ideology, why is there any competition at all?
While the Right glorifies Savarkar, the Left denounces him; BASO plunges in stating that Bhagat Singh was great. And while Jai Bhim echoes softly after Laal Salaam, essential Ambedkarite values and ideals are somewhere lost in the rhetoric.
My appeal to everyone who is about to vote, and more so to the freshers who are about to cast their vote for the first time is this – vote critically. Do not support any faction without looking beyond what is being projected to you.
Ask the Right – will you continue to support the building of statues instead of hostels and classrooms? Will you allow assaulter like Atul Johri to roam freely on campus, take classes, and harass more women? Will you rally for the reinstatement of GS-CASH? Will you continue to normalize violence and celebrate the erosion of secular and democratic values? Will your politics remain communally coloured? Will you not take a stand against the administration despite the accommodation crisis, shortage of library resources and basic facilities? If you win a few seats on the Central Panel with the Left, will you work together for the University, keeping aside your individual differences?
Ask the Left – why is it that the Left Unity surfaces only at election time? Why do all these four factions become allies before the polls and remain rivals for the rest of the year? Where is the representation of the subaltern and marginalized in your alliance? Why does BAPSA not support you and accuse you of elitist politics? Is your politics in opposition to the institutionalization of social evils such as inequality, patriarchy, unfreedom, discrimination, or only against ABVP?
Ask the Centrist alliance – why are you not putting up a fight strong enough? Why are you being such a weak opposition? You ask for the rejection of binary politics, but what alternatives do you offer? What are you standing for and against?
Ask BAPSA – is your politics only for the oppressed, or are you also open to the idea of all factions working together as one force for saving the University?
The university is in danger. It does not matter who comes to power if they do not rise beyond their mutual hostility and focus on real issues instead. It is like facing a choice between colouring the campus saffron or red. But why not make it satrangi and colourful instead?
This election is not to defeat ABVP or end the dominance of SFI, but to save the university from the administration first and external separatist forces later. It is to uphold the idea of students’ unity and strength that has made JNU what it is in the past fifty years. Friends and comrades, vote, and vote wisely for the JNU that our professors and so many of our previous student leaders have worked hard to build. It is not Left v/s Right v/s Centre, but a strong and united students’ movement that can help save the university from further ruin and destruction.
Aishwarya Bhuta is pursuing her Masters in Development and Labour Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.