Monday, 9 September 2013

A Failed Union, and the Organisations Leading it Blaming Each other for Their Failure to Advance Students’ Rights — Do We Need This Again?

Just ahead of the JNUSU elections 2013-14, we see the AISA and DSF trading charges at each other for the failures of the Union led by them. The student community is faced with serious challenges ranging from the hostel crisis and inadequate MCM to the restoration of the JNUSU constitution and the fight for a more just and inclusive admission policy which includes the struggles to end discrimination in viva voce and to ensure adequate representation to backward minorities in the light of the Sachar Committee and Ranganath Mishra commission reports. At the same time, AISA and DSF have been engaging in an ugly post-mortem of each other’s actions throughout the past one year. They have been claiming that the divided mandate delivered by the student community last year was the reason for the non-performance of the Union. This amounts to nothing but eyewash.
Divided Mandate is Not an Excuse for Non-Performance
The history of the JNUSU gives ample proof that divided mandates need not mean that student demands cannot be addressed effectively. In fact even when the mandate was divided between left organisations and right-wing organisations (such as in 1996-97 when SFI had the Presidents’ post while ABVP had a majority in the JNUSU Council), the Left ensured that the fight for students rights was not in jeopardy. Whenever irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding a particular course of action in a struggle against the administration arose among the organisations leading the Union, such differences were settled through school-level general body meetings or University General Body Meetings, where students came to know clearly about the differences of opinion within the Union and a gave a clear mandate to the Union to fight against the administration without harming students unity.
Significantly, it was in 2006, when the SFI-AISF had three office-bearers (Vice-President, General Secretary and Joint Secretary) and a majority in the Council while the AISA had the President’s post that the last successful MCM agitation was fought. The agitation was led by the office-bearers and councilors from SFI, and the participation of the JNUSU President from AISA was minimal. But this was not allowed to harm the struggling unity of the JNUSU, as differences of opinion were settled in the JNUSU council and the agitation was fought to a successful completion, with MCM being raised from Rs. 600 to Rs. 1500.
Sectarianism within JNUSU
The record of the previous union was so dismal precisely in this regard – the AISA and DSF fought each other regarding practically every issue concerning the students, to which the failed agitations of October 2012 and August 2013 stand testimony. As their recent pamphlets show, there was no united voice against the administration from the part of these organisations on a number of important issues, ranging from viva voce weightage, BA/MA delinking, MCMs and so on. The JNUSU is an instrument of struggle for the student community – it cannot be the battleground for the kind of petty and sectarian organisational interests as the AISA and DSF have ended up turning it into.
The October 2012 agitation had brought out in the open the sectarian nature of the differences of opinion between the organisations leading the JNUSU. Instead of sincere attempts to preserve the struggling unity of the JNUSU, what came out in the open was a fight between the leading organisations regarding competing demands and priorities, with the student community remaining largely in the dark.  The office-bearers of the JNUSU quarreled among themselves in public in the midst of the agitation, thus diminishing the credibility of the Union at a crucial juncture, and thereby strengthening the hands of the administration.
The recent agitation (August 2013) led by the JNUSU saw the dropping of many major demands of the October 2012 struggle which had remained unfulfilled, without informing the student community why all those demands were dropped. The Union’s admission that the JNUSU leadership was aware of the administration’s proposal to increase MCM to Rs. 2000 from July 5th onwards only strengthened the impression among the student community that AISA and DSF had been deceitful in calling for an agitation on just one demand (about which crucial information was deliberately hidden from the student community while not calling for an agitation earlier) at the eleventh hour, before falling down to an abject surrender to the administration.
Lessons from the Past and AISA's Record
The abject surrender of AISA to the administration has been nothing new, and it is no wonder that not a single JNUSU office-bearer from AISA has ever been rusticated while fighting for students’ rights. The record of SFI and SFI-led Unions provide a stark contrast – the SFI unit secretary was in jail throughout the Emergency; rustications before and after the sine die of 1983 were directed against JNUSU office-bearers from SFI and the organisational leadership of SFI; in 1997-98 the move to rusticate JNUSU President Battilal Bairwa was defeated by the organised resistance by the students with a historic, 10-day hunger strike by Com. Vijoo Krishnan who was then the JNUSU Vice-President; the SFI unit secretary had been rusticated for six months following the struggle for Progressive Admission Policy in 1998-99.
The deceit and surrender of the AISA-DSF-led Union is nothing but a reflection of the politics of the AISA and the DSF. It is the sectarianism of AISA which has of late been succumbing to the bourgeois parliamentarism creeping into their ranks on the one hand, and DSF’s petty bourgeois formulation of “autonomy” from the larger left and democratic forces in the country which amounts to stooping to a non-class position on the other, which has led to the weakening of the JNUSU vis-à-vis the administration (over hostels, MCM etc) as well as to its weak-kneed position vis-à-vis the State (with regard to the restoration of the JNUSU constitution, deprivation points for backward minorities etc.)
The overwhelming anger of the student community over the absolute non-performance of the Union expressed in the annual GBMs and in election GBMs have exposed the efforts of the AISA-DSF to shift the agenda of this year’s elections to a devious shadow boxing between them and to the ruling class practice of attacking the organised left by spreading ill-informed rumours on various issues like the martyrdom of Com. Sudipto Gupta as well as the brutal murder of T P Chandrasekharan.
SFI appeals to the student community to participate in today’s UGBM in large numbers and to expose the anti-student record of the AISA-DSF combine.
Arjun Sengupta,
Convenor, Central Campaign Committee, SFI JNU Unit 

Reject the anti-student AISA-DSF!
Students’ Unity Long Live!!