Six years after it was set up, the Students For Society (SFS) has slowly made its mark in the Panjab University politics, finishing third after a close fight with the varsity’s oldest party, Panjab University Students’ Union (PUSU) in the elections on Wednesday.
From its first elections in 2014, when its candidate Amandeep Kaur, a research scholar from department of English, had won 1,334 votes, the party has come a long way to claim 2,494 votes this elections. It finished third, closely behind PUSU and SOI, while NSUI finished fourth.
While other student organisations spent several lakhs on campaigning, banners, stickers, discotheque parties, car rallies, trips to hill stations, free meals, flash mobs, online campaigns, SFS members organised street plays mocking other outfits. One such play, Melan vottan da, was a satirical take on the student elections.
SFS member Sachinder Palli said: “We talked about women empowerment, demanded equal hostel timings for women and effective PU sexual harassment committee. We did not organise flash mobs or DJ parties to create awareness about women empowerment by playing songs that disrespect women.”
Dressed in T-shirts and jeans, not even the trademark kurta pyjama of university elections, SFS members used the tools of campaigning, which other parties stayed away from. It began with discussions and debates on social issues and continued with distribution of handmade posters and leaflets and organising streetplays.
“We would carry a poster of Bhagat Singh to each class and place it before the students. We told them that we stand for equality. They would ask ‘Tuhadi ki power aa?’ and it was question that took them long to understand,” said Raman, another SFS leader.
“Power lies in students. The Student Council itself has no power. If elected, we would ensure that funds given to the council are well-spent on students and not on inviting singers from outside. We assured them that we will form a joint front with teachers, students and carry a SAVE PU campaign and compel the government to release funds,” he added.
SFS party president Damanpreet said: “We knew we would get votes. We expected a close contest, if not a victory. Last time, students voted as they felt injustice was meted out against us, following the lathicharge by police during the fee hike protest. Nine of our members were beaten up and booked by the police. We had campaigned for only a week and we got 1,334 votes. This time, we began campaigning a month ago. The students paid attention to our ideology and heard us.”
Ranging from protest against hike in mess food charges from Rs 23 to Rs 30, to celebration of International Women’s Day with a seminar on women empowerment, the party flagged issues that centered around students.
The fee hike protest in 2014 catapulted SFS into limelight, as its members sat on indefinite hunger strike.
As the high voter share of SFS continues to surprise other parties backed by mainstream political parties, the members said the results have dispelled doubts and instilled confidence in other students to join the party.
“Each vote for us means, that students are not happy with the current system and want change. They understand that there is a need for struggle and they are ready for it,” said Palli.