Their organisations are not contesting the elections, but it hasn’t stopped Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, the three JNU students who were arrested on charges of sedition for their involvement in the February 9 event on campus where alleged anti-India slogans were raised, from campaigning against the ABVP.
While Kanhaiya’s organisation, the AISF, pulled out of the elections after its alliance with the AISA and SFI did not work out following differences over its candidate, the Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students’ Organisation (BASO) to which Umar and Anirban belong, doesn’t support fighting elections, as per the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations. However, all of them have taken it upon themselves to ensure the defeat of the ABVP.
In keeping with the AISF line that its “primary goal is to defeat the ABVP”, Kanhaiya says, “I have been campaigning against the ABVP in dhabas and whenever I meet students. I will start campaigning in schools too. We’re asking students to vote for Left, progressive and democratic forces but are not mentioning any specific organisation.”
BASO too has given a call for people to vote against the ABVP. It is the first time that Umar and Anirban have brought out a pamphlet asking people to vote in the JNUSU elections. Before forming their organisation in May, Umar and Anirban were in the Democratic Students’ Union. “Till we were in DSU, we never brought a pamphlet or poster to ask students to vote, or not to vote for anyone. This year we have, not because of the organisational shift but because of the circumstances. At this given juncture, as responsible Left forces in the country, we think that ABVP should not only not win, but it should be decimated. If they win… they will finish off this campus,” says Anirban.
Umar says that “as people who faced the brunt of the February 9 onslaught”, they understood “this election is different”. “Lyngdoh (panel recommendations) anyway limits our democratic space, but if the ABVP wins even a single post, this space will shrink further.”